SEATTLE – Seattle-based Zillow launched a new search this week that allows renters facing hurdles to connect with landlords willing to modify their standard screening criteria.
Zillow has been building the program, called Community Pillar, since last summer and added the new search tool this week for people dealing with barriers such as low income, bad credit history, and spotty employment or housing history.
"Rental prices are at an all-time high and competition to get in to good rental units is also extremely high," said Rebekah Bastian, VP of Product at Zillow. "There are so many units on the market but especially with application fees and the application process with each one, people can end up spinning in circles contacting so many people that aren't going to be willing to rent to them."
The program has captured the attention of people like Dan Travers, Managing Broker at Cascade Management Real Estate services.
"I think we're really seeing broad range of people that are having the housing battles," Travers said. "A lot of people are between jobs. They're moving to Seattle to find a job. So they have no income right now."
He said that means they can be on the threshold of getting an apartment based on the traditional standards of two and a half, three times their rent. He understands there are risks.
"No one wants to rent to someone that's not going to pay their rent simple enough and a lot of people, when things start to go wrong, they pull back on paying rent," he said. "Seattle has a long process of evicting somebody and a lot of renters know that and we've seen some try to take advantage of that."
But, he said landlords and property managers should be involved in a broader discussion when it comes to Seattle's tight housing market.
"We are part of the housing situation in Seattle so it seems like it's just natural to be part of the solution to the problems. We're seeing homeless numbers that are the highest Seattle's ever had in its history and I strongly believe in the mission of preventing homelessness more than trying to solve it," Travers said. "I think just throwing money at it is not the answer and Zillow with this idea of connecting property managers with individuals who have some barriers to renting just seemed like a no-brainer."