Call it the of the multifamily industry., an online tool introduced last fall, shows property owners and managers as well as renters how a community's rents stack up to comparable units in nearby apartment buildings. “More and more people are starting to use the rentometer because it can take you hours or maybe a couple of days to really dig up the all information and do the comparison yourself,” says Allison M. Atsiknoudas, CEO of Investment Instruments Corp., which provides the service.

The Web site's search function is simple. Enter a building's address, the current monthly rent for a specific unit, and the number of units in the building, hit “analyze my property,” and the site generates a comparison of the property's rent compared to nearby units. Next to the rentometer (which resembles a car speedometer), a Google map shows the location of the specified rental unit with the comparable properties highlighted with blue and green markers. Most of this data is derived from listings provided by property owners or from large classified sites like, says Atsiknoudas.

The system is easy to use, but it does have its drawbacks. It doesn't take property amenities into account, so a unit in an amenity-rich building may be unfairly compared to a unit in a property with no amenities. Also, it doesn't always offer the specific locations of nearby properties for comparison—but that could be a plus for some property owners.