It took 1,638 conversations to come up with PocketList. 1,638 conversations with renters, landlords, and property managers to be more specific.
In design, the first part of any project is understanding the problem you’re trying to solve. And the process of research, or discovery, or whatever name you want to give it, grows with the problem’s scope. If you’re solving a problem for one person—say the door to your bedroom creaks when you close it—the solution can become apparent very quickly.
When you set out to understand a problem that affects 110 million Americans, it takes a long time. 1,638 conversations barely scratch the surface.
PocketList is an entirely new way to apartment hunt. And if we do it right, it’ll be the way the rental market works everywhere before long.
Renters share what they know about the place they’re planning on leaving, and in exchange, they unlock every other renter’s version of that information. And the most powerful piece of info is the date in the future they’re planning on moving. This is, on average, 67 days before the rest of the market knows it will be available, so a ton of units are exclusive to PocketList.
And when you see a place you like, you can save it and be notified the day the person that lives there gives notice.
For landlords, PocketList represents the easiest and earliest place to find renters to fill their future vacancies. We start introducing new renters to landlords the day their old tenant gives notice. In our pilot, we’ve regularly been able to fill vacancies in zero days.
After 1,638 conversations, patterns begin to emerge. Fear and distrust stand out most of all because of how emotionally raw housing is as a topic. But there is hope, excitement, and community, too.
Here’s a story about how we can alleviate many of those problems by bringing renters and landlords together on a platform based on trust:
In early January, a renter named Dee signed up for PocketList. She rated her landlord highly and shared a picture of a cute unit in a duplex with outdoor space. She’d be moving in two months, on March 1st.
Other PocketList users loved the place. The featured photo was of a bright red Adirondack chair among grass and wildflowers. And over the course of that month, forty-four people asked to be introduced when the place was available.
We sent Dee an email on February 1st, asking if she’d given her notice. She immediately replied that she just had and introduced us to her landlord, Stephanie.
Stephanie was skeptical at first. I remember her scrutinizing me through a mesh security door when meeting her onsite at her place the first time. She later shared that she’d been burned by bad business deals and unscrupulous renters alike.
She agreed to meet anyone PocketList sent her. When I made forty-four introductions that same day, she was thrilled.
She ended up meeting five of them on the premises, with the permission of Dee, her outgoing tenant, while Dee was still packing things up.
A young graduate student named Em was one of them. They instantly felt a connection to one another, and Em felt a connection to the house. Within 48 hours, she had applied and was approved for move-in on March 1st.
Em got a great place. Stephanie got a great tenant with zero days of vacancy. In Em's words, “I honestly can’t believe this worked so well.”
Only at the end did it dawn on us to ask Stephanie what had happened the last time this exact place had been on the market.
“It was sitting empty, listed on Apartments.com for 60 days. You guys just wrote me a check for $6,000.”
PocketList is ready for renters and landlords alike. Renters can share what they know about the place they’re leaving, upload photos, and join a thriving community of renters just like them.
They can see units on the market right now, as well as units available months in the future. They can ask questions of the current tenant, and we’ll work to make sure the answers are authentic while staying anonymous.
And when landlords and property managers claim their properties on PocketList, they’ll be connected to potential new tenants the day their old tenant gives 30 days notice.
PocketList didn’t come from our brains. We’re not smart enough for that. The idea behind PocketList is the byproduct of 1,638 conversations. And we’re just getting started.