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  • Oliver is an app that cuts out the middleman (the broker) between the landlord and the renter.
  • In a month, the application has seen 2,000 renters and 200 conversions a day in Manhattan.
  • Oliver was created by former co-founder of photo-sharing app Mobli.

When Uber officially launched in 2011, the implications it would soon have on the real estate market weren’t entirely apparent. Today, startups aim to be the Uber of (insert industry here), with on-demand services and direct business-to-consumer communication.

Who needs an in-between contact getting in the way, right? That’s the goal for apps like Oliver, a new apartment-hunting application that connects New York City landlords and renters directly to one another without the need of a broker.

The app was created by Yossi Shemesh, the co-founder of photo-sharing app Mobli, and real estate developer Amir Shriki. The duo ran a proof-of-concept in August 2014 with success, connecting renters to landlords. They quickly began their seed round and raised $1 million in funding from a group of New York real estate angel investors.

Courtesy of Oliver

Courtesy of Oliver

The app launched a little over a month ago in Manhattan and has since seen about 2,000 renters searching on the site and an estimated 200 conversions a day. Most recently, Oliver launched in Brooklyn.

Oliver is intended to streamline the process of finding a rental in the tough New York City market, but from a consumer standpoint, the inventory listed is going to be only a fraction of what is available.

Landlords who use an in-house team to bring in tenants will likely gladly welcome the additional leads that apps like Oliver promise, but smaller companies without such a team may not want to shed the broker relationship.

Oliver isn’t the first company to try to cut out the broker, and it likely won’t be the last. Landlords in New York City typically use brokers for a large percentage of their deals.

Some landlords won’t want to risk that relationship by cutting out the broker — because what if the direct customer relationship isn’t what they expect, and they need those brokers once more?

Brokers represent a filter for potential tenants, ensuring for landlords that any tenants have a solid credit score and are serious about renting a specific apartment. Just as real estate agents run through a list of wants and needs with a homebuyer, the broker plays that role with prospective tenants to place them in a unit and with a landlord that makes the most sense.

Oliver is likely going to continue to gain traction from the tech-savvy apartment hunters in New York City. But as long as there are landlords, the broker is going to continue having the strong relationship with many of them.

Email Kimberly Manning.

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