Online Rental Services Market Heats Up with RentPath’s Acquisition of San Francisco’s Lovely

Lovely, RentPath, San Francisco, apartment rent, San Francisco real estate, Bay Area news

Lovely screenshot

By Hayden Dingman

“I think in the next three-to-five years a clear winner is going to emerge in the rental space,” says Blake Pierson, CEO of online rental app Lovely. Pierson is tired but satisfied—after weeks with little sleep, he’s finally able to discuss the fact that Lovely has been acquired by RentPath, a conglomerate of rental listing companies and owner of brands including and

The rental business is crowded nowadays. You’ve got the old guard—for instance, massive companies like RentPath. And then the newcomers—hot technology companies like Lovely, Cozy, PocketRent and Trulia.

“Whoever this clear winner is, they’re going to have to show clear differentiation from everyone else in the space,” Pierson continues. For Lovely, that means looking at the whole “rental lifecycle.”

At one point Lovely was simply a service for apartment listings, but that’s not enough anymore—not as far as Lovely is concerned. In the past month the company has launched two new services, Pay with Lovely and Apply with Lovely. “When we think about the rental lifecycle, most of the time spent is not looking for an apartment, it’s living in that apartment,” says Pierson. “It’s connecting with the landlord, it’s dealing with maintenance issues, it’s making rent payments.”

Apply with Lovely attempts to take the pain out of the rental application by only making you do it once. Fill out your information and you can send it to any landlord, any listing, with the touch of a button—all you need is the recipient’s email address. “We’re not constrained by the number of listings on our own Web site,” says Pierson. An Experian credit report is included—a twenty dollar cost covered by the applicant only after the landlord in question takes a look at the application.

And once you’ve landed that dream apartment, Pay with Lovely allows you to make rent payments over the web. “The big reason we’re doing this is to eliminate paper checks,” says Pierson with a laugh. “Payments are recurring, so renters simply set it up once and every month they know their rent is being paid on time.”

There is a slight fee—one dollar per transaction is pulled out to cover Lovely’s costs. “Probably the cost of the gas the landlord would use to drive to the bank and deposit the check,” Pierson jokes.

This is the future, as far as Pierson and Lovely are concerned. And RentPath, too. “RentPath is really excited about what we’re doing,” says Pierson. “I think there’s definitely the opportunity to see things Lovely is doing find their way into other products across RentPath.”

“Lovely has done an amazing job at designing products for desktop and mobile devices that simplify the renting process and offer innovative solutions for renters and property managers,” said Charles Stubbs, CEO of RentPath in a prepared statement. “This acquisition illustrates RentPath’s commitment to delivering the best consumer experience and redefining how renters find the perfect place to live. We are excited to welcome Lovely to the RentPath family.”

Companies like Cozy and PocketRent have also dipped into this space—making property management easier by hooking it up to modern technology. But RentPath’s acquisition of Lovely solidifies this as an important future market.

“It really gives us a very effective way to get these products in the hands of larger- or medium-sized property management companies,” says Pierson. “RentPath has hundreds of sales reps in hundreds of cities across the country forging relationships with local property managers.”

A larger financial backing doesn’t mean Lovely rests on its laurels, though—Pierson thinks Lovely is on the right path, but he’s serious about that three-to-five year race. And he knows there’s more to be done.

“You think about the stuff that you as a renter find to be a pain or as a landlord you find to be a hassle or a frustration—those are problems that we’re working on,” says Pierson.

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