Having a tough go trying to find a new lease? This Austin startup wants to help

by Kelly O'Halloran
August 14, 2018
sunroom rental founders
Zac Maurais and Ben Doherty, co-founders of sunroom rentals. photo provided by sunroom rentals.

Zac Maurais and Ben Doherty, the co-founders of Favor, are at it again with a new Austin startup. Their new company, Sunroom Rentals, applies key lessons from the on-demand delivery sector to the real estate rental industry.

Sunroom Rentals’ platform streamlines the process for interested renters to find, tour, apply for and move into leased apartments and individual homes throughout Austin.

Its solution allows users to browse available properties, book tours of multiple sites on demand with Sunroom’s network of licensed agents and apply to rent properties within the platform. It also gives users individual profiles so that they only have to upload items like pay stubs, previous rental history and background info once, as opposed to having to produce it for every application.

The typical renter moves almost every year, and nearly one third of the U.S. population are renters.”

 

The company earns a percentage off the booked rent, allowing the service to remain free for users.

Since its launch this past March, Maurais said Sunroom Rentals has accumulated over 16,000 users and has helped “hundreds” of renters move in.

“I’ve been a renter for the past decade, and so has Ben,” said Maurais, who is Sunroom’s president. “The typical renter moves almost every year, and nearly one third of the U.S. population are renters, which is only going to increase. This is a great strategic area to capture and build value.”

Maurais added that although real estate tech is hot, the rental industry has gotten left behind.

“You see most of the new digital products focusing on the home sale transaction side  — Redfin, Compass and other new-school mortgage companies,” said Maurais. “After discussions about the rental process with both landlords and renters, we figured this would be a good way to enter the market.”

Sunroom Rentals’ biggest similarity to the Favor platform is in its scheduling system for touring homes and apartments with on-demand workers, called “Tour Guides.” Like Favor’s “runner” setup, which outsources requested deliveries to a network of Favor contractors, Sunroom dispatches touring assignments to its community of realtors ready to show homes. 

Sunroom’s attention to design also mimics that of Favor’s “shop with your eyes” approach, with an easy-to-use, picture-centric interface.

“When we created Favor, we were the first on-demand delivery app to have photos instead of just pure-text menus,” said Maurais. “The design is a competitive advantage for Sunroom. People really like being on the site.”

Maurais said that he and his team have noticed thousands of users scrolling through Sunroom properties like people do through Instagram.

Sunroom recently secured a $1.5 million seed funding that will be used for building out its engineering team, additional features, property listings and user base. The startup’s long-term plan includes ramping up in other cities like Nashville, Dallas and Atlanta.

“We’re not super compelled in solving San Francisco’s and NYC’s rental issues,” said Maurais. “They are a beast of their own sort. But we do have a model that we can replicate in other cities that share similar qualities to Austin.”

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