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block.a Gives Landlords a Competitive Edge in Surging NYC Rental Market

Pictured: Michelle Mosseri & Ben Haghani
Pictured: Michelle Mosseri & Ben Haghani


When we last spoke with Ben Haghani and Michelle Mosseri from block.a (formerly Knock), they were discussing their revolutionary leasing app, which lets renters schedule showings and access units with just their phone. Landlords highly value that the app saves them time, adds convenience and security, and increases NOI. 

Since that interview, block.a has grown rapidly, and its rebrand reflects the evolving mission and capabilities of the company.

As Haghani, Chief Revenue Officer at block.a explained, “When we established block.a, we wanted to solve the biggest bottleneck in the traditional leasing process – scheduling and showings. As the company has grown, we’ve evolved to provide a full end-to-end leasing experience, including marketing, AI communication, self-touring, occupied apartment touring, application lease signing, and revenue management. Our new brand — block.a — better communicates this larger mission.”

Haghani and Mosseri, the company’s VP of Real Estate Strategy, sat down with The Real Deal for another exclusive interview to discuss: how block.a’s Price Discovery feature helps landlords boost their profits on each unit, how the platform blends technology with a personal touch, and why block.a is so valuable in a volatile market.

Progress and Price Discovery

In the last year, block.a’s growth has been eye-popping. Mosseri remarked, “We’ve signed some of the premier landlords in New York. From a growth perspective, the number of units our landlords own and manage is up tenfold from last year.”

One of block.a’s key to continuing that growth in 2022 is its unique Price Discovery feature, which gives landlords the opportunity to capitalize on the pricing elasticity of a dynamic leasing landscape like New York City. 

How Does Price Discovery Work?

The problem with pricing units in New York is that the market changes rapidly — from month to month or even week to week. And unfortunately, the transfer of information from renter-generated demand to agents to landlords is typically too slow. 

Haghani explained, “Emerging from the pandemic, our leasing market is in a tricky, highly transitional period. Prices are up significantly from a year or two ago, but for landlords, the question is — what’s the right number?” 

For example, a particular one-bedroom in East Village may historically rent for $3,500 a month.  But with the shifting market, a landlord may be able to charge $3,800. But how can you be sure?

With block.a’s reverse-engineered pricing model, landlords can simply price the unit at $3,800. In real-time, the app’s dashboard will give you transparency into how many inquiries and tours (in-person, not virtual) the unit has received. Haghani noted, “If you see your unit has twelve inquiries and two tours in the last 24 hours, you know that, at the very least, your increased price point is credible to the market.”

Where the Traditional Pricing Model Fails

In a traditional leasing model, you can’t get that instant feedback because the data is trapped in an agent’s inbox, and they don’t have the capacity to filter through that data and deliver it in real-time. For busy landlords with multiple properties, having real-time data helps them make better pricing decisions faster, giving them a competitive advantage.

With the traditional structure, agents aren’t necessarily incentivized or have the bandwidth to provide instant feedback to landlords and ensure the maximum rental price for each unit. Mosseri adds, “Our data shows landlords exactly how the market is reacting to their pricing in real-time, so it takes out the guesswork. They get the maximum price point for each unit with the fastest turnaround times.”

As an experienced landlord in New York, Haghani understands the shortcomings of renting out units the traditional way. Being able to use block.a to rent his units, he sees the value of its seamless workflow firsthand, even after an applicant is approved. 

He noted, “From a landlord’s perspective, block.a really is a revolutionary step forward for landlords and owners. The platform removes friction from every step in the process. That includes backfilling a unit when one renter falls through. Because block.a maintains a database of applicants for each unit, the system can quickly engage other applicants to fill the spot. So you’re not forced to lower your price to rent the unit in a hurry.”

Constantly Improving Technology and Service

While the Price Discovery feature pays big dividends for landlords, it’s just one component of the comprehensive leasing experience block.a offers. And the company is consistently strengthening its team to bring best-in-class technology to the application.

But while block.a’s technology reduces friction and drives results for landlords, its Account Managers unlock the tech’s capabilities for New York landlords. 

Account Managers Provide the Human Element

block.a isn’t just an app. The company has an experienced leasing team of account managers to guide landlords and answer any questions, which includes weekly calls and weekly reporting.

Mosseri explained, “We have a full leasing team in-house. They’re all licensed, and they know the ins and outs of New York City real estate. Our technology creates less friction in the leasing process, but our account managers add the human element to show landlords how to make the most of the technology.”

“We just need an address, the unit number, and your super’s phone number…”

Even though block.a is tech-forward, Haghani and Mosseri emphasized how quick and easy the process is when landlords initiate the service.

Mosseri explained, “When some landlords hear ‘tech’, they immediately think it’s going to be complicated and time-consuming. The reality is, it’s a two-minute phone call. There’s no upfront costs. You don’t need to download anything or integrate software. We just need an address, the unit number, and your super’s phone number. And we dispatch our team. Landlords are shocked at how easy it is.”

Perfected for New York City

The team at block.a has prepared to meet the needs of landlords in what looks to be a chaotic 2022 peak rental season.

Mosseri noted, “The leasing market in New York this summer will be so reactive. We’ve worked extremely hard to make sure block.a is a safe, technologically-sound solution for landlords, and we’ve perfected the solution for New York City. We’re excited to bring our leasing experience to even more landlords and renters this year.”

To find out more about block.a’s comprehensive leasing solution, click here to schedule a demo.