With students returning to the neighborhood for the fall semester, many struggle with the rental process, which can be time-consuming and expensive. SplitSpot, a website aimed at streamlining the process of finding an apartment and roommates, has recently picked up steam in the Mission Hill neighborhood–and it can all be done from the comfort of your couch.
The platform was founded in late 2018 by David Mazza and Ernesto Gaxha, with the first lease signed in early. 2019. The Gazette spoke with Gaxha to learn more about the platform and what it offers.
Gaxha said the idea for SplitSpot came to him when he graduated from college and was looking for housing. After staying on friends’ floors and subletting multiple times, as well as dealing with fighting brokers and paying enormous amounts of money at once, he realized there must be a better way to find an apartment in the city.
He said that there is “all this technology, all these innovations,” but he was “still going through this 100 year old process for apartment hunting.”
He and Mazza attended MIT together and were “both really inspired by this problem, and I wanted to start a community that tackles this problem,” he said, so SplitSpot was born.
Gaxha explained how the platform works from both the renter’s side and the landlord’s side.
As a renter, a person can “find an ad in the wild or come directly to our website,” where they can browse listings and find an apartment they’re interested in. From there, video and 3D tours are available for every apartment, and requests can be made to see the apartment in person. He said that most people, however, are satisfied with the virtual tour.
“After that, we have basically two more steps,” he said, which include a required roommate introduction, and then sign the lease. A SplitSpot renter is required to pay first month’s rent and a $400 security deposit that is for their room only. That way, a renter is only responsible for paying for their portion of the rent and of the utilities, and is not financially tied to roommates.
“All of it can be done from your computer,” Gaxha said. He said there are plans for an app, but the website is easily accessible via a computer or a mobile device.
Additionally, “you can move out of a SplitSpot whenever you want, as long as you have the right notice,” which is typically four months, but could be sooner if a replacement can be found for the room before then.
SplitSpot also puts all utilities in its name, and they are split between roommates so a renter is only responsible for their portion of the utilities.
From the landlord or property management company side, landlords just have to provide SplitSpot with a link to their listing as well as access to the apartment. “We take care of everything else,” Gaxha said, except for property management tasks like fixing something that’s broken.
Landlords also benefit from the process because they get to be fairly hands-off. Gahxa sad it’s a “set it and forget it kind of thing. We do so much work for them.” Landlords “only have to deal with maintenance,” and SplitSpot will even amp up marketing for apartments that are not doing very well.
“Mission Hill has been really great for us,” he said, adding that during the height of the pandemic, landlords were having trouble renting their units with all of the students gone.
“We have literally sold out of Mission Hill apartments,” Gaxha said. “If we put a new one on the platform, it goes in days,” as “a lot of students are using a ‘wait and see’ approach.”
Gaxha said that SplitSpot differs from Airbnb and similar platforms, even ones that offer longer term stays, in that “a lot of residents were very transient sort of people,” and left once COVID hit Boston.
“We cater more to the everyday renter,” he said, and “we don’t furnish.” He also said that the majority of SplitSpot residents stayed in their apartments during the pandemic.
SplitSpot was pretty “COVID-friendly” even before the pandemic, as video tours were always available and signing of any documents is done online.
“We post everywhere you would find an apartment,” Gaxha said, including Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and apartment listing sites.
“There’s a lot of suspicion around the process,” he said of the platform. “A lot of people thought it was a scam.” But he said that SplitSpot prides itself on “this sense of consistency and this sense of trust with our brand.”
He said that everyone in the apartment is required to undergo a credit and background check before moving in. “You know what you’re getting with SplitSpot,” he said.
SplitSpot has apartment listings all over Boston, as well as Washington, D.C. and New York, and several other cities coming soon.
“This problem exists in more than just Boston,” Gaxha said, and while SplitSpot is “not the complete solution for everyone, I feel like we are part of the solution for a lot of people. We want it to be a win-win.”
He also said that “we are the biggest flex room platform in Boston now, which is exciting. For people looking for this kind of thing in Boston, SplitSpot has been the go-to place…we’re really excited about our growth.”