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Rentals, Transparency, and Accountability: An Interview with Swapt's Clair Byrd

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Apartment construction is surging with no end in sight. Enter Swapt, a company that bills itself as a platform that uses reviews from real renters to help them find their best apartment match. I recently sat down with VP Marketing Clair Byrd to talk about the company and what it's trying to accomplish.

PS: What is Swapt?

CB: It's new rental site that helps people find the perfect apartment using reviews and advice from real renters. Though just launched publicly in May, Swapt's users have already contributed reviews for over 200,000 units in our primary markets - San Francisco, DC, and New York City. Swapt is currently outpacing Yelp in apartment reviews for these three cities and expects to surpass Yelp's total in mid-May.

PS: What is the goal of Swapt? What problem is the company trying to solve?

CB: Swapt's goal is to empower renters to make truly informed housing decisions. By coupling apartment reviews from real renters with the most accurate property information available, Swapt's mission is to bring increased transparency to the rental market.

Sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor have leveraged the power of reviews to increase transparency in the restaurant and hotel spaces, but there remains a lack of transparency in the rental market despite its fundamental importance to nearly 100 million Americans. Swapt wants to give each of these 100 million renters a voice from which to bring transparency and accountability to the rental market.

PS: How is Swapt different than other real estate platforms?

CB: Beyond offering a destination site where renters can find their next apartments, Swapt 's platform provides universities, charities, real estate companies and other partners with unique access to accurate property information from our site (e.g. listings, photos, reviews). Swapt has helpful and unique information on over 5 million residential units in the US, which it shares with its partners to help them accomplish their respective goals.

PS: Where do listings come from? What makes each unique?

CB: Swapt's listings come from a variety of partners - rental sites, property management companies, and brokerages. Although our listings come from dozens of sources, Swapt displays each property's listings and reviews on a single webpage, allowing renters to access a "property profile" that tells them everything they need to know about living there. Other rental sites present each listing separately, forcing the user to wade through hundreds of duplicate listings.

PS: How does search/technology factor into the product?

CB: In order to combine each property's listings, reviews and other information in one place, Swapt needed a way to tie all of this content from dozens of sources together. Thus, Swapt built a proprietary address normalization and geocoding system, which takes unstructured property information, cleans it, and matches it to normalized, geocoded addresses.

PS: How does a user review impact a renter's experience?

CB: Each review written on Swapt has the potential to help thousands of renters make better housing decisions. The collective experiences of Swapt's community can help millions of renters make truly informed housing decisions by providing unbiased feedback and advice on the best and worst places to live.