Calgary-based ApartmentLove Inc., is continuing to grow through its acquisition and partnership strategies, purchasing OwnerDirect.com and completing a rental listings license agreement with a major U.S. aggregator in recent weeks.
ApartmentLove (APLV-CN) provides online home, apartment and vacation rental marketing services in 30 countries – though president and CEO Trevor Davidson plans to more than double that by year-end.
The most recent expansion involves its deal with the U.S. aggregator, though ApartmentLove is not publicly identifying the partner.
“(The deal is) a milestone achievement in our organic growth story and testament to the tireless work of our sales, marketing, search engine optimization and engineering teams; we are thrilled to have executed this new listings agreement as we now formally ignite our sales engines,” said Davidson.
He described the company as a marketplace for landlords and owners to advertise rental properties and for prospective tenants to visit and find places to rent and to live.
ApartmentLove CEO seeks to unify fragment sector
“Substantially all listings on ApartmentLove.com are long-term rentals, generally not less than one calendar year,” he explained.
The company’s corporate headquarters is in Calgary. The business was incorporated in 2015. In 2018, it expanded into the U.S.
“I looked at the Internet listing space years ago, much prior to our incorporating, and realized that the space is deeply, deeply fragmented. There are many Internet listing sites that focus on one or a few markets,” he said.
His idea was to make acquisitions and direct all those businesses under one larger umbrella.
As part of the strategy, in July it acquired OwnerDirect.com – a short-term vacation rental marketing platform with operations in Canada, the United States, Mexico and the Caribbean.
“In comparison, where ApartmentLove is a long-term conventional rental, OwnerDirect.com is your short-term vacation stay where people are looking for nights or weeks as opposed to years,” said Davidson.
“For every successful booking that gets made on OwnerDirect.com, we earn a 10 per cent fee right off the top of the gross booking value.”
From the day-care business to real estate
Davidson’s background is in mergers and acquisitions. Prior to ApartmentLove, he was manager of acquisitions and development for BrightPath Early Learning.
A few years ago, Davidson and his wife were living in Toronto as renters. The owner of their property sold the unit, putting the couple back into the rental market.
Two incomes. No children. No pets. They thought it would be a pretty straightforward process to find a place, only to find they had to scour online classified ads.
They found many listings were fraudulent, he said, and there was a need for something that was transparent, professional and trustworthy.
“That’s what got us looking at the market saying, ‘Why doesn’t something exist on a nationwide basis that can be used by renters and owners all across the country like we see to a degree in the United States with large established groups like Apartments.com?’ ” said Davidson.
“At the time, I was involved in a fast-growing day-care business . . . My role at the day-care company was to go in and to value small, independently owned early learning centres, child-care centres, Montessori schools, right across the country with the stated goal of buying those assets and then rebranding them and rolling them up under one single name.”
While doing that, Davidson started looking at the Internet listing space and discovered certain platforms focused only on the Greater Toronto Area, the Calgary-Edmonton corridor, the San Francisco Bay area and Manhattan Island.
It was on that basis a feeling developed that they could create a dedicated, simple and easy-use system.
“The organic profile of establishing a trustworthy platform, coupled with the accelerant that is acquisitions . . . that was the tipping point for us to focus on the business, to get it started, to incorporate and what publicly brings us through to today,” said Davidson.
The company has been publicly traded for over a year and is continuing to grow.
More of the same is in store for the future, he said. More viable transactions in the U.S. and Canada are on the radar.
“Rental markets are very active today with many would-be homeowners opting for the freedoms and flexibilities afforded renters,” said Davidson.
“Our research suggests more than 100 million people search for rental properties in the United States each month and yet the market is deeply fragmented and ripe for consolidation.”
ApartmentLove website and revenue model
Website traffic to ApartmentLove.com is up 337 per cent over the past six months, Davidson said. If current growth trends hold, he anticipates upwards of a million unique visitors to ApartmentLove.com in Q4 2022.
The website is free to use for renters to find homes. Landlords and owners pay to advertise their rental properties.
“We also work with property management companies, real estate investment trusts and large apartment building owners and operators and have a more recurring (business) model where we charge those groups a flat fee for the right to advertise an unlimited number of rental properties on our platform each month,” he said.
Davidson said most recently the company announced a new paid-cost-per-lead model with a major partner in the U.S. ApartmentLove will earn a fee for every qualifying rental lead generated to the partner.
“If you were to log onto ApartmentLove.com and you happen to find a property and an interest in Los Angeles, and that property belongs to this particular channel partner, and you reached out to that channel partner to make that reservation, that inquiry, that lead, that’s the success measure for us and we would earn a fee for each of those rental inquiries,” he said.
“It’s a fairly active revenue scheme where we have a number of different ways we’re able to draw fees.”
Expand into 80 countries
Now having “essentially completed website development,”Davidson said ApartmentLove.com can invest in marketing, promotions, advertising and search engine optimization.
His ambition is to build ApartmentLove.com, OwnerDirect.com and its future acquisitions into “household brand names, used by millions of renters, be (they) short-term or long-term or otherwise all across the United States and elsewhere abroad.”
Davidson sees ApartmentLove.com as a “really, really fast-growing company” and expects to be in 80 countries by the end of 2022.
About 250,000 people currently visit the websites on a monthly basis. Davidson said the company has about 250,000 active rental listings currently – predominantly in the U.S.
“On the ApartmentLove.com side, our focus is on the United States which is where the lion’s share of those properties are. On the OwnerDirect side, I think we’ve got about four or five thousand listings, short-term vacation listings in Canada currently.”
ApartmentLove also recently closed the final tranche of a non-brokered private placement of up to 10 million units at a price of $0.15 per unit for gross proceeds of up to $1.5 million.
The final tranche consisted of 3,046,663 units for gross proceeds of $457,000.