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Website hopes to simplify search for Ann Arbor housing

By Lydia Koehn, For the Daily
Published November 12, 2012

Students still scrambling in their search for housing next year now have a new resource to help them find a home.

A2Cribs.com, a recently launched website that aggregates available properties for local house hunters using the Google Maps application, went live last Wednesday and received more than 500 visitors on its pilot day.

Created by three University students, the site sorts its collection of housing listings by lease term and unit type, allowing users to search a specified range of bedrooms and rent prices. Engineering seniors Tim Jones and Evan Dancer and Business senior Jason Okrasinski said the idea for the website grew from their personal frustrations with stressful Ann Arbor rental searches, and the concept came to fruition when a professor encouraged the trio to make their idea a reality.

According to Okrasinski, the founder and marketing and design manager of A2Cribs.com, the hardest part of the project was amassing all of the listings.

“It was a daunting challenge considering the number of realtor websites and how crappy and inconsistent they are at displaying information,” Okrasinski wrote in an e-mail interview.

He said A2Cribs distinguishes itself from other housing websites by being more focused on locality rather than statewide or national postings.

“Most housing sites have focused on the broader problem, in which they have many listings all across the country,” Okrasinski wrote. “These sites are moderately helpful at displaying rentals in big cities, but are pretty bad at helping students on a local scale.”

With more than 4,000 listings, A2Cribs aims to make the off-campus housing search a more transparent process by including pertinent details, such as the additional costs of utilities and whether or not parking spaces and furnishings are included.

Many of the listings also provide a direct link to the realty company’s website where students can inquire about the property. The website provides easy access through a Facebook login feature and allows students to star their favorite listings in order to better compare them to other top contenders.

By the end of November, the A2Cribs team plans to show which of the listings on the site are already leased, and by December students will have the opportunity to post subleases, much like Craigslist or Facebook, Okrasinski wrote.

“We ultimately want to make it simple for students to find an available listing, compare it to others, and sign the lease,” Okrasinski wrote.

Megan Phelps — the administrative assistant of Investor’s Property Management, an Ann Arbor realty company with properties listed on A2Cribs — praised the functional format and convenient features of the website.

“I will definitely recommend this website to students who call us looking for places that don’t fit anything we have left to offer,” Phelps wrote in an e-mail interview. “Anything that makes students’ lives easier makes our jobs easier too.”

In the future, the operation costs of the website will be covered through advertising placements, according to Okrasinski. For now, the site is currently free for both renters and realtors.

Though Education senior Monica Beal approved of the idea of A2Cribs, she expressed concern that the new website does not include all of Ann Arbor’s potential leasing options.

“I think it's very convenient because house hunting Ann Arbor is a pain,” Beal said. “It's very user friendly, and it’s nice to have everything in one spot. I guess my concern would be that it does not include all the available housing options. For instance, my apartment building isn’t listed.”

LSA junior Stephan Bradley, a residential adviser in Mosher-Jordan Residence Hall, said he hoped the website’s founders will adjust the current pricing for their dorm listings according to impending changes in the costs of room and board for next year.

“By just looking at the prices of the dorms for University housing, I see that it is using the rates for this year, without any disclaimer that the prices for next year have not yet been set … and they are likely to increase,” Bradley said. “Therefore, if one is using the site to look at properties for next year, they could potentially be misguided as to the prices of the residence halls and university apartments when comparing them to other options.”