Here is how I would answer this question.
First, I would define the apartment finder. It’s a person who is looking for an apartment to rent / not purchase. Generally, someone who’s looking to rent a place takes many criteria into consideration:
– distance to work / school
– rent cost
– safety of the neighbourhood
– noise level
– building amenities facilities
– Kitchen size (depending on whether or not they cook
– and many other lifestyle questions
The problem with today’s apartment search tools is that they only focus on basic attributes of the unit such as number of rooms, location, price. While these metrics are important, the large number of options available in the market make them overwhelming and since more info is not available about the units, the finder must visit many units before finding the right unit. The problem with this approach is that the search engines don’t take many contextual requirements into consideration. For example, two buildings might be two block away from each other but one is 10 mins further away from work.
My apartment finder will ask lifestyle questions that help it get a better understanding of the context of the apartment search. It will first ask questions that helps the platform understand the user needs (e.g. do they cook or not (helps decide if they need a big kitchen or small kitcken)? do they work / study at home and need a quiet home? what’s an acceptable commute time? etc). The search tool will take the user answers, searches for buildings and neighbours that meet the requirements and returns a list of suggested neighbourhoods and buildings. User can modify / save their criteria. Once the criteria is set, the apartment finder will email new listings from its website or other websites as soon as a unit that meets the user criteria enters the market. The service can also leverage historical data to provide an estimate on the number of units that will be posted in the coming weeks with those criteria.
One challenge to implement such service would be around how the service has access to data that it can use for a contextual search. One way would be to limit certain capabilities of the service such as “save your criteria” or “notify me of new postings” to members who have provided valuable info about their current apartment. Kind of similar to Glassdoor. This way, users will be encouraged to share information in return for a better apartment finding experience.