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Story of bird, an apartment rental app with 50,000 users per month

Apartment rental app bird is an experimental product of LUN; it is an iOS application to find accommodation in Kyiv. It was released on the App Store in December 2018. Now it has over 190,000 downloads and over 50,000 unique users per month.

The AIN.UA journalist has talked to Arseniy Feshchenko, bird founder and product designer, and learned why LUN needed another apartments search engine, how it develops, and why it will not expand within Ukraine, working only in Kyiv.

apartment rental app bird-1
Arseniy Feshchenko. All photos in this article: Olha Zakrevska / AIN.UA

How and Why an apartment rental app bird was created

It began in 2017. Every Friday at lunch, a team of four people, including Denis Tsyganok, LUN co-founder, and Arseniy Feshchenko, designer at that time, gathered and dreamed of how the search of the apartment will look in the future. Then they finally visualized their ideas and developed a concept in 2020. They imagined an app where users can choose apartments on a 3D map only. There will be no lists. You can virtually visit each location and buy the favored one for hundreds of thousands of dollars, using Touch ID.

At that time, LUN already has had the Flatfy product for Ukraine — an apartments search engine for the secondary market where you can find an apartment within Ukraine to buy or rent it. So, they decided to do some experiments and create a “future app” based on the 2020 concept under an entirely new brand and for the city of Kyiv only — bird.

“It was much harder to develop and launch an app for LUN or Flatfy because their users would have high expectations. And they started a new product — an apartment rental app bird. Nobody has known it. So, there were no expectations. When there are no expectations, the start is much easier,” said Arseniy Feshchenko, the founder and product designer of bird.

bird app rental features for apartment search

bird works like an aggregator — it collects ads from 24 different real estate rental platforms, including DOM.RIA, Country.ua, OLX, Rieltor.ua, 100rielty.ua, and other smaller agencies. A crucial element of the app and the main part of the search is the 3D map. “As an opposite to websites with a list of apartments and addresses, streets, and metro stations. To understand where they are, you need to copy and paste the address into Google Maps. This all was the main problem we wanted to solve with the map as the biggest advantage of bird,” explained Feshchenko.

The app was launched in December 2018. The first version contained no filter or other navigation buttons — it had only the 3D map with highlighted houses where someone leases apartments. We used the Mapbox solution to create it because Apple and Google Maps could not display a huge number of objects and select some of them.

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Images in the article: AIN.UA

New features arose after users delivered feedback and their wishes in App Store or via Telegram to the bird team. So, soon after the start, developers added room numbers, budget, renovation, and favorite filters. Now there are coming two most desired filters — “pet-friendly” and “children-friendly.”

In 2019, the app won two Red Dot nominations — Interface & User Experience and Apps. However, Arseniy said that he is not satisfied with the slider bar — a solution that allows you to set a price range by the search:

“The users wanted it so much, but we tried to postpone its release as much as possible. We spent about a year studying it fundamentally and did create it. Because ‘price from’ is a very doubtful parameter. We learned that users want to skip fake ads and irrelevant apartments using it.”

Bird AI — a solution for eliminating fakes

The minimum value of the ‘price from’ is currently equal to 6,000 UAH (approx. $225). Our team wanted to make it better and presented an AI-driven solution on the second bird anniversary. It can check ads and discover fake ones: “One day, we realized that we want to be more than just an apartment search app for the users. That we want to help them all the way during the renting process.”

Thanks to a set of 25 parameters, Bird AI can up to 95% certainty discover fraud ads to be removed from the app. Bird AI was developed in cooperation with the LUN team that specializes in developing AI solutions called Flair. “We trained bird AI to find fake ads according to our database of fakes that we collected manually. It was a pretty complicated task because even a sophisticated real estate expert can’t always find all of them,” Feshchenko recalls.

In addition, bird AI looks for all the ads for the same apartment on different platforms, creating a price range on their basis, and filters proposals with “granny-style design.”

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Select function and product monetization

In July 2021, bird has got an update with a new feature in the app — select. It is a section with manually filtered freshly renovated apartments in new buildings with moderate+ prices — from $800. The best thing about the bird select feature is video room tours in the story format. According to Feshchenko, they should replace offline visits because visiting apartments is a big pain in the ass for realtors.

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Another problem here could be the communication with realtors. To minimize it, you can book an apartment tour in the bird select section by pressing the button “Book a room tour.” After that, you can schedule your visit via Telegram.

bird select now is the single way to monetize the app. The realtors pay a fee of 12.5% of each rental deal. Currently, there are about 30 apartments in this section. We plan to develop and extend bird to other markets. The app will not work in other cities of Ukraine.

bird is a product that encourages you to break new ground. In Ukraine, we already have a successful app Flatfy and understand what other Ukrainian cities need. We want to make expansions to new markets where we will face many new challenges for sure. At the moment, the development of an Android version or adapting it for iPad is not on the list. Arseniy confirmed the iOS version priority: “We want to move at the maximum speed — that is our motto.”

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