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New York startup TransparentCity aims to cut middlemen and save renters thousands

Ever try to get your own pad in New York City? The result can be, well, frustrating. Even with a big budget, living in a high rise is the norm. And high rises are often managed by management rental companies.

Some times those management companies plain suck.

At least that was the repeat experience for Stefania Taic, now the CEO and cofounder at TransparentCity. Her company offers up reviews on management companies so renters can get a better look at what’s going inside the building — politics and all — before they sign.

Grit Daily caught up with Taic to get a deeper look at her start up.

Grit Daily: You had your own interesting background before TransparentCity. Share that.

Stefania Taic: Before Derrick and I linked up for TransparentCity, I worked as a real estate broker.  This gave me a unique perspective into renters’ needs and desires.  At the beginning of my career it was a “hot market,” leads were plentiful, and a 15% broker fee was the norm.  As the market began to shift, so did feedback from clients. Tenants were much less willing to accept the status quo, their expectations for value had shifted; they craved more information, and lower broker fees, if any at all.

With this in mind, TransparentCity was born.

GD: What’s behind the “Transparent City” name? 

ST: In its inception, TransparentCity was a ratings and reviews site for buildings and management companies. With the goal of transparency in mind, the name seemed like a fitting choice that was both tongue-in-cheek, and accurate.

GD: How does your service work exactly? And where? 

ST: While we continue to catalogue reviews on TransparentCity, our focus is really on no-fee apartments.  So while our platform allows users to find their apartment as well as information on tenant experiences within those buildings; our main product offering is having one of the largest databases of “No-Fee” apartments in NYC, allowing renters to contact the management company, directly bypassing the broker and all associated upfront fees tenants might incur.  New York City, is one of the only cities in the country where tenants pay a broker fee, and with Derrick and I both being being natives, we figured our city had to be the perfect test market.

One key differentiator is we aren’t a listing platform.  We do not work with brokers, and we do not host individual apartments, although the latter may be a potential space to explore later on.  Through our services, you’re able to find buildings and be directed to the property manager’s website.  This is important because it enables the site to maintain veracity and trust.  Our data is always up to date, there is no possibility for “bait and switches,” and most importantly, it gives our users the leverage to negotiate the best deal for themselves.

For example, we noticed other listing platforms allow multiple agents to upload the same “exclusive” listing, but the problem is their information varies.  Whether that be, price discrepancies, different room counts or touting different concessions.  With TransparentCity you never have to worry about this.

By navigating you to in-house leasing teams, the data is verified, and you’re able to receive the most concessions possible because there’s no middleman involved.  That said, we are not looking to replace brokers.  There will always be a need for agents and they should have a place in the market, we just found a desired niche that has not yet been addressed.

GD: What are some of the more useful features?

ST: Well, don’t get me started!  Besides all the standard filtering capabilities users are usually familiar with, our map functionality is dynamic and intuitive.  While users filter, both the search results and map results adjust simultaneously, giving the users alternative perspectives and methods for search.  Additionally, the map pins are fitted with different dollar sign amounts, making it easy for users to distinguish price and location in the blink of an eye.

While we’re on the subject of price, each building has also been fitted with the specific types of units the building has, and a pricing matrix to familiarize users with the range the market usually calls for in correlation to bedroom count.

Looking for more urban startup coverage? Check out Grit Daily’s piece on urban greenhouse operation, iFarm.