A new interactive game that mocks the absurdities of the Tel Aviv rental market

How staggering and unexpected have the asking prices become, even for the dilapidated rental apartments in Tel Aviv? A new interactive game that allows players to guess the required rent for an apartment in the most expensive city in Israel based on some pictures, the general location and the number of rooms people are stuck in.

The goal is to highlight some of the absurdities in the Tel Aviv real estate scene, and to show how well players are attuned to the reality of the huge and rising housing market. Players write a guess and press “Next” to see how close they are to the actual asking price.

The online game, called Rent WTF, was created by data and software engineer Yoav Tepper, a self-described “data geek” and a Tel Aviv resident.

Tepper told The Times of Israel that he was excited to create Rent WTF because “you can hear everywhere, especially on social media, that everyone is talking about rent prices and how quickly things are changing. I thought of a way I could raise awareness of the situation, but also Putting smiles on people’s faces.

The game responds to guesses – true, false or close – with humor, encouraging players with the message “very touching” or “either you’re cheating, or you’re a real estate appraiser” or criticizing them with “horrible” and “not even close”.

After five guesses, the game presents a score. (This writer was wrong only 15% of the time, with one guess right on his nose.)

Yoav Tipper, creator of the interactive Tel Aviv Rent WTF game. (courtesy Yoav Tipper)

Tepper says the apartment “features” that the game provides as a pricing guide aren’t predetermined.

“I took a bunch of listings and added the same details as the original listing. While some mentioned the area or floor number, others only mentioned the neighborhood or number of rooms. This also shows how inconsistent this market is.

I think there is so much variance in rental prices in Tel Aviv that there isn’t a single predictor of asking price. “Located in Tel Aviv is probably the most important feature,” he said.

The game was widely circulated and was met with worldwide enthusiasm. The reactions included a politician and a former MK showing it live on TV (and greatly underestimating real rental prices), and positive feedback via social media platforms from those who tried the experiment and understood the most serious point behind the test.

Tepper said renting WTF was a fun side project designed to underscore the levels of unpredictability of rental prices in Tel Aviv, adding that he wanted his voice to be heard in the discussion but had no idea how quickly the game would take off.

“While some may get it right and simply enjoy the game, others will be out of reach and get a wake-up call,” he explained.

He revealed that Tepper’s average error in estimating rental rates is 7.6%.

Rent WTF, an online game, allows players to guess the asking prices for rented apartments in Tel Aviv. (screenshot)

Tepper said his goal in creating the game was a social one, not a commercial one. But in the longer term, he wants to expand it to real estate markets outside Tel Aviv, and see the game as a way to add “market opinion” into the housing price equation.

Rents in Israel rose by about 20% in the first half of 2022. But in Tel Aviv according to anecdotal evidence from renters and real estate agents, lease renewals often command prices 20% to 40% more than last year.

A recent analysis by The Times of Israel indicates that while some people are willing to pay a premium to live in Tel Aviv, many simply find themselves out of the city. With new construction focusing on luxury housing, they see few opportunities for change.

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