Rent.com.au: Matching renters to ideal houses and suburbs with Google Maps Platform

About Rent.com.au

With a sole focus on the Australian rental market, Rent.com.au offers one of the widest selections of rental homes in one location, as well as products and services to make renting easier for renters, landlords, and agents. Rent.com.au has developed a number of exclusive, industry-first products and tools including Renter Resume, RentBond, and RentCheck, designed to simplify the rental journey for its customers.

Industries: Real Estate
Location: Australia

About NGIS

NGIS advises clients on spatial technologies, consults on GIS, builds custom applications, trains clients in technical skills, and sells licences for mapping technology. The business applies the philosophy of "People, Partnership, Success" to succeed. The business says that the expertise of its people, the long-term client relationships it forms, the active participation within its industry, and the strategic partnerships it has created over almost 20 years, demonstrate that the company invests in relationships.

With Google Maps Platform, Rent.com.au gives renters the ability to view the location of properties, nearby facilities, and suburbs in an easy, intuitive way, positioning the business to become the number one online destination for renters in Australia.

Google Cloud Results

  • Enables renters to check what schools, shops, and other facilities are close to properties
  • Gives renters a street view of properties
  • Provides renters with access to a lifestyle search feature that augments a dataset of suburb property reviews with property locations

Enables renters to view the locations of 70K+ rental properties

At its core, Rent.com.au's mission is to de-stigmatize renting, as increasingly more Australians now rent as a deliberate and practical choice. "Historically, renters have been frowned upon compared to buyers," says Adam Tohovitis, Head of Development, Rent.com.au. "But today the economics of property prices and location means many people enjoy the flexibility that renting can offer. We want to make our renters first-class citizens by giving them the tools and information they need for success."

"We're a team of about 25 staff who are all driven to help Rent.com.au become the number one destination for renters in Australia," says Tohovitis. Launching in 2007, the company developed the technologies, alliances, and content needed to fully commercialize its platform before listing on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX: RNT) in 2015. Today, the website attracts 600,000 to 700,000 unique visitors a month and features some 90 percent of all real estate rental listings in Australia, as well as many privately managed (landlord) rental property listings.

"Google provides the pinnacle of mapping services – we know its products are far superior to the competition."

Adam Tohovitis, Head of Development, Rent.com.au

A wide range of services

Rent.com.au offers a number of services for its customers including access to financing for rental bonds, tenancy database history reports, and real-time rental data reports, which can be purchased by landlords and agents. The company also offers an automatic utility (electricity, gas, and internet) connection and disconnection service for renters as they move into their new homes, as well as renter contents insurance that moves with the renter from one property to the next. Its flagship tool, Renter Resume allows renters to create a one-time profile with their rental history, employment details, and identification to make applying for properties simple.

"Our Renter Resume brings all our products and tools together," says Tohovitis. "We launched the feature a little over two years ago and we're coming up to our 500,000 resume milestone very shortly." Rent.com.au's Renter Resume has enabled the business to collect and analyze user data that has helped build suburb reviews and lifestyle data for towns and cities across Australia.

Rent.com.au also offers a renter blog with advice, trends and tips and, with the help of a partnership with U.S.-based company Walk Score, has incorporated the Walk Score property search feature to help house hunters see how easily they can reach everything on foot. Customers can also see whether a property has NBN available or planned in the future in an easy-to-digest format.

High-quality mapping needed

Rent.com.au operates in a highly competitive market and needed to provide a relevant, compelling experience for renters and other industry participants to realize its business ambitions. This meant helping renters locate desirable properties and suburbs, and identify the location of facilities such as schools and shopping centers. To do this, rent.com.au needed to provide high-quality mapping services for its website and mobile application.

"When a rental listing is provided we locate the property's coordinates based on an address provided by the real estate agent or landlord. With Geocoding API, we can pin the location and let users apply a radius filter. So if they're interested in a particular suburb and want to view properties within a particular radius, we can do that."

Adam Tohovitis, Head of Development, Rent.com.au

The business already had experience with Google through its use of Google Analytics, helping them track and report traffic, and Google Tag Manager to tag and support the performance analysis of content from third-party vendors.

The quality of this experience – and early experimentation with and knowledge of Google Maps services – prompted the business to turn immediately to Google Maps Platform. "Google provides the pinnacle of mapping services – we know its products are far superior to the competition," says Tohovitis.

Rent.com.au integrated Google Maps Platform services into its products and today provides rich property maps, suburb, city, and street views to renters and industry participants.

"In August last year, we launched a Rent.com.au mobile application on Android and iOS – and this uses Google Maps Platform APIs to provide address lookup and mapping," says Tohovitis. The business employed Maps SDK for Android and Maps SDK for iOS to add maps based on Google Maps data to its application.

The business uses Maps Static API to embed Google Maps images on its web page without requiring JavaScript or any dynamic page loading; Maps JavaScript API to add interactive maps to its web page and – through the Places library – provide autocomplete for addresses and search; and Geocoding API to convert addresses to geographic coordinates and vice versa.

"We can't live without Geocoding API," says Tohovitis. "When a rental listing is provided – and we can receive up to 5,000 new properties in a day – we locate the property's coordinates based on an address provided by the real estate agent or landlord. With Geocoding API, we can pin the location and let users apply a radius filter. So if they're interested in a particular suburb and want to view properties within a particular radius, we can do that. We can also augment our lifestyle search data with property locations to provide a unique search experience for a renter, not available anywhere else."

The address autocomplete service helps users enter addresses faster and more accurately than if they had to type in a full address themselves.

"Giving renters a real-world view of properties is also very important to the user experience we provide. With Google, we can provide this view via our website and our application."

Adam Tohovitis, Head of Development, Rent.com.au

Rich information about facilities

Real estate is all about location – and with Google Maps Platform, Rent.com.au lets renters and other industry participants find what they need. "Users can see where a property is located and glean valuable insights about the surrounding neighborhood," says Tohovitis. "Giving renters a real-world view of properties is also very important to the user experience we provide. With Google, we can provide this view via our website and our application."

Optimizing maps services

Following its initial Google Maps Platform deployment, Rent.com.au engaged spatial consulting agency NGIS to optimize its use of the service. "These optimizations – including caching static map images for 30 days rather than contacting Google servers every time a user views a property and when a user of the autocomplete service keys in three letters, rather than just one letter – have reduced our bill threefold," says Tohovitis.

The simplicity and intuitive nature of Google Maps Platform meant Rent.com.au was able to implement the NGIS-recommended optimizations without external support.

Rent.com.au's application is now recording average scores of 4.8 out of 5 on the Google Play store alone from more than 1,300 reviews.

Considering BigQuery to manage data effectively

With Google Maps Platform implemented and meeting its requirements, Rent.com.au is now reviewing the potential of Google Cloud Platform data processing and machine learning products to improve its internal capabilities and the experience provided to renters, landlords and agents. "Users are becoming savvier every year and their expectation of a good experience increases every year as well," says Tohovitis. "We're going to need access to machine learning and the ability to crunch a lot of data so we can keep growing."

Rent.com.au is particularly interested in the potential of BigQuery to transform its data management and processing. "Within our company, we need to improve the way we provide the data that we base our decisions on," says Tohovitis. "We're looking at BigQuery as a way of ingesting structured and unstructured data and pulling out the pieces we need."

With Google Maps Platform, Google Analytics, and Google Tag Manager, Rent.com.au is ideally positioned to realize its objectives. "Obviously we want to be the number one destination for renters," says Tohovitis. "We have some large competitors, so we want to continue to grow. As we do, we'll rely even more on these key features that Google helps us provide."

About Rent.com.au

With a sole focus on the Australian rental market, Rent.com.au offers one of the widest selections of rental homes in one location, as well as products and services to make renting easier for renters, landlords, and agents. Rent.com.au has developed a number of exclusive, industry-first products and tools including Renter Resume, RentBond, and RentCheck, designed to simplify the rental journey for its customers.

Industries: Real Estate
Location: Australia

About NGIS

NGIS advises clients on spatial technologies, consults on GIS, builds custom applications, trains clients in technical skills, and sells licences for mapping technology. The business applies the philosophy of "People, Partnership, Success" to succeed. The business says that the expertise of its people, the long-term client relationships it forms, the active participation within its industry, and the strategic partnerships it has created over almost 20 years, demonstrate that the company invests in relationships.