Ratemystudentrental.com hits the web!

Dec 7, 2007

Three Kettering University seniors dive into the entrepreneurial ocean with help from the Kettering Entrepreneur Society (KESociety) and launch www.ratemystudentrental.com to help college students find suitable places to live while at college.

At first glance, the apartment might look appealing: granite counter tops, leather couch and love seat, laundry facilities with new appliances, spacious wall to ceiling windows that offer expansive views of a city landscape.
But after a month, door handles might suddenly fall off. Fuses might burst or cease working altogether when the washer and dryer are run at the same time. That spacious view might also be a portal through which onlookers might gawk at the apartment inhabitants.
For thousands of college students across the country, finding a place to live that offers some degree of security, comfort, cleanliness, good landlords and attractiveness at an affordable price is as challenging as dissecting Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Many students move into apartments only to find problems weeks or months later. But now three Kettering seniors provide a way for college students to review rentals before they sign on the dotted line and help landlords provide better rental experiences that keep a constant stream of students coming back term after term.  

From left to right: Steve Schwartz, Kristen Winter and Blake Gowing, owners of Ratemystudentrental, LLC.

By working with the Kettering Entrepreneur Society (www.KESociety.com), an organization that promotes an entrepreneurial culture at the institution based on innovation and social values, they created a website that allows students to rate the apartments, houses, even dorms where they stay during their terms on campus (www.ratemystudentrental.com). The students are Kristen Winter, a senior Management major from Alpena, Mich.; Steven Schwartz, a Mechanical and Electrical Engineering major from Wilmington, N.C.; and Blake Gowing, a senior Industrial Engineering major from Colton, N.Y. All three are currently working on their senior thesis at Kettering, which is the final requirement for them to achieve before graduation from the institution.
The purpose of the site is to help students share their positive and negative feelings about their overall living experience with other students and landlords based of cleanliness, safety, cooperation and responsiveness of property owners. Additionally, www.ratemystudentrental.com operates as a tool for landlords to help them grow their business by finding out what students feel regarding their rental experience. The site also gives landlords a sense of the students’ changing needs. For example, the growing use of electronic lease signing and electronic rental payment are two resources students find helpful in today’s rental marketplace. Furthermore, the site provides an opportunity for landlords to network with other property owners and students to help provide a positive rental experience for all students during their college careers.
According to Winter, “the relationships and intangibles that can’t be evaluated when visiting a rental property to determine whether or not to move into it are the things that we strive to share with potential students through Ratemystudentrental, LLC.”
As seniors, these students understand the perils involved in finding affordable, high quality housing during their college careers. But at Kettering, it’s difficult to pre-select housing options because students are on campus three months for each term, then leave to work at their co-op positions for three months. Communication of what rental properties are most suitable often takes place via word-of-mouth among students, but with the majority of them buried with academic work from the start of the term to the end, this can prove difficult. Furthermore, the only other viable means of learning about available rental options is through flyers posted around campus, since there is currently no University-sponsored office that provides this service. These are the chief reasons why Schwartz, Winter and Gowing decided to develop Ratemystudentrental, LLC.
All three feel it’s imperative that Kettering provide entrepreneurship training, education and opportunities, since the students who come to Kettering are extremely focused, proactive and highly ambitious.
“The KESociety is a great experience to share ideas with others and receive input,” said Winter, adding that the group is “very unique and comprised of students who are interested in adding value to their lives and to those of others.”
Schwartz, who currently owns two other small companies—Fiesta Frank’s LLC and No BS Web Design and Development—agrees. “There is definitely something to be said about forming an organization around ambitious students who want to create businesses. The KESociety is the quickest-paced organization I belong to because things have a tendency to go from a neat idea to an executed plan in no time,” he said.
“Ratemystudentrental, LLC, regardless of success or failure, is a launch pad into the entrepreneurial world,” explained Gowing. “We are working hard and learning so much everyday,” he added.
ratemystudentrental.comRatemystudentrental, LLC, is an entity that works to help college students in Flint and other Michigan cities examine, review and potentially find suitable places to live during college terms. Currently, Kettering rental properties around the campus average a rating of 2.9, which is also broken down into a letter grade on the site. This rate equals a B for Kettering rental properties. Additionally, the site is available nation-wide as more and more students inquire about bringing the service to their universities and colleges. The impetus for this effort grew out of a sincere desire of the three to deal with what their website describes as “sleazy landlords, bad rental experiences, and poor information.” Similar in design and execution as www.ratemyprofessor.com, www.ratemystudentrental.com relies on student input in terms of ratings to provide accurate assessments of apartments, rental homes, dorms and university apartments. As a result of their input, prospective student renters have a reliable source to check out when considering a place to live. After all, who better to provide a critique of a living space than a person who has already lived in it.
Additionally, Winter, Schwartz and Gowing feel this site also provides important information to landlords in terms of things they can improve upon for their rental properties. “On average, properties around Kettering receive a rate of three to four stars on a scale of one to five,” Gowing said.
Winter added that for landlords, the site is helpful because it points specifically to things they might want to improve. “There are many great landlords who want college kids to rent their properties, so the site provides them a good overview of those areas to improve,” she said.
“This site also has the potential to improve student and community relations, because now landlords can hear exactly what students think about their properties,” Schwartz said.
Currently, all three students hope to pursue additional entrepreneur opportunities once they graduate from Kettering. All three will graduate in June 2008 from the institution. Currently, Gowing co-ops with Classic Instruments in Boyne City, Mich.; Winter with GM’s Service Parts Operations, where she will work following graduation in Sales; and Schwartz works with Robert Bosch, LLC.
To learn more about Ratemystudentrental, LLC, visit www.ratemystudentrental.com. For more on the Kettering Entrepreneur Society, visit www.KESociety.com.
Written by Gary J. Erwin