HotPads.com, a rental property Web site that launched in November, offers free property listings and free search capabilities to consumers looking for rentals.

The site features a map-based search platform that allows users to specify unit types such as homes (full or divided), condos, large apartment communities and medium-sized apartment buildings. Visitors can also choose whether to search for sublets, corporate housing, rentals or all categories, and the site offers a “find a roommate” search option.

HotPads.com, a rental property Web site that launched in November, offers free property listings and free search capabilities to consumers looking for rentals.

The site features a map-based search platform that allows users to specify unit types such as homes (full or divided), condos, large apartment communities and medium-sized apartment buildings. Visitors can also choose whether to search for sublets, corporate housing, rentals or all categories, and the site offers a “find a roommate” search option. Icons on the site’s map distinguish between various property types.

A sliding price tool instantly adjusts the selection of properties on the map. For example, moving the price tool upward will immediately wipe properties off the map that are less expensive, and users can show more properties by expanding the price range. Passing over that icon with the pointer tool displays the property address, and clicking on the property icon pulls up more details about the property.

The founders first launched the site in Washington, D.C., and have since expanded to become a national portal for rental listings. So far, the site has amassed about 10,000 listings.

“We’re based in Washington, D.C., so that’s been our target market right from the beginning. It naturally spread to all of the other markets. We have a lot of the top 50 (real estate investment trusts) that manage all of the large buildings, down to individual rental houses and individual condo units for rent,” said Douglas Pope, vice president and director of operations at HotPads.

“We seek listings from property management companies. We’re trying to put together a large database,” said Matt Corgan, president and director of technology at HotPads.com. “We see listings fees as a barrier to content. Our policy is that we never want to discourage good quality content.”

Pope added, “It’s really a communications platform for renters and property managers.” HotPads does not employ automated Web-scanning tools to grab listings from other Web sites without permission, and instead relies on its users to enter and update property listings, the founders said.

The site features third-party advertising through Google’s AdSense program.

The company does not actively monitor listings content at the site, though HotPads does “reserve the right to take down any listing that is brought to our attention for any reason,” Pope said, and the site’s terms of use policies requires users to observe the Fair Housing Act.

Users who enter listings to the site must provide contact information, though the site does not yet verify this information. “To this point, we have not found it necessary,” Pope noted.

Small property listings can be activated for 32 days at a time, and property owners and managers can reactivate listings if the units are still vacant at that time, or they can choose to deactivate listings before that period if the units are rented out.

In addition to property icons, the HotPads mapping platform also identifies schools, parks and rivers. The visual interface enables users to quickly pinpoint a particular neighborhood of interest, said John Fitzpatrick, the company’s director of sales and marketing.

Pope, Corgan and Fitzpatrick first met at the University of Notre Dame, where they studied computer engineering, finance, political science and international relations.

The founders say they view their main competitors as major pay-to-list sites such as Apartments.com and ForRent.com, along with other classified listing sites such as Craigslist.org.

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Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to glenn@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 137.

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