In some ways, I think I was destined to work in the rental apartment and real estate market.
That might sound a bit dramatic, I get it. But consider my family’s history; it’s chock-full of real estate entrepreneurs.
My great-grandfather’s family moved to the United States and eventually settled in Waltham, just outside of Boston. He started a farming business, purchased land and developed it into housing for the local community. After that, my grandfather worked as a bricklayer, and ultimately built a brick supply business to address the housing construction needs at the time.
Along came my father, who specialized in real estate investing, and also started his own firm to develop multifamily housing options for the growing populations in the Northeast.
And then, there’s me.
Alongside my co-founder Ernesto Gaxha, I’m carving out my role in real estate with SplitSpot. I think it’s only right that in 2021, as a fourth-generation real estate entrepreneur, I’m finding my way in the space with a tech-enabled solution for renting apartments. Since my father’s (or even grandfather’s) heyday, there hasn’t been much of an evolution in the tools that people have at their disposal for navigating the rental market. We view SplitSpot as a way to manage renting in a more frictionless way, for tenants and landlords alike.
Renting Can Be Frustrating: I’ve Been There
I’ve experienced almost all of the pitfalls that renters face on a day-to-day basis. My story might not be as shock-inducing as Ernesto’s, but I know how needlessly complex renting an apartment in a new city can be.
I moved to New York City right after graduating from college. I’d visited NYC a couple times, but I really knew nothing about living there. Figuring out a new city and a new job was overwhelming enough; forget about finding an apartment on top of that! I had so many questions: What neighborhoods are safe, fun and affordable? How long in advance do I look for an apartment? What do I do when I find one I like? What’s up with this broker fee?
After four years in NYC, I moved back to Boston for grad school. Luckily for me, my brother’s roommate was moving out and I took his spot in an apartment in Roxbury. That’s a long commute from Cambridge, but the thought of navigating the rental market again wasn’t appealing. Once I got to Roxbury, I experienced the same renter pitfalls and challenges: inflexible contracts, outdated payment processes, and a lack of responsiveness on basic maintenance issues.
Building Something New
My prior work came as a third-party advisor to companies looking to grow. I always enjoyed working with founders and decision-makers who were building towards something long term. Once I got into MIT Sloan and moved back to Boston, I was looking to embark on my own start-up journey.
MIT was a perfect entrepreneurial ecosystem - there were tons of mentors, resources and motivated colleagues (shoutout Ernesto). Starting SplitSpot with Ernesto scratched my itch in two ways; it gave me a project to build long-term AND aligned with my family’s real estate background.
My dad was always supportive of the idea. But the renter market is different now than it was for him growing up. The world needed a new school solution to catch up with the changing landscape.
Our Goal with SplitSpot
We envision SplitSpot as the go-to resource for renting apartments in cities. Beyond just connecting renters to apartments, we want to be that friendly guide for young people moving to a new city and navigating all of those complexities (just like I did in NYC). If we can make the whole relocation process less overwhelming, we’re doing our job.
Our initial launch of what became SplitSpot - before we had a name and a real business plan - showed us that our platform can help everyone involved in the renting process. We started out renting rooms in Ernesto’s own apartment and got incredible feedback from landlords and the new roommates - a true win-win.
SplitSpot helps landlords fill open rooms quicker and makes renting much easier, especially for off-cycle (think: non-Sept 1 starts) and down market vacancies. There’s no need for the age-old tension between renter and landlord; they can all come together on SplitSpot.
The renting market might be a little different since my great-grandfather’s time nearly a century ago. My family’s still in the apartment game, but with SplitSpot, we’re hoping things look a little different, and a lot better, for the next generation.