Despite praise from several local realtors, www.chapelhillrent.com still has some problems in its first year of service.
The Web site allows apartment seekers to search local realtors' and property managers' databases for an ideal rental dwelling, but there have been problems accessing properties that would be rented after January.
Chris Francis and UNC senior Andrew Gray created the site last year after consulting Steve Mills and Carolyn Bolcom, two area property managers and realtors. Francis said he has received positive feedback from the community about the site.
"It's extremely popular with students and property managers," Francis said. "People love it."
But the site does not allow students to search for apartments for next semester or the following year. Presently the database will only find available rental property up until January 2001, but Francis said the problem will be fixed soon.
"We are getting ready for the spring and summer in the next few weeks," he said. "But the site still does allow users to search in advance. Newspapers don't do that."
Cowan Griffin, president of Carolina Realty said the site is good for Chapel Hill but fails in some aspects.
"The site doesn't provide enough interaction," he said. "I would prefer using the phone."
Griffin even said responding to the e-mail inquiries almost necessitates hiring someone just to answer e-mails.
Those who contact a realtor about listings on the Web site might find rent prices and other information to be incorrect, according to several apartment managers.
Shanlyn Addison, community manager for SunStone Apartments said the Web site does not update the apartment details very quickly and noted that some people who call her office often have incorrect rent information.
"In this business our rents can change very quickly," she said. "The rents didn't change fast enough (on the site)."
Francis said the database limits its search to rental units in the Triangle, Greensboro and Wilmington. But a new national level Web-based database will soon replace current software, giving realtors and home seekers access to rental units across the country, he said.
Since the Web site's creation, apartment seekers can search for options such as number of bedrooms, bathrooms, accessibility to bus lines and rent range.
The search engine pulls matches with pictures and floorplans from a local realtor database and provides realtor contact information via e-mail or telephone.
But Marlyn Lattis, realtor at Village Realty said that there are other, possibly more effective, ways to find apartments.
"(The site) is just another form of advertising," she said.
Despite some problems with the site, Addison said the Web site generates a good response.
"Out of all our Web site listings, (chapelhillrent.com) is one of the big ones."
The City Editor can be reached