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New apps simplify apartment search, help renters woo landlords

By Natasha Baker

TORONTO (Reuters) - In a property market where decent rentals can be in short supply, mobile apps could give apartment hunters an advantage in a competitive search.

Lovely, an iPhone app, notifies apartment hunters when a listing is posted that matches their desired neighborhood and price point. It also lets potential renters attach information about their income, credit score and desired move-in date.

Blake Pierson, the CEO of the San-Francisco-based company Lovely, said the app gives users a chance to stand out in a competitive rental market.

"It's about conveying to the landlord what makes you special, what are the reasons they want to rent the apartment to you," said Pierson.

Applicants can attach the information to inquiries to landlords and can also add a photograph and reference to their profile on the professional networking site LinkedIn profile.

Pierson said Lovely aims to make the rental process more transparent and to give more control to renters.

"It's just such a black box that creates a lot of frustration. Renters might send out ten messages to people online and have no idea whether someone is going to respond," he explained.

Pierson said the app is useful for apartment hunters and landlords who can be inundated with applicants.

"What most landlords fear more than anything is not renting the apartment, but making sure they rent it to the right person," said Pierson.

Lovely gives landlords information about users who have set up alerts that match their listings. If the landlord is interested he or she can invite the applicant to see the apartment.

Cozy, a San Francisco-based company, also tries to help renters apply for apartments more seamlessly. Like Lovely, it allows landlords to read applicant's credentials. Since it introduced the web app in June, the company said it is being used in more than 150 U.S. cities.

Both companies say there is a generational shift by people under the age of 35 towards renting an apartment instead of buying one, which is driven by the recession and a mobile culture.

"People are more interested in being mobile so they don't buy homes," said Gino Zahnd, the CEO of San Francisco-based Cozy.

Both apps are available only in the United States.

(Editing by Patricia Reaney and Grant McCool)

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