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Julia and Vianney_Joinery
The service is three times cheaper than using a broker.
(Pictured: Julia Ramsey and Vianney
Brandicourt).

Courtesy of
Joinery


• Renters often pay a broker 10% to 20% of annual rent
for an apartment in New York City.

• Two former Google employees founded a peer-to-peer
rental site to get rid of this fee.

• Outgoing tenants are paid up to half a month’s rent for
finding a new tenant, either by their landlord or the incoming
tenant.

There’s a seemingly endless supply of apartment buildings lining
the streets of New York City. And yet, finding a livable rental
is often an exhaustive and wickedly expensive process.

Many apartment hunters turn to real estate brokers, who charge a
fee of 10% to 20% of annual rent for their services. Slap a 15%
broker fee — the industry standard — on top of the $3,500
median monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan, and
you’re handing over nearly $10,000 right out of the gate, not to
mention the security deposit or moving costs.

Joinery, an apartment listing
marketplace founded by former Google employees Julia Ramsey and
Vianney Brandicourt, aims to fix this.

Ramsey, 31, and Brandicourt, 32, met while working on a project
years ago in Google’s Paris office. They stayed in touch when
Brandicourt left the company to start the analytics teams at
Spotify and then Foursquare.

Meanwhile, for the first time in seven years of living in New
York City, Ramsey found a great apartment “through a friend of a
friend” instead of a broker, she told Business Insider. To her
surprise, the process was enjoyable.

“First of all, there was that element of trust, but also I didn’t
have to pay any crazy fees associated with an apartment, it was
just a very clean transaction,” Ramsey said. “So I started to
think to myself, how can I actually systematize this? How can I
add a social layer to apartment finding, at scale?”

In 2015, she left her position as a senior analytical lead at
Google to launch Joinery with Brandicourt. The company has two
missions, says Ramsey. First, to remove exorbitant broker fees
for incoming tenants, and second, to partner with landlords who
will pay their outgoing tenants to find a replacement for their
unit.

“The median New Yorker is spending 65% of their
income on rent
, which is absolutely staggering. When you add
fees on top of that, it’s kind of a kick in the teeth because
you’re already struggling and living paycheck to paycheck,”
Ramsey said. “I just felt like the current system was unfair …
so just having to pay a fee on top of that was a little bit
financially onerous.”

Similar to other popular apartment rental aggregators, such as
StreetEasy, renters can scroll through listings on
Joinery, filtering by neighborhood, price range, amenities, and
move-in date. But instead of connecting users with a broker,
Joinery connects them directly to a departing tenant.


Joinery screenshotJoinery

“I thought it just intuitively made sense to be able to find an
apartment from other renters, because the person who’s been
living in that unit is probably going to know a ton about the
apartment and give you information on the management company,
they can tell you where to put your air conditioner, and how to
get the mail, all these kinds of details around the apartment,”
Ramsey said.

Joinery currently has partnerships with a dozen landlords across
the city who have agreements to pay their renters a fee for
finding a new tenant.

Only about half of the current listings are in buildings with
landlord
partnerships, though. When there isn’t a partnership in place,
the incoming tenant pays a fee to the outgoing tenant — a maximum
of half a month’s rent — through Joinery’s platform. Joinery
requires all outgoing tenants to receive permission from their
landlord before listing their unit.

Each listing displays the fees the incoming renter will pay, and
calculates how much they’re saving by choosing Joinery over a
traditional broker.


Joinery saving moneyJoinery

Eventually, Joinery will take 20% of that fee, Ramsey says, but
the company is forgoing it for now in order to scale. Though the
company has no immediate plans for bringing the service to other
cities, Ramsey says they regularly receive emails from renters in
Boston, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, asking when it will be
available for them.

“Our No. 1 goal is to grow the number of listings on our site,”
Ramsey said. “We want to become a marketplace where there’s a ton
of variety and we want to basically save people money and make
money for renters as well.”

Since launching two years ago, Ramsey says Joinery has
successfully filled over 300 apartments, saving renters “well
over $1 million” in fees, assuming the same apartments had been
filled by brokers instead.

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