Have you ever wondered why there were so many reviews for a restaurant you’d spend an hour at, but almost none for an apartment you’d spend a year in?
Ray Taaleb wondered the same thing. After his own experiences looking for a place to stay were less than pleasant, he decided to bring together a team to solve the problem.
Casalova is an online real estate platform that allows users to easily navigate their way through the renting process. The platform allows renters and landlords to connect and now offers a commenting service which not only gives renters the chance to review spaces, but gives landlords the chance to receive feedback.
“Casalova allows tenants to go all the way from the search to paying rent, all online. You can search for a building or you can search for a review,” said Taaeb, who’s worked primarily in business and commerce.
He and his team of five are hoping to take the company global within the next five years because this is, indeed a global problem. According to Taaeb, the real estate market in Toronto is extremely manual and can seem outdated to those young millennials currently looking for places to live.
Part of the reason for this disconnect is that landlords and tenants tend to be from two vastly different generations. A system that works for one, (a.k.a the current system) may very likely not work for both.
However, Casalova gives landlords the opportunity to register with the program and engage with potential tenants on open, transparent platform. In fact, Taaeb was happy to discover how eager some of them were. According to him, they want to be even more involved.
“Landlords even want calendar integration for their viewings,” Taaeb recounts. However, he emphasizes that the mobile interface must be suited to what millennial tenants are used to using. Many of them will only access the app on their phones.
Casalova allows you to input your criteria, the area you want to live in and then finds available listings within those specifications. The group has expanded throughout the GTA and intends to tackle Vancouver next. Taaeb is confident that the United States will soon follow.
“You can go in and search for a building or search for a review. You can also leave a review on a building,” said Taaeb. He goes on to say that Casalova provides a transparency in the real estate market not previously attempted. “Another advantage is that landlords get to see what people are saying about their building.”
In a market that’s trailing behind many other Toronto industries in technology and transparency, this feature is useful for landlords looking to make improvements that better suit those who are currently on the market for a place to live.
“The real estate market is lagging behind in technology and innovation, It’s one of those industries where people don’t like change,” said Taaeb.
Casalova was founded in late 2014 and launched officially on May 8, 2015. The startup currently has over 10 000 users and was recently awarded a $35K grant from the Ontario Centres of Excellence. Since then, the business has experiences a 30% per week growth rate using minimal paid marketing.
“The startup community in Toronto is very supportive,” remarks Taaeb. He emphasizes that the key to their success has been building the right team that’s not only passionate about the project, but understands it. “This is the biggest real estate market in Canada…and we all live here.”
He hints that Casalova will be experimenting with personality-based filtering in the near future. The team is looking into allowing users to search for properties based on what their personality type would most enjoy. They’re excited about implementing this new feature and are hopeful that Casalova could eventually break into real estate markets around the world.