Students Help Prospective Homeowners with Cost Assessment

3/26/2014

Certainly, knowing all of the costs associated with a home purchase would alleviate anxiety from a very stressful experience, and help to make home ownership more sustainable over time.

For their senior capstone project, a group of Stevens’ undergraduate students have developed TLCengine (True Lifestyle Costs), a tool that helps people with their search for a new home. Working with client, Krishna Malyala, the web engine considers the many facets of living expenses to help some homebuyers select the most affordable option available.  Using lifestyle information and real-life data, such as use of electricity, commuting distance to work, property tax information, and cable package rates the engine calculates the true cost of living in a particular location. As a result, TLCengine provides an accurate cost assessment for the homebuyer or renter.

Computer science majors, Michael Grinthal, David Sobiepan, Ling Yuan He, Kevin Laurenco, and Christopher Kelly joined Malyala and his startup business to develop TLCengine.

“Stevens senior design class offers a unique partnership for start-up companies that are boot-strapping to access great budding talent,” says Malyala.

According to Malyala, mortgages account for less than 50% of the total monthly cost of home ownership. “TLCengine solves for the rest based on a customer’s lifestyle,” he says.

“The students really enjoyed the mission of TLCengine,” says Malyala. “The students really want to help solve this problem.”

“Overall, our what we’re doing hasn’t been done yet—Trulia and Zillow don’t have the algorithms and their numbers are approximate,” says Kevin Laurenco. “We make our numbers specific to a house to reflect the true cost of living.”

According to David Klappholz, team advisor and associate professor of computer science, most computer science seniors have had multiple summer internships and/or co-op semesters, working for large companies. In most cases, the students perform coding and testing, but with all senior design projects such as TLCengine, they also participate in the other critical aspects of the full-lifecycle of software development, including requirements engineering, analysis, and design.

“Members of the TLC Engine team have learned all of these, and have also learned a great deal about entrepreneurship,” says Klappholz.
TLC Engine has already made some sales, thereby giving value to the team's small amount of equity in the company.

It’s nice to be immersed in the startup culture,” says Michael Grinthal. “To work on this project now, we can bring this experience to our jobs--the best of both worlds.”

“If we start up our own business, we have a feel for the whole process—the business side of things and how things operate in this kind of environment,” says David Sobiepan.

According to Klappholz, the team members have offered the client insights that hadn't occurred to him as early as the first week or two of the course.

“Motivated by the project and the client, says Klappholz, “they have done a fantastic job.”

“As long as we see something to improve on, we’re going to strive for that,” says Sobiepan.

“TLCengine is optimistic that current sales will lead to a jobs in the company for the students to help continue further product development,” says Malyala. 

This project will be displayed at the Stevens Innovation Expo held on April 30th on the Stevens campus, an annual, one-day, campus-wide event, which displays the extensive research and innovation accomplishments of faculty and students.