From the classic bait and switch to mice infested apartments to terrible neighbors, every New Yorker has experienced or heard a rental horror story. In fact, the overabundance of these stories has driven people to go numb and think “what do you expect, it’s New York”. But TransparentCity challenges that statement and addresses the question: why should tenants receive and be okay with less service and value if NYC has one of the highest costs of living? TransparentCity has curated a vast database of No-Fee rentals and building reviews so that renters know what they are getting themselves into before they sign the lease and hand over their hard-earned security deposits.
AlleyWatch spoke with Stefania Taic about cofounding an extensive and detailed database that empowers potential renters with unprecedented access to knowledge and inside scoop on NYC no-fee apartments.
Tell us about the product or service that TransparentCity offers.
We started out as a user-generated ratings and reviews website, focusing on delivering tenants’ scoop and perspective on management companies and buildings, both inside and out. Since then, we have grown and have increased our offerings; we added neighborhood guides for those new to New York, we started a blog where we outline- in detail- exactly how to navigate the New York real estate market, and lastly, and most importantly, we have the largest online database of “No- Fee” management company buildings in New York City.
How is TransparentCity different?
What separates us from other listing websites is that we do not consider ourselves a listings website. We connect you directly with the management company that manages the no-fee apartment. There is no middleman, we do not work with brokers, and the only available apartments for rent are strictly no-fee. That being said, you can find ratings and reviews on all buildings and management companies, but you will only be specifically connected to those with no-fee apartments. This saves both the management company and the tenants thousands of dollars in broker fees per rental apartment.
Derrick and I have taken a detailed look at our competitors—both past and current. When we sat down, we analyzed many different capitalization factors, where we believed there was room for improvement, factors that lead to failure and to others’ successes, where the gaps were in the market, what other companies were and were not doing and why.
Additionally, Derrick and I were both born and raised in New York but come from opposite backgrounds. Derrick comes from a product background, specializing in defining the why, the when, and the what of the product. I am a third-generation real estate professional with additional experience in PR, Marketing, and Customer Management. Our combined experience and critical thinking allow us to have success in this marketplace that others have not yet achieved.
What market does TransparentCity target and how big is it?
What makes TransparentCity so unique is we address two very different value propositions that target two different markets, so we do experience some cross-over.
When discussing our No-Fee offerings, the way we evaluate our target market is to take the No-Fee management companies currently in our portfolio and multiply it by the number of buildings they manage. We then further multiply it by the number of units in each of those building.
Regarding reviews, our data targets all 8.6M+ of our New York City neighbors. As recently as 2016, the Census estimated that 65% of the housing share was renter based. Based on those numbers and our review offerings, our target market would be close to 5.59M renters.
What is the business model?
Currently, we offer different avenues for management companies to advertise while still staying true to our main user base which is our New York neighbors.
What inspired the start of TransparentCity?
Derrick and I actually came at this from two different angles at exactly the same time.
Once upon a time, I was living in Miami in a high rise building on the 51st floor. While the building was great, the management company was awful. They never accepted packages, they routinely lost the keys to my car, and the elevator was broken at least twice a month. This management company had a reputation for this kind of unprofessionalism across throughout their other buildings, but there was no way for me to know this prior to move in, thus TransparentCity was born.
Meanwhile, Derrick was living in New York and initially saw the gap in the “No-Fee” market, but at the time, he felt this gap was already being addressed by some newer platforms, so he did not feel like there was a reason to enter the market. However, as the other platforms evolved into their current listing service, he found one aspect that continuously did not evolve with them. He decided we needed to address this crucial gap in the market, and with that, TransparentCity also adjusted.
What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within six months?
We plan to triple our user base, double the relationships we have with management companies, and at that point, we imagine our ratings and reviews will have significantly increased as well. At that point, we imagine we’ll be in a place to start fundraising.
What is the one piece of startup advice that you never got?
Do not be afraid to ask for whatever it is that you need and/or want. You will never get what you do not ask for, whether it is an answer, money, or a favor, just ask.
If you could be put in touch with anyone in the New York community who would it be and why?
Barbara Corcoran, she is a total bad-ass. She was arguably one of the first women of her kind in the still today, man-dominated, real estate world. She’s a strong, no-nonsense woman, who is still able to remain eloquent. In a world that constantly forces a woman to choose between family and business, Barbara seemed to figure out a way to have it all, while still kicking ass and taking names.
Barbara Corcoran, she is a total bad-ass. She was arguably one of the first women of her kind in the still today, man-dominated, real estate world. She’s a strong, no-nonsense woman, who is still able to remain eloquent. In a world that constantly forces a woman to choose between family and business, Barbara seemed to figure out a way to have it all, while still kicking ass and taking names. Her business savvy, real estate know-how, and strong connection to New York would make her the perfect fit for what we are trying to accomplish.
Why did you launch in New York?
With a population of +8.5 M, we figured our city, and our neighbors would serve as the perfect test market. New York has been consistently voted as the highest average rent at approximately $4K. While rents slowly climb, apartment conditions and the lack of market transparency remain the same, as a consequence the value that tenants receive is decreasing.
Renters work hard for their money and we want to make sure that they are getting the value they deserve and crave. The general rule is that 25% of paychecks should go towards rent. In NYC, we are considered “rent burdened”, and spend over 50% of our income on our rent. NYC has a higher cost of living so it is not a far-fetched idea that tenants crave higher value in turn.
What’s your favorite restaurant in the city?
I’m a pasta fanatic, so really, just give me anywhere that has a warm bowl of spaghetti and I’m good to go