A Silicon Valley company is looking to streamline the process of renting apartments with an app that eliminates agents and guarantees landlords financially-stable tenants.
Called Keyo, the technology works directly with landlords, displaying listings, handling the application process and using a network of “scouts” to facilitate quick viewings without a broker fee. Tenants can also pay rent using the app and Keyo says it has partnered with major credit bureaus to boost tenants’ credit scores with every on-time payment, and offers them incentives and rewards for paying on time.
Keyo charges landlords the industry standard of one month’s rent for placing the tenant. The company recently released a guarantee for New York City landlords that rent will be paid for up to two months, even if a tenant breaks a lease early or defaults on a payment.
Palo Alto, Calif.-based Keyo launched in the neighborhoods surrounding Columbia University and currently works with about 400 buildings across New York City, says Adrian Gross, the head of marketing for Keyo, which has received investment from Twitter founder Evan Williams’ Obvious Ventures; Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Eric Schmidt and Mike Bloomberg through Village Global; former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo and Bebo founder Michael Birch. It’s particularly active in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Prospect Heights, Crown Heights and Flatbush.
Showings are scheduled via the app, with a scout dispatched to let the prospective tenants into the apartment. Scouts get paid $20 to $30 per showing and generally live in the neighborhoods where they work. If the potential tenant likes the apartment, they apply for it directly through the app. The average days on market for Keyo-listed rental apartments is 15, around half the industry standard, according to the company.
“It’s advantageous for both renters and landlords,” Gross says. “You’re able to do showings faster and landlords see what is happening in real time.”
Arry Kaur found the Crown Heights apartment she and a partner share through Keyo when she responded to a Keyo listing posted on StreetEasy and found the process easy and straightforward, even working through the app.
“I had worked with agents before and this was very different,” says Kaur, 31, a middle school teacher in Manhattan. “We saw the apartment on a Sunday and immediately wanted to apply. We had questions and called customer service, not expecting anyone to answer. It was very transparent.”
Mikhail Turbin, a 23-year-old actor who works as a Keyo scout, said it provides him a flexible way to earn extra money while auditioning and working some server gigs.
“It’s the same kind of convenience that Uber offers for car service,” Turbin says.
Unsurprisingly, New York City real estate agents are dubious that technology can replace the skill offered by licensed brokers.
“I can understand that technology, such as Keyo, could be appealing to landlords in theory,” says Gina Castrorao, Rental Manager at REAL New York. “But in practice, removing a licensed real estate agent from the rental process takes away the personal connection and expertise in the process of finding a home. Using a trained and professional real estate agent guarantees a client time efficiency, interpersonal connection/communication, as well as a guide throughout the process. A ‘door opener’ cannot provide the same insight about the market and personal touch in making a very personal decision. Not only is using a licensed agent beneficial to clients, but also to landlords. Agents representing the exclusive properties of their landlords take special time and care in showing their buildings, providing property details, and ensuring well-qualified candidates. By removing the agent from the rental process and replacing them with ‘scouts,’ landlords and clients alike are not receiving the specialized attention they deserve.”