College rental startup settles into VCU

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The company has about two dozen properties listed in the VCU area thus far.

An online real estate startup with an appetite for college towns has tapped Richmond as its newest market.

RentCollegePads.com began listing rental properties located around Virginia Commonwealth University in March. The off-campus housing site lets landlords list properties and caters to students looking for rentals and roommates.

Dominic Anzalone spun RentCollegePads.com out of a class project he did as a student at the University of Wisconsin Whitewater, about an hour outside of Milwaukee. The website launched in 2013 with listings for Marquette University. Since then, the company has raised about $500,000 from investors and has listings for 35 campuses.

Spokesman Jeremy Schmidt said RentCollegePads.com, now a 16-person company, was persuaded to expand to VCU because of the area’s high number of off-campus housing searches on Google. He said VCU’s large student population, low number of part-time students, high number of out-of-state students and lack of restrictive rules regarding on-campus housing also made the market attractive.

“It has a really active off-campus population,” Schmidt said, adding that more than 5,000 students have visited RentCollegePads.com’s VCU page, which has more than 25 properties listed.

Headquartered in Milwaukee, RentCollegePads.com makes its money by charging landlords to list on its site. Schmidt said the fees it charges depend on the size of the property. The company’s pitch to landlords is that the site’s focus on students looking for off-campus housing is better than traditional marketing methods.

“The old ways of doing that was just putting a sign on a building and listing it on Craigslist,” Schmidt said. “We attract students through different means like social media and word of mouth.”

While it caters to students, the site is open to all to use. Users have to submit their names, email and phone numbers to get in touch with landlords.

Schmidt wouldn’t say how much it cost to expand to Richmond. The costs included advertising and a visit to the area. He said that prior to launching in Richmond, RentCollegePads.com spoke with more than 50 landlords to get intel on the market and introduce the company.

“A lot of students are renting in that early March/late May time range,” Schmidt said of VCU students. “VCU is what we would call a spring campus, where a lot of students are (renting) later in the semester.”

Schmidt said RentCollegePads.com hopes to expand to other schools around Virginia and Richmond.

“Virginia Union (University) is right there,” he said.

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