August Kleimo, a Southern California software engineer and database developer, bought a duplex about a year ago as a rental property.
He didn’t know much about the rental market, so he started to crunch some numbers using rental prices he gathered from a local Craigslist Web site. Craigslist offers local online classified listings and other community postings for metro areas across the United States and internationally.
“I didn’t want to play a guessing game. I thought, ‘There’s this Craigslist data out there … why don’t I suck a bunch of data down,'” Kleimo said.
Using this data, he determined the typical going rate for a rental unit in the area, and he priced it accordingly. Prior to this analysis, Kleimo said he had planned to set the monthly rental rate $200 lower.
He threw together a simple Web site using the rental data he gathered. “I slowly started adding little features to it, then it slowly started to catch on,” he said.
RentSlicer.com, which launched early in 2005, at first featured a single page that listed the average rental price for each neighborhood in Los Angeles. Next, Kleimo added pages for each neighborhood, and he allowed users to examine rental rate differences by the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and by the type of amenities.
He later added a mapping capability based on the Google Maps platform and created a trends and graphs section that charts changes in average rental rates.
Bloggers and real estate professionals began to promote the site, which drew more visitors.
The RentSlicer name relates to the site’s capabilities — “there are lots of different ways to slice the data,” Kleimo said. The site features a “Slicer Tool” page, for example, that allows users to customize lists of rental properties in a given region and find average rental rates based on amenities they select.
For example, the “Slicer Tool” can show users how many rental units in the entire Los Angeles area — or neighborhoods and cities in this area — have one-bedroom rental units that allow pets and feature a yard, and calculates the average rental rate of this selection based on the advertised rental rate.
Site users also can view neighborhood and city-specific pages that list the average price of all units in that area, by unit type, and by number of bedrooms. These pages also list the 15 most recently posted rental listings and the past 90 day’s total rental inventory by unit type, amenities and number of bedrooms.
The site gathers fresh rental listings data every couple of hours. Kleimo said it’s too early to determine trends in rental prices because he hasn’t yet collected a full year of real estate rental data.
The type of amenities listed at the site include: balcony, contemporary, courtyard, deck, fireplace, garage, garden, hardwood floors, laundry, live/work space, near beach, parking, pool, Spanish style, utilities paid, view, yard and pets allowed. Unit types include: apartment, bachelor, bungalow, condo, cottage, guesthouse, loft, single, studio, townhouse, and house.
Users can choose to receive e-mail alerts on rental properties that fit their criteria.
The site is uncluttered and easy to navigate. “That’s the approach I’d like to keep,” Kleimo said. “I don’t want to create a ‘spammy’ site. I’d rather build up traffic and have people enjoy it.”
On Dec. 21 RentSlicer launched a San Francisco Bay Area version, with near-term plans to expand to San Diego, Seattle and Portland.
Kleimo said that while the site now uses Craigslist rental information, he has hopes to bring in new sources of rental listings data from other sources. A couple of venture capital firms have contacted Kleimo about RentSlicer, he said.
“I think there is a lot of opportunity for affiliate programs, like pushing traffic to Rent.com. There are a lot of ways to monetize it — selling the data and also doing partnerships,” he said.
Craigslist administrators have not always taken kindly to other sites that electronically search through and collect Craigslist content and display this data on other Web sites, though Kleimo said Tuesday that he hadn’t yet met any resistance from Craigslist over RentSlicer’s use of the Craigslist rental listings data.
Last year, Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster asked classified search engine Oodle to stop displaying information from Craigslist ads at the Oodle Web site. Oodle had used automated computer programs to gather information from a range of Craigslist classified ads, and this activity put a strain on the Craigslist computer server, Buckmaster told Inman News.
Craigslist representatives could not be reached for comment on the RentSlicer service.
RentSlicer is a part-time endeavor for Kleimo, who is co-founder of Infomercial.TV Inc., a company that provides e-commerce tools and services for the television infomercial industry.
RentSlicer’s design could be adapted for vacation rentals or automobile listings, among other purposes, Kleimo said, though the plan for now is to continue focusing on the rental market.
Kleimo said he’d like to expand the mapping features of RentSlicer to include ZIP code-based searches, to expand into more metro areas across the country, and to do “more reporting and slicing and dicing of the data.” He said he expects that real estate professionals will take particular interest in statistical reports on market trends.
The feedback he has received from site users has been positive, he said. “It surprised me how excited they got.”
Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to email@example.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 137.