Although I don’t live in New York, as someone who has considered moving to “The Big Apple,” I found it exhausting to even begin searching for places to live. For anyone who’s ever paid ridiculous broker fees, spent hours upon hours searching different sites to locate apartments for rent, or been scammed by shady landlords, the promise of one new New York startup should be celebrated. Although they have a long road ahead, Circumrent is looking to solve a real problem for current and aspiring New Yorkers. I interviewed team member Daniel Ahmadizadeh, who previously worked at Y Combinator-backed companies CareMessage and Watsi.
Tech Cocktail: Why is this needed in New York?
Daniel Ahmadizadeh: Moving to New York City is expensive. When you’re looking to find an apartment, most of the time you’re forced to pay a broker 15% of your first year of rent (around $3,000 based on the average rent in NYC). Why not just skip the broker and go straight to Craigslist? Fake listings are often made by brokers to attract prospective tenants to call them and offer their “real” listings (there’s more…but we’ll leave it at that). Yet, despite the high demand for rentals, the median vacancy period in the rent capital of the world is nearly a month. Something’s missing here.
Circumrent aims to give prospective residents a more cost-effective and seamless solution, reduce downtime for landlords, and incentivize current tenants to list on our site, putting the power of the rental market in the hands of everyday New Yorkers.
Tech Cocktail: How does this benefit renters?
Daniel Ahmadizadeh: From being scammed by brokers to spending weeks trying to find the perfect no-fee apartment and save money, it's safe to say that my cofounders (including Vamsi Kattragada, a YC alum with Profig) and I have run the gauntlet in terms of experiences with renting an apartment in New York. Our mission is to change the way people rent for the better so that you don’t have to go through the same terrors we have.
No longer will prospective renters be shown around by someone with limited knowledge of the apartment as well as legally bound to withhold certain information. With Circumrent, prospective renters learn from the person who is living there now, entirely familiar with the apartment, building, and neighborhood and free to field questions. If a current tenant no longer wants to renew his/her lease, current tenants are eligible to make money by signing up on Circumrent.com.
Tech Cocktail: What about landlords and property managers?
Daniel Ahmadizadeh: According to data in Zillow’s 10-K, “In 2011, U.S. large multi-family rental property managers and landlords experienced annual unit turnover of approximately 51%, and spent an estimated $160 per unit on advertising and approximately $395 per unit in lease concessions. Based on this data, we estimate that these rental professionals spend approximately $6.6 billion per year to attract and retain renters.”
Circumrent facilitates seamless rent turnover in the pre-market, saving rental professionals billions per year to attract renters.