A Los Angeles Internet mogul claims his company's new Web site is an amalgamation of eBay and MySpace for rental property owners. And even though some are skeptical, the site does have the potential of altering the way rental property is matched up with renters.
According to Bobby Khalili, BidRent.com is the first auction site that targets apartment, house, vacation, and office rentals.
Khalili, founder and chief executive of YellowPages Online Corp., launched BidRent in mid-July, with the notion that prospective renters would bid on apartments. Sometimes, renters bid up rents higher than the asking price.
Khalili said that the site has exceeded his expectations with about 1,000 unique Internet users visiting the site daily.
"I get e-mails once a week from people saying they love the concept, asking what took us so long," Khalili said. "There has been great response from landlords and from tenants."
Access to the site is free for landlords and renters. Khalili plans to generate revenue through ad sales once the site gets more popular.
Like eBay the best-known online marketplace the site features auctions where buyers are given the option of paying the market-rate rent landlords set, or bidding on rentals at rates that start below market value. And like the online community Myspace, users are given their own Web pages. On BidRent, sellers are automatically given Web sites that feature their listings, making it easy to direct prospective renters to information about their properties.
"I like the fact I can send a quick Web address to anyone who is interested and they can see everything there is to see about the property," said Aaron Sackiew, an Edmonton, Canada, property owner who is using the site to rent an apartment in Phoenix.
Khalili said that about 800 landlords have registered to post properties on the site and about 1,100 people have registered for the site as renters.
Raman Nouri, a Los Angeles-based property owner, rented a condo to a BidRent user who bid on Nouri's Hollywood property. Nouri said that the entire process took one week, and three people placed legitimate bids on the condo.
The site does not create binding contracts between sellers and high bidders it merely facilitates communication between prospective renters and landlords.
Nouri said the renter will pay $2,000 a month for the condo, and added that the price is above what he expected to get for the property. Nouri listed the property at about $1,700.
"It was very easy to use," Nouri said. "I'm surprised something like this hasn't been around before."
Nouri received a few "extremely low bids." It seemed to him like someone was "playing around" with the site.
Anthony Yannatta, WestsideRentals.com's chief executive, said that BidRent lacks a filtering mechanism to keep non-serious bidders and pranksters from posting. Los Angeles-based Westside Rentals, which currently has about 14,000 listings in Southern California, requires prospective renters to pay $60 for a 60-day membership to the site. Westside doesn't feature auctions, however.
"We think the flaw in the model is that the people who are engaged in the process aren't invested in it," Yannatta said.
Rachel Morton recently used Khalili's site to rent out a Venice apartment for $1,700 a month. She likes both Westside Rentals and BidRent and hasn't had any problems. "So far with BidRent, I'm getting people who are making commitments to the price they bid."
Khalili came up with the idea for the site in December, after he advertised to rent two Phoenix properties using Craigslist.org's classified advertising.
He knew that similar houses were renting for about $1,300 a month, but wanted to rent his properties quickly and posted them for about $850. When Khalili got offers on both rentals for $900 he changed his approach and turned the process into an auction. One property was bid up to $1,150, and the other reached $1,250.
Since BidRent went live, Khalili has used it to rent two of his other properties.
"As a landlord, sometimes you overshoot on the asking rent price and the rentals stay empty," Khalili said. "If someone were to offer a landlord a little less maybe they would take it, but people don't have the psychology to place a bid on a rental place. This opens that door."
Morton said that she currently has another Venice property listed on the site, and plans to put others on it. She also posts rental listings on Craigslist and with the Los Angeles Times, and she said that BidRent has become an attractive option.
"The price I got for the Venice two-bedroom was totally phenomenal and really close to what I was looking for," Morton said. "I didn't have to compromise. This really tailors to the rental community."
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