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Inhabi adds dynamic control to more easily match renters with landlords

It's one thing to use Craigslist to hook up or buy some furniture. It's quite another challenge to find an apartment that way. A new startup called Inhabi adds new dimensions and quality control to the process of matching renters with landlords.

Jameel Farruk, who founded Inhabi with partner David Friedman, has a pretty sweet apartment. While it's quite small (around 300 square feet), the location is killer: right in Center City, just steps away from a dozen popular bars and restaurants, and perfect for the single entrepreneur.

"Technology should make it an easier experience for the renter," says Farruk, who likens current online offerings to a digitized version of newspaper ads. With Inhabi, by contrast, renters don't bear the full burden of finding the right place to live. Inhabi plugs properties into a database so that renters can search for things like hardwood floors, whether the owner allows pets, and if parking is part of the package.

After filling out an online form which collects details about the renter's self reported income, credit score and desired neighborhood, Inhabi offers a list of available units sortable by price, location and size. If a desirable apartment pops up, the renter can submit a request to the landlord with one click.

Farruk and Friedman met while at Venmo,  the mobile payments startup that moved from Philly to NYC earlier this year. Friedman's background is in real estate, having spent the previous decade as an agent and Vice President of Operations at the Philadelphia division of Coldwell Banker. Originally, their idea was more of a scheduling tool for showing apartments, and the pair was accepted to Betaspring, an entrepreneurial incubator in Rhode Island in the summer of 2011.

"We launched the product halfway through the program, took it to market, and decided to scrap it," recalls Farruk. While the original idea was well liked by landlords and renters, it did not help property owners screen potential lessees. "They didn't want to commit without knowing who was showing up," he says. The evolved offering benefits both parties.

Farruk is a transplant to Philadelphia, having grown up in the Washington, DC area. Philly's central location and affordable housing stock figured into the decision to launch Inhabi here. "The city's biggest strength is all the educational institutions that supply people to pick the product apart. They have no fear in telling you how much you suck," says Farruk, adding that Philadelphia is great for local talent. including designers, programmers, and people to help with marketing.

Farruk says that Inhabi is now bootstrapped, and the revenue will come in part from lead generation and in part, he hopes, from one of the many real estate investment firms headquartered here. The service is free of charge to renters, and owner and renter remain anonymous until both agree to share information.

Source: Jameel Farruk, inhabi
Writer: Sue Spolan
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