Editors' note: This review was updated on February 28, 2014, to cover new features added in the latest version of the app.
Lovely (Android|iOS) is a sleek apartment-hunting app that streamlines the process of finding a new place to rent. It grabs classifieds from rental sites, property management firms, and its own rental database, giving you a wide variety of places to choose from, which helps up the chances you'll find your dream abode.
There's an Android and iPhone-only app, plus a tablet-friendly web site for the iPad where you can search for rentals by location, contact landlords, and even apply for rentals. I reviewed the two apps here, but used screenshots from the Android app.
Lovely's biggest selling point is that it does much of the searching for you while you go about your day. Instead of religiously checking in the morning and evening, you can have Lovely deliver new opportunities to your phone throughout the day. You can then quickly save or share the ad, and send a quick message to the landlord to express your interest.
You can browse and search available listings, and get contact info on Lovely without creating an account. That said, it's worth signing up for a free account because you get several helpful features, including setting up alerts, directly e-mail potential landlords (where available), and creating a profile about yourself and your income, which Lovely claims boosts the likelihood that a landlord will get back to you. You can use your Facebook log-in or provide an e-mail address and password to sign up.
Finding a new place to call home
Lovely covers most areas of the United States, using data from Craigslist, Internet Listing Services, public data aggregators, and property management firms. Landlords, property managers, or anyone who wants to rent out a room in their place can also create a new advertisement specifically for Lovely, using a free service called Lovely Pro.
I reviewed Lovely while I was actually conducting my own search for a new place to live. Given that I only spent a few weeks with the app, I wasn't able to seal the deal on a new place, but I did get some great insights on how Lovely stacks up against its competition.
Though Lovely gets some of its data from Craigslist and other classifieds, I was able to find many apartments in the app that I couldn't find anywhere else. Often times the listings had longer, more informative descriptions of the property than what I found on other sites. Photos were a mixed bag, with some looking far nicer than on other sites, and others that weren't clear at all. Most importantly for me, Lovely has done a phenomenal job of finding and sending me new opportunities that fit my specific criteria: A 1 to 2 bedroom abode in San Francisco's western Sunset neighborhood for less than $1,800 per month. That's a tall order in this city, but I've had better luck finding promising leads with Lovely than on other sites.
There are a few ways to use Lovely to find a new place. First, you can browse potential homes by zooming in and out on a map to zero in on specific neighborhoods. There are colored dots with numbers all over that map, which indicate how many properties are available in a particular area. Orange dots are for hot, new places; blue is for older listings; yellow indicates rentals you've favorited (saved for later); and gray dots are for rentals you've already viewed. Tap any dot to view a short summary of the property.
Touch any summary to bring up a full advertisement with a photo gallery at the top, followed by details on the cost of rent, amenities, and a description of the rental. You can view photos full-screen, add the apartment to your favorites to view later, and share it with your roommates. From that page you can also directly call or e-mail the landlord to set up a viewing. I really enjoy the layout and design of the listing pages, as it's easy to find all the information I need to make a decision.
My only gripe with the listing page is that the description box, where landlords list the features and amenities of the rental, has no formatting, so it's just a huge block of hard-to-read text.
Lovely also has a simple search tool that gives you a handful of filters, including location (city, zip code, or neighborhood), minimum and maximum monthly rent cost, number of bedrooms, and whether pets are allowed. Plug in your wants and needs, and the app shows you properties that match.
Arguably the most useful tool in Lovely (and my favorite) is the option to set alerts that notify you when a new property comes on the market that meets your requirements. You can use this feature to find rentals that meet your most practical needs, or search for your over-the-top dream apartment in the perfect neighborhood with the remodeled kitchen and two-car garage. To get started, you first use the aforementioned search tool to set a minimum and/or maximum rent amount, pick the number of bedrooms, note whether cats or dogs (or both) are allowed, specify if you want the listing to have photos or not, and add any specific keywords you want to see in the description, such as laundry, parking, or beach views. Then tap "Done" on the search page and the app will show rentals that meet those qualifications on the map.