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House-hunting helper: College Annex eases off-campus living

By Ali Preissing, For The Miami Student

After doing some brainstorming during their senior year, two Miami graduates found a way to make finding off-campus housing a little less painful. College Annex was created by alumni David Spooner and Phil Shea in 2013. The website allows students to easily find a place to live by pulling together all landlords and real estate agents on one site.

"It's basically a marketplace for students," Spooner said. "It streamlines property listing for students with the real estate agents. You can filter out certain things to specify your search."

Students will not have to pay any fee to use the site or any of it's other features.

"The service is free, but students can set up a relationship with their landlord to pay rent or lease online if they choose to do that," Shea said.

According to both Spooner and Shea, the landlords and real estate agents have usernames and sign up for online accounts to check up on their listing frequently.

"We have direct contact with the landlords and real estate agencies," Spooner said. "They can track payments and finances, while saving the student and landowner time and money."

Having first set up shop at Miami and UC, they now have listings at 32 universities nation wide, mostly in the Midwest. The company is currently offering an internship program for students wanting to get involved in the business.

"The campus executive internship program is an on-campus program where entrepreneurial students are able to get first hand experience with a startup and really make an impact in the company," Shea said. "We give them guidance and their own marketing budget to make students aware of College Annex and we will also have weekly meetings with the management team to discuss startup questions ranging from funding to creating a minimum viable product."

Sophomore Caroline said she felt difficulty when trying to finalize the lease for next year. Lester said she thought College Annex was a great alternative for students to use when looking for housing off campus.

However, College Annex is not the first website to try and streamline student housing markets. Made a couple a years ago by former Miami students, a site called Hutster had the same idea. Unlike College Annex, the site quickly belly up and is no longer running. Shea's and Spooner's site is experiencing a much better return rate than Hutster had previously. The website is gaining a lot of headway throughout the nation with more and more hits every month.

"We have already helped thousands of renters find a place to live and we are seeing a monthly growth rate of 300 percent," Shea said.

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Created over a year ago, College Annex has found places for thousands of students around the nation.