Business: Alumni create application to help landlords

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By Gregory Wise

When VCU School of Business alumnus James Barrett (B.S.’05/B) first came up with the idea behind Tenant Turner, he knew he wouldn’t be able to make it work by himself.

As a result, Barrett enlisted the help of friends and fellow VCU alumni Chris Stewart (B.S.’05/B) and Brandon Anderson (B.S.’06/B) to help complete his vision. Now, almost four months after starting the project together, they have introduced an application to the market that they believe will change the way landlords do business.

Tenant Turner, a Web-based application, works by matching landlords to their most compatible prospective tenants using a process that begins with a questionnaire to eliminate tenants who don’t fit a specific property. It then ranks applicants using their prescreening answers to find the best match for a given landlord.

The next step in this process, and the way Tenant Turner makes money, is through the group’s partnership with RentPrep, which allows the landlord to purchase a credit and background check on the chosen tenants through the Tenant Turner application. In addition, Tenant Turner helps the landlords market their property on social media sites such as Facebook and Craigslist.

“The whole concept started with us trying to find good tenants for our property,” said Barrett, who, combined with Anderson and Stewart, have about 15 years of collective land lording experience. “It felt like every time I did [replaced tenants] I had to change how much I was renting the property for.”

The idea originated about a year ago, he said, after he had continuous trouble replacing old tenants.  This led him to create a prototype, which he began to test and research.  Through this process, Barrett found from census data that there were almost 20 million properties in the U.S. that fell into his target market.

From this point, Barrett realized he was on to something, but he also knew that to make Tenant Turner work he would need help from Anderson and Stewart.

“We’re best friends so we hang out on a regular basis, we do fantasy football together, we play poker together, we’re always around each other,” Barrett said. “So when this idea came to be and I needed a brand guy and a development guy, these were my top two choices.”

Once the trio began working together they completed the product within a few months, launching the application last October. Since then, the product has gained steam, catching on with independent landlords in Richmond as well as some in California and in the Midwest.

“It’s grown pretty quickly,” Anderson said. “We just recently had somebody who was feeling kind of lost, so they posted their property on our service and after using us they felt a lot more comfortable.”

Moving into the future, the three friends aren’t ready to quit their day jobs just yet, but they aim to make Tenant Turner as big as possible while keeping their eyes open for other entrepreneurial opportunities.

“I definitely think this is going to be a repeat occurrence,” Barrett said. “We all have a passion for good, usable, valuable products and this is just one idea we’re excited about.”