For this installment of the LandlordsNY Vendor Spotlight, we are shining a light on Rentlogic CEO Yale Fox. As many members know, Rentlogic grades buildings in New York City based on approximately 150 different variables that are compiled from objective datasets. If you’re curious about how the system works, you can see the website for yourself here.
1. How long have you been in the business and how did you get started?
I grew up in the business because my family owns a real estate brokerage in Toronto, where I’m from and where I also own property. I started Rentlogic after a terrible experience when I moved to New York City. I had to secure my apartment in advance and found a place that looked great online. After moving in, I discovered it was full of mold, roaches and all sorts of other problems. The landlord had a terrible track record (and eventually went to jail over his treatment of tenants), but I had no easy way of knowing this beforehand. I ended up taking him to court around the same time that New York City made its data on building inspections public. Given that I’m a data scientist, I compared his track record with that of other landlords in the City. The judge loved it and told me that I should build an app with this information. The rest is history.
2. What advice would you give to yourself if you were at the beginning?
This started off as a hobby and became a business, so my work is driven by my passion. The advice I’d give myself is the same advice I’ve been following since the beginning: take into account both the landlord and tenant experience in everything we do. Listen to the voices of experts, find a middle ground, and always seek the fairest and most transparent option. We often get criticized for being too tenant friendly and too landlord friendly—which makes me think we’re really in the right place.
3. What do you find most hopeful in New York’s real estate industry? What do you find most concerning?
The increase of technology in real estate is transforming the industry. We’re beginning to see this in the way buildings are built, as well as how they’re rented and maintained and eventually enjoyed by their inhabitants. However, I’m concerned about the affordability crisis as it pertains to housing in New York and other major cities. It is unacceptable to me that the majority of my generation spends over 50% of their income on rent/housing. Hopefully, new technologies will allow for greater efficiencies in building new affordable housing which will work for all stakeholders to tackle this crisis.
4. If you were to do anything else, what would it be?
Rentlogic developed organically out of my own interests and passions, so I can’t imagine stepping out and doing something else. It blends my loves of real estate, tech, social impact, social sciences, and data science. If not for Rentlogic, I’d still be working as an analyst for Freakonomics, which is what I was doing before I choose to commit my life to Rentlogic’s mission of improving transparency and quality in the housing market.
5. How do you think the business will be different in 10 years?
The business is going to be more transparent and more efficient. Technology has had an influence on every single industry, and we’re watching that start to happen in real estate now. Building owners are choosing to add more services to their operations from amenity spaces and mobile payment platforms to alternative security deposit programs. All of these changes should have net positive effect on residents.
6. What’s your favorite quote? Favorite movie and/or book and why?
My favorite quote is by Jane Jacobs in The Death and Life of Great American Cities: “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” It shapes a lot of what we do at Rentlogic because there’s no way we could succeed without taking into account everybody in a city—landlords, tenants, owners, managers, city government, non-profits, etc. In fact, our board, MOSAIC, takes this principle into account; it is comprised of those in every aspect of NYC living: landlords, brokers, government officials, and even a New Yorker who has struggled with homelessness.
My favorite TV show is “Altered Carbon” on Netflix. It’s a realistic thought experiment of what the world could look like in a few hundred years. My favorite book, by Richard Lewontin, is called Biology as Ideology: The Doctrine of DNA, which is a very simple set of rules and principles that explains human behavior very well.
7. What would you do if you won the Mega Millions jackpot?
I’d be doing the exact same thing but I’d be mega millions richer.
8. What was your first job?
I started a landscaping business and had a staff of six by the time I was 16 years old. I realized early on that I was an entrepreneur at heart and kept building from there.