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Jumpshell hopes its social service will help apartment renters elude broker fees

Posted by Scott Kirsner  June 18, 2013 08:30 AM

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A Somerville startup is cultivating an interesting concept: could Facebook friends help one another find their next apartment — and avoid paying broker fees?

Jumpshell plans to roll out its first beta test tomorrow, which will help people find or advertise apartment sublets through their social networks on Facebook. The initial app will enable people to start conversations about sublets with friends who live in a particular area, or who might be in the process of moving. Over time, though, Jumpshell intends to enlist tenants in renting out their apartment at the end of a lease, providing the landlord or building manager with a new renter from their network of friends — or friends of friends.

"Those kinds of interactions are already happening informally, where people go to see a friend's apartment, or a friend's neighbor's apartment, and they may decide to rent it," says Jumpshell co-founder Matt Boyes-Watson, who helps manage a building that his family owns in Cambridge.

But Jumpshell wants to bring that process online, helping landlords keep their apartments rented while helping the new tenants avoid paying a fee to a broker, which is typically one month's rent. Jumpshell hopes to handle the rental application online for a much smaller fee — around $125, says co-founder and chief marketing officer Raleigh Werner. (But the startup is still in discussions with a state regulatory agency, the Division of Professional Licensure for Real Estate Salespersons, which could prove...interesting.) Landlords might provide rewards to tenants who helped supply the next renter for their place, for instance discounting the last month's rent.

So far, the startup has been boot-strapped, though Werner says they will focus on raising money this summer. And Jumpshell's three founders don't just work together... they're also roommates. (In the photo from left to right are Boyes Watson, CTO Parker Woodworth, and Werner.)

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Innovation and technology news that matters, on a new website from the Boston Globe, featuring Scott Kirsner and other original reporting.

About Scott Kirsner

Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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