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Earth and electronicsSearching for an apartment to rent or a home to buy on the Internet can be a chore. It requires a lot of time spent searching for what’s available, neighborhood information, what’s nearby, local school data and plenty of other information that will ultimately help you choose the right home.

But thanks to RentalRoost, finding a place to live is easier than ever.

In a nutshell, RentalRoost is an online service that matches users to their perfect home, sort of like a dating site for apartments or houses. An ever-evolving algorithm scores each property based on generated feedback from the user by mining data from their social media profiles.

Vikram Raghavan, president and co-founder of the company, notes that RentalRoost is the first house- and apartment-finding engine that generates recommendations based on specific lifestyle factors.

“One of the things we do is score every single property in the United States for lifestyle factors, including walkability, kid friendliness and school quality. And then we give each property a rating,” says Raghavan. “Next, we pull data from a prospective renter’s or buyer’s social media profile and combine these two things to make predictions on where someone would want to live.”

For example, if someone’s Facebook page shows numerous check-ins at upscale restaurants, the site’s algorithms will factor proximity to restaurants into the formula. Or if the client has a child, factors such as high-ranking schools and children’s activities will be taken into consideration.

“With over 20 search dimensions, RentalRoost’s proprietary patent-pending algorithms deliver an intuitive and precise search experience,” Raghavan says. “We have boundaries for 40,000 neighborhoods, as well as boundary coverage for 86 percent of U.S. student enrollment at the school attendance zone level.”

In fact, RentalRoost uses approximately 300 different factors in its algorithm—looking at what people searched for, what they looked at on Facebook and what their ideal property is.

“People are able to make decisions on our site as all the information is in one place, negating the need for them to have to use Google or any other site for property and surrounding information,” says Nitin Shingate, CEO and co-founder of RentalRoost. “All lifestyle information is provided and our Facebook recommendations help members find their next house based on their Facebook profile.”

Genesis of the Site
For Raghavan, the idea to create RentalRoost came about three years ago when he and Harini Venkatesan were moving from Utah to California to work for a start-up and were having a difficult time finding a suitable place to live.

“I was baffled at how hard it was to find a place to rent. I had some basic ideas of what I wanted, but it was so hard to figure it all out,” he says. “It was a complex process and everything was so broad, with no tool to help make everything simple.”

Throughout the process of searching for a suitable place to rent, he also found that many of the listings weren’t accurate when it came to distances to and from places, something he thought would be vital to anyone looking to move to the area.

“When you look for properties, the search process is completely broken,” says Raghavan. “Even if you know the area, sometimes pinpointing the best place is hard.”

Shingate had a similar experience when moving from Los Angeles to the Bay Area, and so the three decided to form the company with the idea of making house hunting both fun and easy.

“RentalRoost was created to help the user make better decisions about where to live,” Raghavan says. “One of the things we do is narrow down neighborhoods that are a good fit and start recommending properties. Rather than you having to do the processing yourself, the service does it for you.”

Important Considerations
Using a property’s walkability score as an example, Raghavan says this factor will help those interested in a pedestrian lifestyle better find a property that fits that need, taking into account the proximity of grocery stores, malls, restaurants and schools.

“The higher the walkability score, the more likely it is that most of your daily errands can be performed on foot,” he says. “This ultimately translates to a more active lifestyle and a stronger sense of community.”

For those who commute on a daily basis, the Transit Score is an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to choosing the best location. Calculated based on how close the home is to public transportation and major freeways, the higher the transit score, the easier it is to commute to locations around the area.

Another important factor, in Shingate’s opinion, is the Art & Culture Score.

“We have data pertaining to all of the theatres, opera houses, dance studios, museums and concert venues within a certain radius of all the properties displayed,” he says. “Depending on the number of all such entities and their distance from the property, our algorithm returns the overall art and culture score for the property.”

Parents will also want to consider the School Rating when choosing the perfect property—and location—for their family.

Looking Ahead
With impressive numbers in the books already—RentalRoost has averaged roughly 250,000 visitors over the past few months and has seen 40 percent growth month-over-month in its user base—Raghavan, Shingate and Venkatesan are looking forward to an impressive 2015.

In early 2015, RentalRoost will launch a Price My Home feature that will make predictions based on current demographics and what’s expected in the years ahead.

“This new feature will allow us to provide details regarding what the property value looks like now, as well as five years down the road, so people can make more informed decisions,” Raghavan says. “If you own a home, the Price My Home tool monitors the market and sends an alert every month when the value of your home changes. It will also provide comparable sales nearby so you can track it automatically.”

When RentalRoost first launched in early 2013, it had just a few properties in San Francisco for rentals. Today, it lists more than 1.5 million properties for sale and 1.5 million properties for rent, all over the nation.

The way the management team sees it, this is only the beginning. Their plan is to have RentalRoost grow even more and continue to use big data to make people’s real estate dreams come true.

For more information, visit www.rentalroost.com.

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