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The Masochist's Guide to Test Driving Six Rental Websites

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Nobody ever said renting is easy. Sure, there are brokers out there to help you on your way, but for every decent broker, there are three more who will try to charge you 17% of the annual rent on a 3BR that’s actually a 2BR with a cardboard partition set up in the middle of one of the rooms. Hey, we’ve all been there.

Luckily, the internet provides renters with numerous apartment-researching options that prevent you from enduring the torture of having to speak to another human until it’s absolutely necessary. Intern Jeremiah Budlin has taken the liberty of attempting to rank some of those websites by using them to look for a 2BR in downtown Manhattan that costs no more than $4,000 per month (ha!) that he is going to move into with his imaginary girlfriend, Sharice (who sleeps in a separate bedroom, apparently.)


SeriousRenters allows you to fill out an extremely specific “Renter Resume” that leaves no stone unturned, from the basic (preferred rent, location, rooms) to the almost superfluously precise (is “Abundant Natural Light” “Required,” “Preferred,” “No Way!” or “Indifferent”?) After filling out the resume, users have to option of paying between $50 and $100 to share it with a list of brokers, so we have no idea how well it actually works.
Website design: 9
Listings found: 0
Strength of listings: N/A
Overall: 3


InsideDigs users can refer five friends, share information about their apartment, or pay a $20/year fee, in exchange for which they receive information about soon-to-be-vacant apartments from the current tenants. The search features are fairly limited and there aren’t a whole lot of listings, but the upside is that you should be getting the real scoop about what there is like or not like about each place. We found two places in the East Village, one looking for a sublet, and one that would be "perfect for hipsters." Overall, not much to go on.
Website design: 7
Listings found: 2
Strength of listings: 4
Overall: 5
UPDATE: The folks at InsideDigs tell us there are additional East Village listings, they're just classified as "Downtown" rather than "East Village."


UrbanEdge is simple, easy to use, and allows users to search listings according to neighborhood, price-range, and amenities. It has plenty of listings and users can view them immediately without having to pay a fee. There were numerous listings that fit our criteria, ranging in price from $2,300 to $3,750, mostly in the East Village. All of the places had a phone number to call, but less than half had interior photos and/or a website, so it was tough to tell which ones we were interested in. We wanted to set up some viewing appointments, but ended up getting into an imaginary argument with Sharice about how many places we should try to look at in a day.
Website design: 8
Listings found: 27
Strength of listings: 8
Overall: 8.5

Rentenna, which launched just over a month ago is equally as easy to use as UrbanEdge, and the criteria users can search by is identical. That’s because Rentenna’s listings all come directly from UrbanEdge. The (urban) edge that UrbanEdge has is more listings. The edge (suburban edge? rural edge?) that Rentenna has is that it assigns each building a score out of 100 that is derived from a secret algorithm (much like the “secret” “algorithm” we’re using for this article) which takes value, user ratings, amenities, landlord, and neighborhood into account. Unfortunately, the most highly-ranked building that matched our criteria was rated 77/100, but it's possible that that's the best we could hope for in our price range.
Website design: 9
Listings found: 14
Strength of listings: 7
Overall: 8


NYBits is old school, and it kind of looks it. Still, if you’re looking for a resource to avoid using a broker, you could do a whole lot worse. It’s very simple and easy to use with no sign-up required and it has plenty of listings. A lot of the ones that fit our criteria seemed a little on the shabby side, but that might have been a product of unflattering photography.
Website design: 6
Listings found: 27
Strength of listings: 7
Overall: 7


The main feature on Loftable is a map that claims to show all of the city’s no-fee apartments, which would be a good start except that it’s also the site’s only feature. It’s good for browsing, not so much for searching.
Website design: 5
Listings found: N/A
Strength of listings: N/A
Overall: 3.5
-Jeremiah Budin
· Renters Week 2011 coverage [Curbed]