If you’ve ever looked for rented accommodation in India, stop reading this for a minute and give yourself a hug.
Have some tea. Call your mum. The seedy brokers, the shady houses and the horrific landlords make house hunting a horrible experience; somewhere between your pet’s demise and a swift kick between the legs. All hope is not lost though, my weary friend. In the murky waters of the Android Play Store, an app called Flatchat wants to change the game when it comes to looking for flats and flatmates in India.
What is it?
Flatchat is an app that connects you with owners, potential flatmates and other seekers. It’s backed by the online real estate portal Commonfloor, which in turn is backed by powerhouses like Accel Partners and Google Capital. It is available for Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and cities with a high concentration of students like Pune, Jaipur and Kota.
So how does it work? It’s pretty simple, actually. You log in using Facebook, fill in a few details - budget, location, number of flatmates, duration, and you’re good to go. There is also a field to fill in additional information (I have a cat, I feel an unyielding need to sob after three drinks, I have loud fights with my girlfriend, etc.). Flatchat then builds a profile for you and, based on your inputs, shows you tenants looking for flatmates, fellow seekers and owners in the locations you’ve specified. The rationale is, even if you don’t find potential flatmates and owners in your preferred location, you can always connect with other seekers and look for places together. Any house hunter worth his salt will tell you finding a place for 2-3 people is way easier than finding a place for one. Flatchat also has a ‘Flatchat assistant’ feature - a human assistant who will offer personalized suggestions and contacts, provided you pay a one-time experience fee of ₹300. If you don’t find a house using Flatchat, this amount is refunded to you.
Does it work?
As fate would have it, I was in the market for a new place in Mumbai due to disturbing rumours of the Stuff office moving further away from my house. I downloaded a bunch of house hunting apps to avoid brokers and Flatchat happened to be one of them. I’ve been using it for a few weeks now and, on the whole, it’s a good experience. The UI is clean and the in-app chat works seamlessly, but it is the ‘Flatchat Assistant’ feature that sets it apart from the rest. I opted to pay the ₹300 experience fee, considering it’s a tiny fraction of what you would pay to a broker, and the fact that it will be refunded if you don’t find a house. Having a dedicated ‘assistant’ who checks in everyday and keeps sending you new options and contact details of landlords is great. I wish there were more options though - sometimes a couple of days go by without any new information. Your Flatchat Assistant does wish you good morning and good evening everyday without fail, though, so that’s nice.
The app has a rating of 4.5 on the Play Store. If you choose to pay the experience fee for the Flatchat Assistant, then it really shines. According to a Flatchat spokesperson, the app has 30K active users, 25% of which are owners and tenants. That didn’t reflect in my personal experience while looking for a house in the heart of Mumbai- I did not see a single owner on the app and only two tenants in the time that I used it. There will always be a bunch of other seekers in your preferred areas though.
The Play Store is a bit of a barren wasteland when it comes to apps for finding tenants and flatmates in India. For finding houses, there are a few viable options though - Housing, Commonfloor, 99acres and even apps like OLX and Quikr.