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Members discuss Web site to review housing

Molly Madden | Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Council of Representatives (COR) discussed the ongoing development of a new Web site that would allow Notre Dame students to rate and review off-campus housing properties at their meeting Tuesday night.

The Web site, which will be accessed at rent.nd.edu, will enable students to look up off-campus houses and apartments and read reviews from other students, much like the system on www.ndtoday.com

The idea for the Web site was first brought to student body president Grant Schmidt’s attention last year when he attended a college symposium. The need for a property-review Web site was brought up as an issue in the student body elections last spring.

“Basically we want this to be an authentic way for students to review the different housing options they have off campus,” Schmidt said.

Rent.nd.edu creator, sophomore Joey Rich, gave COR members a 10-minute demo about the utility of the site and its current functions.

“Anyone can sign up to make a listing but if you’re a Notre Dame student you get the special privilege of rating the properties,” Rich said.

There is even a section where students can rate the landlords from “best friends” to “rotten people.”

The Web site currently has two categories in which to look for listings and reviews, either under houses or apartment complexes.

Many COR members expressed concerns with this feature as well as with the characteristic that only one person has control over the objective information about a property, such as amenities, number of rooms and pricing.

Rich said once rent.nd.edu is launched and receives more listings, a search feature will be added that will allow for more complex housing searches that include pricing and property features.

“The point of the Web site is not so much about selling your house,” vice president Cynthia Weber said. “It’s about conveying information about a specific area to students.”

Members of COR expressed concerns over monitoring of the Web site and the updating of objective information about the properties that will be listed. One of the major concerns was who would have the control over updating the property listings.

“The information that is key on this Web site is the subjective information, the reviews and ratings,” Schmidt said. “You can always call the landlord or visit the property to learn about the other stuff. This would be an added bonus.”

Weber agreed with Schmidt that rent.nd.edu will be more about peer reviews and less about students selling their house or apartment.

“Students will look at the property and talk to a landlord before they decide on a property,” she said. “This Web site will be a double-check.”

Weber also responded to COR members’ worries about the current construction of the Web site.

“Web sites evolve and changes are made when you see how the visitors are using the site,” she said. “You can’t make changes for the future until you see how the way the site will be used.”

The original plan was to launch rent.nd.edu last night, but after the discussion among COR members, Schmidt decided that further work needed to be done on the Web site.
“It’s a simple idea, but it’s complex,” he said. “I want all of COR to be on board with this before the site goes up.”