Consumers who search for homes online typically have to input their property search preferences and then fish out possible matches from a pool of listing search results. But what if they could get someone to do that for them — and for free? That’s a service that rental search site Abodo offers, setting it apart from many competitors.

  • Abodo offers a conventional rental search experience as well as free human and bot-assisted "local experts" that can dig up listings on behalf of home hunters.
  • The rental startup has raised an additional $4.8 million.
  • Online assistances are popping up across the industry, promising to simply the search experience but also potentially raising legal questions.

Consumers who search for homes online typically have to input their property search preferences and then fish out possible matches from a pool of listing search results.

But what if they could get someone to do that for them — and for free?

That’s a service that rental search site Abodo offers, setting it apart from many competitors.

$4.8 in funding; human-bot hybrid assistants

abodo local expert

Sample conversation between an ABODO ‘local expert’ and prospective renter.

The Madison, Wisconsin-based startup recently raised another $4.8 million in a Series A funding round, bringing its total funding to $8 million.

In addition to providing a conventional property search experience, Abodo serves up human-bot hybrid assistants that can shoot over batches of listings via Abodo’s mobile app based on requests.

Abodo is experimenting with selling leads to agents and says it’s online assistants are not designed to replace agents.

The startup says it’s also rolled out the “the industry’s first automated Facebook bot service,” which is available on Facebook Messenger and through Abodo’s Facebook page.

Other services that are pioneering online search assistants include Trulia’s Facebook Messenger bot, Holmes and Riley.

“Abodo gives a younger apartment seeker an experience that is modern and consistent with their mobile lifestyle,” said Greg Robinson, a managing director of 4490 Ventures, in a statement.

4490 Ventures led Abodo’s latest funding round, with investors included American Family Ventures and Flyover Capital also participating.

Abodo’s ‘local experts’

Abodo’s “local experts” are “familiar with the city you’re interested in and can match your lifestyle with the right neighborhood,” Abodo says on its website.

The startup describes local experts as a “person running the show” with “human-assisted artificial intelligence to make the process faster and easier for our experts.” The assistants are free for renters and landlords.

“We make money through advertising on our website, not through broker or referral fees associated with this service,” its website says.

Asked if Abodo sells leads to agents, spokesman Sam Radbil said it’s “testing a model where we are working with brokers in a few select markets” but has no results to share at the moment.

Abodo’s assistant is not designed to replace agents, only to streamline the search process, according to Radbil.

“Once a renter has their set of curated listings, it’s entirely possibly they’d work with a broker from that point forward,” Radbil said.

Online real estate assistants are popping up across the real estate industry.

They promise to simplify the search process for consumers but also have led some legal experts to question whether they — both humans and bots — can potentially run afoul of real estate laws, depending on the services they perform and the questions they answer.

Abodo has “taken a look this and our service operates within legal bounds,” said Abodo spokesman Sam Radbil.

Email Teke Wiggin.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with comments from Abodo spokesman Sam Radbil.

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