For: Finding apartments for rent, paying your rent (using debit, credit or Apple Pay)
Cost: Free for renters to use and for landlords to list properties
The Verdict: RadPad uses your phone’s GPS to look for nearby apartment listings, which is helpful if you’re looking to stay in your current neighborhood or using the app while wandering around the neighborhood you’d like to live in. (You can also search in specific neighborhoods.) The app has some useful filters: You can search by number of rooms, price and pet policies, or tags like “gym” or “pool.” You can also pay rent through the app, but it charges a 2.99 percent fee to pay with a credit card. It’s free to use a debit card.
RadPad is slick-looking and easy to use. You can message landlords through the app, but Radpad warns that it can take them days to write back, so you might be better off calling. You can also “like” properties, which is a good way for renters to save searches, but can be frustrating for landlords, who see that you liked the property, but have no way to message you if you don’t message them first.
Part of the draw of RadPad is that the selection is a little less overwhelming than Craigslist — for renters and landlords alike — but this is also its drawback. It feels like the app is still ramping up its user base, says Simon Brown, 32, who listed an apartment he owned on RadPad this spring. In three months, only three people contacted Brown about the apartment through the app. He ultimately found a renter using Craigslist. The app also seems geared toward those who live alone or already have roommates, versus those looking for a room in a shared living situation, says Meredith Whipple, 27, who tested it during her recent apartment search. “I think it’s a good idea,” she says. “I just think it’s going to take some time for people to adopt it and use it regularly.”
For: Finding a room or roommate
Cost: Free to browse. You need a subscription to send or read messages, or connect on Facebook or social media. Subscriptions are $5.95 for 3 days, $14.95 for 15 days or $29.95 for 30 days.
The Verdict: Roommate-finding smart phone apps — like Roomi, which currently only serves New York, but plans to expand — don’t seem to have made it to the D.C. area yet. Roomster is actually a Web-based tool that can connect to your Facebook or Google Plus account to pull information (though you can opt out on providing some info, like your friend lists). You can search for a room, an entire home or an apartment to rent. Or you can offer one for rent. But the subscription charges to send and read messages seem a bit high when you can find and list rooms on Craigslist for free. The only real difference is that Roomster lets you be more selective: for example, the “lifestyle” section of the profile allows you to specify whether you’re a smoker, when you get up and go to bed, how neat you are, your party habits and work habits, your occupation, and so on. Unfortunately, Roomster profiles don’t always have this information filled out. As a paying member, you can send messages to all the people in your area of choice with listings in your price range using the site’s “megaphone” tool. The connection to Facebook seems a little pointless — if you aren’t already Facebook friends with a prospective roommate, you can only see what’s public on their profile page. Brian Schwartz, 36, who is looking for a roommate to share a two-bedroom condo in the H Street neighborhood, gave the website a shot because he hasn’t been having much luck with Craigslist, RadPad or Zillow’s Postlets app. “It’s nice that I can contact people on Roomster,” he says.
For: Keeping a tally of expenses and IOUs
The Verdict: It’s easy and fun
to use — though an app that makes borrowing and lending money feel like a game certainly has its dangers. To get started, you give your group a name and add members, either directly from the app or by sharing an invite link via email or text. You can create multiple groups on the app, so in one group you can split apartment expenses with your roommates and in another you can tally shared expenses on that girls’ trip to Mexico, for example.
Splitwise can search your contacts to see who has already registered on the app. From there, you use the app to add expenses, noting who paid the bills and how they should be split. The running tally is especially helpful when you have different people paying for different items, all the time.
You can still pay off your debts in cash — you just record that you paid in the app. Or you can pay with Paypal or Venmo, which the app links seamlessly to. All that said, manually entering bills and expenses could get tedious after a while, and some renters may end up resorting to less techy methods. The tallying can also occasionally get a little wonky because the app tries to “simplify” many payments back and forth between multiple people.
The option to send reminders through the app to group members who need to settle up feels a little passive aggressive, but it also might take the awkwardness out of such conversations. Besides, if your roommate really is a deadbeat, they’re probably not checking the app and never going to pay you back for that toilet paper anyway. Just accept it.
For: Messaging your roommates, and managing shared bills, supplies and tasks.
The Verdict: Once you’ve signed up on the app, which takes only seconds, you can create a new “home,” as Homeslice calls it, or join an existing home. It’s quick to invite new members to your home via text or email. The app’s “whiteboard” function allows you to message others in your “home”; in the “tasks” function you can create tasks with due dates, and make them recurring or assign them to other people to do; and in the “supplies” function you can list what you need and also notify roomies that you’re shopping and where — then create a new shared bill. The “bills” function is very similar to Splitwise, allowing you to type in a bill, amount, due date and how to split it. Unlike with Splitwise, though, it doesn’t give a final tally based on all the different bills paid by different roommates. For all its slickness, though, it may still be easier to rely on group texts than an app to nag your roommates.
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