Apartment brokers aren’t just for New York City anymore.
The tide of millennials moving to Denver means that more and more companies are offering services to people who need help finding an apartment. That includes one company that wants to use virtual reality to find your next place.
Jeff Settle, owner of Rental Friends, has been a Colorado apartment finder for the past 12 years, and says it’s definitely become a more popular business over the last three years.
But don’t worry, an apartment finder shouldn’t cost you. Settle says local tradition dictates that finders don’t charge fees to renters. Nor does he expect that to change:
“There’s not a lot of room to build in downtown Manhattan anymore,” Settle explained. “In Denver, there’s so many new apartment communities. They’re going to need to get them filled and they’ll keep needing people.”
Instead, apartment buildings and some landlords pay commissions when people like Settle match them with a possible tenant. Brokers say that their clients are often looking to live close to downtown or Union Station — areas where rents are higher and new luxury apartment buildings are being built.
They say their personal relationships with these communities mean renters get different, more up-to-date pricing than you’d find on a website.
But Sarah Jones, CEO of Bamboo Realty, says that’s not the same as a discount:
“People always say ‘how effective are you in negotiating a discount?’ and I say not very. If an apartment says ‘this is the price,’ that’s the price. But where we do have the advantage is as soon as the price changes, we know first and so our clients know first,” she said.
Like Settle, Jones also agrees that the field has seen more companies enter Denver over the two years that Bamboo Realty has been operating here. But she’s not threatened by that, in part because of her past experience in the Houston market.
“In Houston, once we started seeing other firms also open and specialize in renters, and traditional brokerages develop a rental arm, the concentration of apartments that are leased with the help of a locator just grows,” Jones said.
“At the high-end buildings, 60-plus percent of the tenants that walked through the door were because of a broker. In Denver, I think the same thing is going to happen,” she said.
Unlike Houston, Jones says that people come to Denver and they really plan to stay.
That’s part of the reason why another company, Zumper, launched their own apartment finding service in Denver. Co-Founder Taylor Glass-Moore says started they started “Zumper Select” in Denver because they were seeing so many people relocating to the area.
Zumper has been operating in Denver for about six months and secured about 100 leases so far. But the end goal isn’t just notching up leases — Zumper is working on virtual reality solutions so that they can capture renters who aren’t even in Denver yet.
“We’ve actually had plenty of leases that have been signed sight unseen where our market rep was speaking with someone in a different city, recommending different properties, and doing a video tour,” Glass-Moore said. “That for us is something that’s pretty important.”
It’s all part of a rental future that’s going to be “drastically different,” says Glass-Moore. In an on-demand world where you can order food or a car to your door, why leave your home to find a place to live?
“The renter could do that from their living room, do walk-throughs of these properties… Then they do VR tours, maybe for a dozen properties and choose one that stands out,” Glass-Moore said. “That’s a really awesome experience and that’s the one that people are really looking forward to.”
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story misstated the type of housing pictured in the photo. The error has been corrected.