RegisterSigns Now Posts to PadMapper!

Today we’re excited to partner with RegisterSigns for another easy way to post to PadMapper!

RegisterSigns sells physical signs at thousands of retail locations across the country. Once you buy one, you can create a simple listing page for your property. RegisterSigns will post your listing to PadMapper and other apartment search sites, while people driving by the property can text a phone number on your sign to get more information and pictures of the property.

Best of all, the signs are reusable and start at $6.98.

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Onward!

After 3 years, we settled our lawsuit with craigslist today. As part of the settlement, we’ll no longer be including craigslist users’ listings in our search results.

However, PadMapper is not going anywhere, and we’re excited about what we have in store. PadMapper has over 100 sources of listing data, and over 700,000 non-craigslist listings on our map at any given time, representing many millions of apartment units. PadMapper will continue to help our many millions of users find a place to live every month.

In the past year, our team has grown quickly, and in the coming months we’re preparing to release a large update for our Android app, followed by a revised iOS app and a fresh look-and-feel for PadMapper.com.

If you are an owner or property manager, we’ve made it easy to post your listing directly to PadMapper. It’s free and can be renewed after 30 days.

We’d like to give a big thank you to all who have supported our legal battle – 3taps, Greg Kidd, Focal Law, the EFF, and the thousands of you who wrote letters of support.

We still wake up every morning excited to make apartment hunting suck less.

Onward!
Eric and the PadMappers

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New Integrations for PadMapper

Hey! This is my first post on the PadMapper Blog as our Business Development Manager. I joined PadMapper nine weeks ago to build out and maintain our relationships between PadMapper and all of the property managers, software vendors, and other teams that work with us!

In the past month, I’ve been working on building out new integrations between us and different property management software companies, and I’m happy to announce that we’re adding three new integrations, with three more in the works.

Here’s the new partnerships:

Yardi – one of the largest rental software companies out there. If you’re using Yardi Voyager, you can seamlessly publish your apartments to PadMapper via RentCafe. Just hop into your control panel to enable PadMapper!

RealBird – The RealBird Listing Publisher is an easy-to-use and powerful online, social media and mobile listing marketing platform. If you’re using RealBird, there’s nothing else you need to do — your listings are already on PadMapper!

Onsite Property Manager – Affordable, professional rental property management software that increases income, improves efficiency, and fills vacancies faster. Anyone using Onsite should already have their listings on PadMapper!

We’re also working hard to add more integrations every month. Coming up next, you can expect to see us integrate with MRI Software, RealPage, and HeroPM!

Let us know what you think! Feel free to email me if you’d like to integrate with us, or request an integration with your software provider.

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Scammy Email Gems

Here at PadMapper, our servers automatically screen emails that go through PadLister, to monitor for scams, and ban listers who send scammy emails. Before we ban them, though, we have to review them by hand to make sure we don’t ban a legitimate person by accident. Because of this, we get to see a lot of pretty fun emails from various scammers, like this gem, from a “Robotic Programmer&Welder/Fitter” who is looking for a tenant who is a “clean freak and does not tolerate anything that has to do with dirty”.

We are pleased that you have an interest in our house, Our lovely home is
still available for lease and we want responsible adults/family who are neat and also believe that they have what it takes to take care of our house as if it were theirs. My wife and I initially had it up for sale but had a change of mind in leasing it out ourselves because the agent that was in charge of our rental property was asking too much of an agent fee and also making it difficult for people who cannot afford the rent, stay away from renting my house.

The reason why our house is up for lease is because I got transferred
from my place of work to Texas, I will be away with my family for at least 4 years because of the love I have for them, I have decided not to sell our house and also assuring them that we only have few years to spend here and will be willing to lease it out to person/family who is willing to assure us of taking absolute care of our home and pay their rent on time. I will start by telling you more in regards me and my family. I have a daughter named Leslie (20yrs) who attends University of Texas as a medical student, she has a lot going for her and she is also down to earth in all that she does to keep us happy and when she is back home on vacation, she also assist her mom in the house work when am at work. I work as a Robotic Programmer & Welder/Fitter here in Texas and got married to a lovely wife who is a member of Joyce Meyer Ministries. We will be very pleased if we can find the right tenant to rent our home, a person who is a clean freak and does not tolerate anything that has to do with dirty… We also would like to know more about you and your family, your renting experience and how long and when you plan moving into our home.

We see a lot of emails that look almost exactly like this, with some minor variations. The big giveaway, besides the long rambling story meant to make you trust them, is that they tell you that they’ve been transferred, which means that they’re not around to show you the house. If you see that in an email, that’s almost always a dead giveaway that it’s a scam. In the next email, if you respond, they’ll ask you to send them money, in exchange for sending the keys, often through some service that they try to pass off as a reputable source. They’ll even offer you a substantial discount (30%) if you pay for 3 or 6 months up front. Sounds like a great deal, but in reality, you don’t get anything out of it except a lighter bank account.

As a rule of thumb, you should never put down money to rent a place without seeing the inside of it first – if you live far away from the place you’re moving to, it’s almost always worth it to rent a place on Airbnb for a week to live in while you tour around and pick a longer term place to live.

Happy hunting!
Eric

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Massive Rewrite in Google Maps V3!

Well, I did it. I finally got around to rewriting PadMapper in a newer version of Google Maps.

I’m probably one of the last developers on the planet to upgrade to Google Maps v3. Why? Well, I really, really liked Google Maps v2. That, and I wrote more extensive v2 code than most, and many of the features I had been using weren’t added to v3 immediately (or at all, in some cases) so upgrading was particularly daunting for me.

But that’s why a lot of the visual styling just changed. Also, if there are any bugs that have cropped up, please let me know! (padmapper@gmail.com).

The upgrade brings with it some neat features and refinements that I found time to toss in, or that v3 offered.

First, I could finally add the official Google mass transit overlay, which is a lot cleaner/neater than my old one. If you ever used it, you know that mine looked like a kid drew it with crayons on top of a nice Google map.

Second, for those of you with car storage anxiety, I added the ability to overlay parking lots on the map, which you should be able to call up and ask about rates by using the linked Yelp pages.

Third, there’s the elevation/terrain map in the upper right corner.

And finally, My Places now includes four transit types: Mass Transit (new!), Bicycling (redone to be more accurate), Driving, and Walking. This should help people like me who don’t really like dealing with having a car get a sense of how far things actually are.

Hope you guys like the changes!

Happy hunting!
Eric

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Good night, sweet PadMapper Bar

Craigslist has decided to make it impossible for the PadMapper bar to function with their listings, so now, those listings won’t have the PadMapper bar on them. Sorry everyone. If you want a consistent experience, you can filter out Craigslist listings by clicking Show More Filters and looking to the bottom to see the source filters.

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Neat Rental Analytics

Every so often, I get requests from researchers for rental data/statistics to analyze, and they frequently yield some interesting papers and visualizations.

One of them just posted some great visualizations of median rents and rent distributions that she extracted from some PadMapper data. She seems to have been more rigorous with her assumptions than most infographic makers looking for pageviews typically seem to be, so it’s worth a look. And it’s just plain interesting.

Here’s a geographic (and interactive!) map-based breakdown of median rents

A violin plot of the distributions

And the associated blog post for the geographic breakdown

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Vacation Rentals!

You may have noticed a small addition to the filter box – a little checkbox called “Vacation”. It’s probably temporary, but for now that will let you filter for/filter out nightly/weekly vacation rentals. The prices are still quoted by the month, though, so if you see any outrageously expensive seeming places, that might be why.

I’m thinking about doing something more specifically tailored to the vacation rentals to replace the little checkbox, because the current search interface isn’t a great fit for them – for example, date availability is a pretty basic part of searching for a vacation rental, and monthly prices, while nice for their consistency with the rest of the site, are not usually what people care about in a vacation rental. So, I have more work to do. But for now, I thought it would be interesting to include them and see whether people found that useful.

If you have any feedback or notice any issues that probably aren’t things I just haven’t gotten to yet, please send me email at padmapper@gmail.com

Happy hunting!
Eric

PS: Lots of people I talk to don’t seem to realize that CL is back in the results, so spread the word! In other news, the lawsuit with Craigslist is still ongoing.

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How to Solve Crappy Cell Phone Reception at Home

The following is a post mostly written for me by the folks at UberSignal.com, who sell cell phone reception boosters. They didn’t pay me anything to post this, I just thought it was useful because this has been one of my issues with my place, hopefully you find it useful too.

Everyone has a list of “deal breakers” when searching for a new apartment. These can include from price, storage space, windows, and many times, cell phone reception. While you can’t change many of these items, poor cell phone reception is actually one which can be solved. We’ve put together a list of options for ways to improve cell phone reception and make it that much easier to find your perfect place.

1. Jump Ship

The first option is the most straightforward, and that is to switch cellular carriers. If you’re not in a contract and another carrier provides better service in your apartment, switching carriers might be the easiest way to solve your signal problem. Unfortunately, most people in the US are in multi-year contracts, which cost a pretty penny to break, so this isn’t always a great option.

2. Femtocell

The second option is a device which the cellular carriers sell or give away themselves, called a femtocell (also known as a microcell). A femtocell is a device that looks like a wireless router and acts like a mini cell phone tower right in your apartment. It connects to the broadband Internet connection in your apartment, and it routes all of your calls through the Internet, rather over the cell tower network. In the past, some customers with exceptionally bad reception were able to get a femtocell for free, but that happens very rarely these days. Femtocells may also help with reception problems related to cell tower congestion, rather than just signal strength issues.

A femtocell could be a great solution, but there are some downsides to be aware of. The device requires a fast and reliable Internet connection, so it won’t work if you have a slow or spotty connection. Most femtocells have a built-in GPS receiver to ensure that it’s being used in the authorized location, so you’ll often need to place the femtocell near a window to receive a GPS signal. Lastly, since femtocells are sold by your carrier, you may not qualify for one, depending on your location, proximity to neighbors, and other factors.

If everyone in your apartment has the same carrier and you have a reliable Internet connection, a femtocell could certainly be the solution to your cell phone signal troubles. To find out more about femtocells and if they’ll work for you, call your cell phone carrier, or check out one of the following:
AT&T: www.att.com/standalone/3gmicrocell/

Verizon: http://www.verizonwireless.com/b2c/device/network-extender

Sprint: http://now.sprint.com/airave/

T-Mobile: Does not offer a microcell. Instead, their phones offer calling over wifi, essentially VOIP. If you can’t use wifi and you threaten to switch, they sometimes offer a discounted Cel-Fi signal booster. This can be seen (but not obtained) here: http://support.t-mobile.com/community/phones_data_devices/t-mobile/signal_booster

3. Signal Booster

The last solution is a cell phone signal booster. Instead of creating a new signal like a femtocell does, a cell phone signal booster amplifies an existing cell phone signal so that it’s strong enough to cover your entire apartment. It works by taking an existing cell phone signal from a nearby good location, such as outside your apartment, boosting it and rebroadcasting it inside. Installing a cell phone signal booster is a little more difficult than a femtocell, but it has some advantages that may make it worth the effort.

The major advantage of a cell phone signal booster is that it can amplify the signal of multiple carriers at the same time, unlike femtocells which only work with a single carrier. This may be important if you have other people in the apartment with different cell providers, or frequently have visitors over that need to make calls or have 3G data access. Additionally, a signal booster does not require an Internet connection to function. Finally, when you purchase a cell phone signal booster, it’s not regulated by a third party, so you’re free to place it wherever you’d like in your apartment without it being monitored.

While signal boosters do have some benefits over femtocells, they also have some disadvantages. As the name implies, a signal booster will only work if there is an existing signal to amplify. If you get a good enough signal by a window to make a call or reliably send a text message, a signal booster should work, but any less and you’ll find it ineffective. Small signal boosters will be in the same price range as a femtocell, but if you have a larger apartment or a house, it’s likely that a larger signal booster will end up being more expensive. Signal boosters require the outside and inside antennas to be far enough apart so that their isn’t any feedback between to the two (think of holding a microphone too close to a speaker) which can make installation more difficult, especially if you need to put an antenna on your building’s roof to get enough separation or a decent signal. Finally, with the introduction of 4G, choosing the best signal booster has become more difficult. A standard dual-band signal booster will work for most carrier’s 2G and 3G networks, but the new 4G networks use completely different frequencies so if you need 4G data signal boosting in addition to phone calls, you’ll need a booster specific to your carrier.

Cell phone signal booster systems will vary based on how large of a space they can cover, the frequencies they support, where you can mount the external antenna, and so on. To find out more about cell phone signal boosters for your home or apartment, contact a provider like us (UberSignal.com) that can answer any questions you might have and help you choose the right solution for your needs.

Having a reliable cell phone signal in your home or apartment is important for day to day living, and hopefully one of these options can help you out if you have poor signal currently. If you’ve had success with one of these options in the past, we’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions in the comments.

[Editor's note: Landlines can be a decent last resort :-) ]

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Bringing Craigslist Back

I’ve been wrestling with whether to bring back Craigslist listings in the search results. I’ve found a way to include them that I’m told is legally kosher since it doesn’t touch their servers at all, but it still seems somewhat dickish to go against their wishes in this, and I’ve always had a lot of respect for what they’ve done for the world. Also, court seems like it’d be no fun.

But then I did some back of the envelope estimates of how much of people’s time and effort it would waste if I didn’t, and it became clear how much less nice it is to waste the time of millions of apartment hunters out of stubbornness or some clearly inaccurate assumption about the will of the community. If it takes half of PadMapper’s millions of monthly users 3 hours longer now to find an apartment, that’s over 350 man-years wasted per month, or 5 lifetimes. That really pisses me off. Apartment hunting is an activity which, unless you enjoy it or it teaches you something, adds no value to the world, and should be over as quickly as humanly possible so that you can get back to doing other, more productive things.

So, effective as soon as I can bring the new code up (almost certainly by the time you read this), I’m bringing the Craigslist search results back. This will be courtesy of the fine folks at 3taps, who provide an API for data about Craigslist postings that they gather via indirect means and so aren’t subject to CL’s Terms of Use. It’s not nice of me to do from Craigslist’s perspective, and I’d really love to just work with them to solve these problems, but my conscience is clear. I’m still going to send all traffic back to them and all that jazz.

Thanks to everyone who sent them letters, there were a surprisingly large number of you. I was a bit depressed that there didn’t seem to be much of a response from them, but it was pretty incredible to see the outpouring of support (still ongoing), and I really appreciate you all taking the time out to help out with this.

Happy hunting, everyone.
Eric

Update: Edited for language, it was immature of me to curse, sorry.

Update2: There seems to be a lot of confusion, so I should clarify that CL’s legal claim was about their TOU, not about copyright, since PadMapper isn’t reposting the listings, only summarizing bedrooms, bathrooms, price, etc. and linking to the original to read more. Using 3taps just makes it so it’s not a TOU issue.

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