Student’s free Web site adds to home hunt

The Web site includes listings for the Twin Cities and as far away as Blaine, Minn.

by Kevin McCahill

If psychology senior Joe Thames needs to find a place to live, he knows his Web site will be the first place to look.

After living around campus for years, Thames discovered numerous housing resources – Web sites and “for rent” signs around the area – but decided to make finding a place to live easier.

Thames created a free Web site for University students that showcases houses around Minneapolis and St. Paul campuses as well as the surrounding metro area. The site,, has been up since fall 2004, but it was not until this summer that Thames began taking it seriously and finding sponsorship.

“I saw a bunch of ‘for rent’ signs and thought there should be one place for students to go to find housing,” Thames said.

Eight landlords use the site.

The site includes housing opportunities as far away as Blaine, Minn., and Thames gets visits to the site from areas outside of Minnesota, most often from Maine.

Site users had positive things to say.

Heidi Hoium has used Thames’ Web site to advertise a sublease for her St. Anthony Main home. She heard about the site through a friend at work.

“It’s a good idea,” she said. “Now it just needs to spread.”

Though she still waits to find a renter, Hoium said she would use the site again.

“I think it’s a pretty creative thing,” said Joseph Dalton, a landlord who uses the site for his rental property in Blaine. “I just wanted to support him and give him a try.”

Dalton signed on with the site last week, and said he will continue work with Thames in the future.

“When you get on the Web site, it looks quality,” Dalton said. “It’s easy to use.”

Thames wants the site to remain free for everyone’s use, which is an incentive for apartment shoppers to look into the site. Anyone interested can sign up for free and browse available housing.

The site also includes links for Web sites such as Expedia and Thrifty Hipster, as well as job placement sites.

He said the site is equally important for students who need to post subleases or look for roommates.

The site is a work in progress, Thames said. Many of the available apartments are listed on the home page, with the rest easily searchable. He plans to add more listings and other sponsors such as Brilliant Vodka and Xplore Tours.

“So far it’s going well,” Thames said. “As far as visibility goes, I know I need to do more things for students to sign up.”

Thames hopes to keep the site growing and has considered getting a real estate license to help students find housing. Thames said he is a realist regarding his project.

“If it does flop, at least it was good experience,” he said.

For now, Thames is content with getting more students to use the site as a housing tool.

He used the site this summer to help locate the apartment he moved into this fall, which was just one perk of his growing business, he said.