There was no one home when Avisheh Madani arrived to tour a San Francisco rental property. No one human, that is.
Madani, 35, used a code from an app to unlock the door and was greeted immediately by a robot.
"It was definitely weird," she said.
The robot, really a moveable video monitor, is the brainchild of Zenplace, a rental management company based in San Francisco and expanding quickly across the nation. The company developed the software itself, which doesn't look like a classic robot, although it does have a face: the real face of the rental agent. Essentially it's a roving screen showing a live person in another location.
"Robots are part of our end-to-end solutions," said Rahul Mewawalla, CEO of Zenplace. "What our robots really do is reduce the leasing period and cut down vacancy times for owners. Tenants can now literally go from seeing a place they like to renting it out in a matter of minutes versus the days and weeks it traditionally took."
The rental agent talks to the prospective renter through the screen and can also move the device throughout the home. In addition to the live agent, the robot can provide real-time data about the neighborhood, amenities, and rental trends, such as pricing. It also has a lease application, so the renter can apply on the spot.