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According to an advanced search engine developed by researchers at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, rental prices in Madison have been steadily climbing over the past year, with two-bedroom apartments seeing the highest average change compared to last year.

The survey of listings, performed at the request of Property Trax, shows rental prices were up overall by 17.82 percent compared to May 2010, and by 6.76 percent year-to-date through May.

Breaking down the results by apartment type, the May increase over May 2010 was 12.77 percent, 19.39 percent and 10.69 percent for one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments, respectively.

Year-to-date through May, the overall Madison increase was 6.76 percent compared to the same time period in 2010.

And broken down by apartment type, the year-to-date increase was 9.41 percent, 12.01 percent and 6.64 percent, respectively, the survey results showed.

The search-engine survey, done by a company called Cazoodle, Inc., also produced numbers for changes in apartments rents across Wisconsin.

The statewide search yielded similar year-over-year increases -- at 15.3 percent overall in May compared to May 2010, while the statewide overall increase year-to-date through May was 15.64 percent, compared to that period last year.

Broken down by type, again it was two-bedroom apartments that saw the biggest jump statewide over May 2010 prices, with a 19.75 percent increase in May, along with a 21.19 percent rise for that apartment type year-to-date through May.

All of which shows it isn't getting any cheaper to be a renter, at least on average, as renting becomes more popular in the wake of the housing crash and in the current slow housing market.

(As I reported in this previous Property Trax entry, the growth of renting in the Madison area can be seen in Madison Gas & Electric's surveys of vacant apartment buildings. The latest one showed vacancies in the first quarter of this year were at their lowest level since 2005.)

You can read more here about Cazoodle, which its founders say builds better search engines using powerful technology they dubbed the Web Data Factory to gather and easily sort different types of Web content. 

The idea was developed initially in 2001 in the lab of University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana professor Kevin Chang, by Chang and his graduate students as a research exercise.

Cazoodle, the spinoff company created in 2006 based on the research, was one of 12 finalists in last year's Innovate Illinois contest, which is sponsored by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center.

The technology creates so-called "vertical searches," or those on one topic, such as apartment listings, shopping venues and vacation rentals.

A review of the company in the Cloudy Times technology blog described Cazoodle as diving into the "Deep Web" to "provide search results that are valuable because they can be compared in a consistent manner."

Describing Cazoodle as similar to companies including hakia, PowerSet and ontoprise, blog author Markus Klems said Cazoodle "leverages the large and growing amount of structured data within specific knowledge domains. With Semantic search across multiple Web sources, Cazoodle's search engines enable vast coverage of available information."

For the company's apartment vacancy search engine, for example, the technology quickly gathers data from individual apartment owners' websites and combines it into one data set for users, rather than just collecting the different owner sites, like a Google search would do.

A user would then narrow the collected results for specific desired amenities and other factors such the number of bedrooms, the price range, and a fenced yard or bay window, etc. You can try it here.

This December 2008 story from the News-Gazette in Champaign also describes and explains the technology and the company.

I hope to provide quarterly updates on changes to Madison-area apartment prices through Cazoodle in future blog entries.

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