Moving to a new apartment in the city is something that everyone hates. The scams, the broker fees, nobody picking up the phone and did I mention the scams. While there have been other startups trying to fix this problem, Huthunt is changing it up. Their focus on user needs and cutting out the broker fees, this company is doing all they can to eliminate bad experiences from your moving phase.
Speaking with cofounders Shawn Tannor and Omar Figueroa, AlleyWatch gets the details on how to make your next move and easy one.
Tell us about the product or service.
Huthunt is a platform that connects its users to curated, verified, no-fee apartment listings in New York City. We also help multi-family apartment owners and large management companies fill their vacant units with qualified tenants in less time.
How is it different?
Unlike other platforms we have a very strong focus on our users needs. By cutting out the middle man in each apartment rental transaction, we save users thousands of dollars, and our management companies a lot of time. Our product gets users through the entire process from scheduling an apartment viewing to completing the application process, saving management companies days of communication. Additionally, we shield our users from all of the negative experiences that have become synonymous with looking for a place to call home in New York City. By curating and verifying all of our listings, we protect our users from scams, fraud, “the bait and switch” and countless other tactics.
What market are you attacking and how big is it?
We’re attacking the entire NYC rental market from renters seeking a small unit in the Bronx to the user seeking a luxury penthouse in Tribeca. On the management company end, we work with a variety of different companies, from small multi-family building owners to national firms with thousands of buildings across the country. Around 69% of NYC residents rent, and the negative perception of the process of finding an apartment here is common enough to warrant a change.
What is the business model?
We’re currently super focused on providing the best possible customer service for our users, we have kicked around a variety of potential revenue models, however we haven’t made a concrete decision as to which way we’ll go. With the data we get from our beta process, we should be able to have a better idea as to which direction we’d like to go.
What inspired the business?
We both graduated from St. John’s University with jobs in New York City, and were confronted with a very challenging situation: the hunt for an apartment was on. We’d both heard how difficult the process was, but had never really experienced it for ourselves. With a relatively short time span to look for an apartment, we pooled together all of our resources. We looked at sites like Craigslist, Zillow, Trulia, Streeteasy, and all of the other usual suspects. We soon came to see a flaw in each of those products, Zillow, Trulia, and Streeteasy run on a broker lead generation model, which means they get paid to source interested users as leads to brokers. The issue with Craigslist is literally anyone can post anything they want, which means a few things, the listings are never verified, and the potential for scams and fraud is extremely high. We each experienced a few different encounters with brokers who posted beautiful units and responded with “That unit isn’t available anymore, but I have something similar” when we reached out. Unfortunately, we also came across a few different potential scams that we thankfully were able to avoid. The entire process left us dissatisfied with the products out there for something that is a pain point for so many people. We wanted to fix it, but weren’t sure how. A few months ago, I came up with the idea to create a platform that streamlines the apartment search process, and makes apartment hunting as fun as Tinder. With Omar’s help, we’ve been able to create a product that not only saves users thousands of dollars, but makes the process fun.
Why is your platform the right one to solve this problem that has been previously attempted by many?
There are three main points that differentiate us from the countless companies that have tried to solve this problem and pivoted: We curate and verify all of our listings, we focus solely on no-fee apartment rentals, and we provide each user a point of contact who supports them through the entire process from initial viewing to applying for and securing a unit. We’ve experienced this pain point, and are part of the demographic that is affected by this issue. Being part of our own target demo helps us understand the problem deeply, and allows us to come up with creative solutions.
What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within six months?
We plan on matching our first 5k users with apartments, and developing relationships with around 30-50 more NYC property management companies.
What is the one piece of startup advice that you never got?
We’ve been fortunate enough to have a great support system in the NYC tech community, so we’ve gotten a lot of great advice. One piece of advice neither of us ever really got is: exercising in the morning goes a long way in improving your productivity, it energizes you, and helps create a routine for the rest of your day.
If you could be put in touch with anyone in the New York community who would it be and why?
Ryan Freedman, the founder and CEO of Corigin Ventures. His fund has made a lot of excellent investments, and given their area of expertise, I think he would have a lot of knowledge to offer a company like ours.
Why did you launch in New York?
New York City has the highest concentration of renters in the United States (69% of all residents), and the highest percentage of apartments vs. other living accommodations in the United States (51%). New York is the city we will most likely find success in.
Where is your favorite bar in the city for an after work drink?
Shawn: Definitely Turtle Bay in midtown. They’ve gotten me through a lot of summer intern stints, so they have a special place in my liver.
Omar: 675 Bar, now known as the Troy Liquor Bar in the heart of the Meatpacking District. It’s a bar with a 007 cave feel to it for anyone seeking to channel their inner James Bond.