Canada’s largest cities experienced a record-high population loss at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. With working from home becoming the norm and the expensive cost of living in the city, moving to surrounding areas (which could potentially offer more space for less) became a popular course of action. Needless to say, it became a renter’s market—especially in places like Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver.
For property owners, standing out amongst the abundance of available listings is the difference between a rented space or one that sits empty—this is where Rhenti comes in.
Co-founded by Tomas Ronis and Erin Chan, Rhenti is a platform that streamlines the rental process. By simplifying and amplifying a property owner’s reach to potential renters, and making the leasing process easier than ever, property owners and renters are better served.
“We are hell-bent and entirely focused on making the experience of renting fast, easy, and transparent,” says Chan. “We know that the rental industry is extremely fragmented with many listing sites and tools all over the internet, which is a terrible experience for property owners.”
The platform utilizes eight of the top listing channels to easily showcase properties and prompts renters to create profiles. So, you can make sure to find the right occupant for your property, which in turn, helps build better landlord/tenant relationships.
According to Chan, Rhenti’s goal isn’t to disrupt the rental market but make it better. As someone who has rented for over 20 years, Chan hopes to change the way people feel about the renting process, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if people actually felt good about renting?”
For this week’s Startup Spotlight, Bay Street Bull spoke with Erin Chan, Co-founder and CPO of Rhenti, about improving the rental real estate market and the importance of finding the right landlord/tenant fit.
What prompted the creation of Rhenti?
About six years ago, Tomas and I were commiserating over renter life. For context, Tomas is a second-generation renter and I’ve been renting for over 20 years. We’ve both experienced so much as long-term/lifelong renters and we couldn’t believe that the space wasn’t getting any better. As we dug in, we found that both renters and property owners were not being well-served by the industry’s processes and systems. There were a couple of major problems that we could see that resulted in a lot of time wastage, stress, and strife for everyone. And because the industry’s issues have impacted our lives for so long, we wanted to figure out a better way.
Were there any learning lessons or hurdles in creating Rhenti? If so, how did you overcome them?
Building a company is so hard and there are so many hurdles and lessons that we continue to learn. For example, getting our first customers was a massive hurdle. It was 2017 and we were having a really tough time convincing property owners to try Rhenti. In hindsight, it was understandable—we were asking property owners to trust us, a fresh new start-up, with perhaps their largest asset. So how did we overcome that? It was a matter of adjusting our messaging and finding “the innovators:” those people who love technology, innovation, and who get really excited about start-ups. We eventually found a few of those types of property owners and once they saw how much better the rental leasing process could be with Rhenti, that was all it took to get our business moving forward.
How is Rhenti disrupting the current rental market?
Our focus was never to ‘disrupt’ the industry, per se. However, we are hell-bent and entirely focused on making the experience of renting fast, easy, and transparent. We know that the rental industry is extremely fragmented with many listing sites and tools all over the internet, which is a terrible experience for property owners. We also know that each property owner (or landlord) has their own unique way of doing things, which makes the experience painful for renters. Rhenti is the toolbox for the long-term rental real estate industry. We build tools that connect and streamline the fragmented experience of renting, saving people a lot of time and removing stress from their lives.
What kind of effect has COVID-19 had on the rental market? How does Rhenti come into play?
The rental market has become a fascinating space because of the pandemic. We’ve seen renters make significant life changes in the past year and these shifts in renter behavior have created more listing supply, specifically in Toronto. And so, we’re in a time where many property owners are stressed and having a tough time getting their rental units occupied. One of the great things that Rhenti does is push rental listings to over 10 of the top listing sites in Canada. So basically, Rhenti listings get as many renter eyeballs on them as possible, increasing the chance that the right renter will connect with it. Along with that, we help property owners nurture those renter leads and sign the right renter quickly with our digital tools. We make the lives of do-it-yourself property owners a lot easier, and especially in stressful times like these.
Why should property owners use Rhenti?
Quite simply, Rhenti makes finding and securing a renter easy and much faster than any other way for a do-it-yourself property owner.
Why should a renter use Rhenti?
Renters who are looking for a new place to rent will typically search on popular listing sites like Kijiji, Viewit.ca, and Padmapper. What they don’t realize on the onset is that the listing that they’re interested in could be a Rhenti listing. When they reach out to the property owner or try to book a viewing, they are guided into the Rhenti ecosystem and all applications for that listing are created and submitted on Rhenti. The great thing about Rhenti listings is that these property owners pay a non-trivial fee to list with Rhenti; this weeds out a certain type of property owner who would very rarely pay for a service like ours. To go along with that, we directly speak with over 90% of the property owners who list with us, so we make it pretty difficult for bad property owners or scammers to list with us. The cherry on top for renters is that filling out a renter profile and assessment is super simple and we cover the cost of pulling a renter’s credit summary when they apply to a listing on Rhenti.
What is the overall mission for Rhenti?
We want people to feel good about renting—both renters and property owners.
What is it like working with Tomas as partners for Rhenti and partners in life?
Tomas and I are co-founders who are also married. Building Rhenti together is fun, but also intense. We work and talk about Rhenti all of the time. This is a good thing because we get a handful of additional hours each day to discuss strategy or brainstorm solutions to any of our business problems. In that same vein, we have a tendency to get so entrenched in ‘Rhenti’ that we sometimes don’t see the need to step away to get a break. It’s definitely something we have to watch out for. The pandemic has further intensified our situation because now we work about two meters away from each other in a small apartment. We shut the door between us whenever we need to take calls or just need our own space, but you can see how it is really difficult for us to ‘turn off’ from Rhenti when work and life just all blend together now. The good thing is that we love what we’re doing, so that’s okay.
Where do you hope to see the company in five, 10 years?
We really do want to make renting better for as many people as possible and we won’t stop until we build an incredible and holistic experience for renters and property owners. We want to grow a company full of people who really care about making renting better. Wouldn’t it be amazing if people actually felt good about renting? That’s a world that we want to live in.
Any advice for what renters should be looking for given the current rental market?
This is such a great question right now because things have tipped more so in the renter’s favor. Because there is more listing supply, it means that renters can be more discerning. We want to urge renters to focus on finding the right landlord fit. This is something they couldn’t do before. And we say this because we know first-hand that a renter’s quality of life is very much dependent on the working relationship they have with their landlord; the stress that comes from having a negligent or un-reasonable landlord is not trivial.
From what we’ve seen, there will always be a small number of listings on the market that will still generate a lot of renter attention and competition—and those rentals will be hard to get. But for the others, renters who are in good financial standing and have a positive rental history will have the opportunity to find the right landlord for them—this is so important.