Rent or Vent

Olya Mikhaliova

This social media platform lets renters share information about their past and current apartments and gives prospective tenants insight into places they consider signing a lease for.

The Rent or Vent web application aims to solve the problem of finding pleasant rental housing in a big city with a highly competitive real estate market. The power of real estate owners in such a market far outweighs the power of tenants. Landlords and agents often don't disclose all of the issues with rental units prior to signing a lease, dismiss tenants' requests for repairs after the lease is signed, discriminate against some and rush others to put down a deposit.

My research process consisted of three parts. First, confirming that the problem I was planning to solve was wide spread enough and needed needed a solution. Second part was finding out what had been done before to solve the problem. Third, was fining the best approach and methods to its solution.

To accomplish the first part of research I interviewed my peers and friends, asking them about their apartment rental experience and the types of needs they had in relation to finding a stable home. I also researched online for what people were talking about in terms of renting an apartment on forums, blogs and read online news publications regarding the topic.

For the second part of research I looked for existing mobile applications or social media platforms on the web that might be facilitating communications between renters. Those that I found I tried using and identified their strengths and weaknesses.

Once the need for creating a better social media platform got firmly established I moved on to the last stage of my research. As the part of developing my problem solution I presented my ideas to a couple of Stern Business School entrepreneurship advisors, the ITP residents, my thesis advisor, art critics, my former graphic design instructor and class mates. Their feedback helped me see potential hurdles to be overcome when getting my application out into the market and helped me come up with the plan of building the actual web application.

apartment renters

User Scenario
There are 2 user case scenarios. First one is the User is on an apartment hunt. They are looking at an apartment they are interested in renting. They have had bad experience before and feel nervous and unsure about putting an un-refundable deposit on it. Landlord or broker is making them even more nervous with phrases like: this unit won't last, it'll be gone by the end of the day, it's a really good deal. Renter doesn't want to miss a good deal and is paralyzed with fear to take an action at the same time. Now they have something to help them out in this situation. They open Rent or Vent app on their smart phone, input the address of the apartment they are considering and receive reviews of the apartment, building, landlord or an area from former and current tenants. Reviews help user make a more well-informed decision about the apartment and avoid future regrets and self-loathing.

The second case is when user finds him or herself in a bad apartment rental situation. They lie awake at night overwhelmed with anger, frustration and may be even dispare. They turn to Rent or Vent to share their experience to other renters who may comment on their post and offer moral support or may be they even can get together and change the situation for one or all of them for better. User can also just read other people's reviews on issues that bother him or her and feel not so alone in their trouble. It is ought to improve renters' emotional state and feel empathy for one another.

The application runs on Node JS, utilizes Mongo DB database and Amazon S3 Cloud Computing Storage to hold media uploads.

The application is virtually a space for blogposts on the topic of apartment rentals, where each blog post is attached to a specific address, categorized by the type of issue and marked as a con or a pro to living at the address the post relates to.

Users can start conversations by writing a post and others can join in by commenting. All users can join in conversations by inputting an address of their interest or picking a category from a drop down menu.

My hope is that the database grows large enough to serve as a quick reference guide for renters on an apartment hunt when they need a quick check for extra background information about apartments they consider signing a lease for.

Also I would like this application to serve as a venue for dialog and deliberation that supports movement for social and economic equality as where we live is a strong indicator of our status in society and is a topic close to everyone's heart.

I have learned that before building and designing it is absolutely necessary to think through every step, in detail, of how a project or a product would be accomplishing the goal of its creator.