Listening to the search experience talk immediately made me think about my own moving-from-Philippines-to-Singapore experience. I learned that we are information seeking creatures, and there are search-situations where we find things to make a decision (or decisions). In this case: I needed to find a room to rent.

First of all,

  1. I no longer remember where is where in SG.I’ve lived in Singapore for a few months four years ago, when I was doing exchange study, but I’ve forgotten where places are on the maps, and which stations are near each other.
  2. The only address I knew was the company’s address.
  3. I knew people who stay in SG, but were not renting a room themselves.
  4. Luckily, some of them knows a friend who has an extra room, so I had some places to check out as soon as I arrived in SG.

Pain points:

  1. I didn’t have any idea where to live.
  2. I knew where I was going to work but I didn’t know which common residential areas are near my new office.
  3. I knew how much I’ll earn, but —
  4. I didn’t know how much the average rent price is. I wanted to find something within reasonable budget.
  5. Because I wasn’t familiar with the place, when someone suggests an area I have to search if they’re near which station, how long it will take to go to work or to the city, etc. Enter scenario where I have multiple open tabs just to give me all the information I need.

How most rent-search sites do it: you type in an area you want to search for. Which assumes you already know where you want to find a place. So my process of searching was:

  1. Ask friends in Singapore for suggestions of nearby areas to start my search.
  2. Search for listings within those said areas.
  3. Read each listing description one by one, then dismiss based on info like price, landlord rules, availability of wifi, etc.

Basically, I was thinking of a search experience where you won’t see this box (or a list) that asks me where I want to find a place–because I didn’t where to start!

What if the search process started with an, “I Don’t Know!” and the app asked me things that are important to me? Simple questions like:

  • Do I want to find a place near where I work?
  • Will I take public transportation? What are my transportation choices?
  • How long will it take me to travel from where I’d live to where I work?
  • How near or far am I to groceries, shopping areas, etc.
  • Do I cook?
  • Is there a nearby hawker, or food court?
  • Do I have a pet? Do I want to be able to keep a pet? Is this even negotiable, or non-negotiable!?
  • Do I want my own room, or do I want to share (with a roomate, or live with a family)?
  • Is there WiFi? Do I set it up/subscribe by myself?
  • Do I have friends in the same country/area, and where do they live?

Answering these questions will help give me a better idea (maybe even visually!) which areas I’d like to find listings from. What percent of my salary will be going to rent? If I know anyone nearby and how far am I to my friends/relatives? Can I move in with my dog?

And because situations matter, we can consider the types of people who want to look for a new place to live:

  • are they local?
  • are they moving in from a different country?
  • are they single, or moving a whole family? (if with a family, maybe they want to map out distances from schools, for example)
  • maybe others I hadn’t considered.

What if maybe looking for a new place doesn’t have to be this boring, tedious process? What if it makes me feel like the app is tailor-fitting suggestions based on my lifestyle and the people who matter to me? Because we’re human and we’re social creatures and finding a place to live isn’t as simple as pinpointing a town or area for a list of rooms for rent.

1 thought on “Rethinking Searching for Rent

  1. Haven’t had this problem yet, but some of the pain points feels like looking for a hotel in a never-visited country — Like which area is good and convenient and not too posh that rent is expensive and not too cheap that its dangerous. And amenities like wifi, pets, ability to cook etc.

    Sounds like airbnb (or any hotel sites) with filters catered to long term rentals.

    BUT THIS! “How long will it take me to travel from where I’d live to where I work?” I’d really love something that automatically computes time to work and price of commute for all the search listings

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