Metro, Business, Featured Story

Swipe Right to Find Your Next Roommate

In a time when anything from paying bank bills to hitching a ride can be done through interactive interfaces in smart phone apps, finding a roommate just got that much easier. Now, renters-to-be can find roommate candidates with the flick of a finger through Roomi, a new mobile-first matching service.

Originally based in New York, the platform is now expanding into the Boston market after having successful runs in other urban environments across the nation, including San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.

Roomi began by focusing on market research and seeing what it determined to be the biggest challenges to urban living.

Roomi discovered that steadily rising rent, stagnant wages, and a lack of simple ways to find affordable housing were the main issues associated with making housing decisions.

Boston currently is one of the largest renter’s markets in the country, with more than 70 percent of all local housing units being occupied by renters, up 18 percent, according to the latest survey conducted by the Greater Boston Housing Report. This growing demand for rent properties is aided by the growing student population in the area, especially the surge in the number of out-of-state students.

“With growing collegiate and young professionals populations, the high demand for apartments and housing units is driving up prices, eliminating the feasibility of solo-living for many individuals, especially those aged between 18 to 34,” Ajay Yadav, CEO and founder of Roomi, said in an email.

Cost-sharing is an especially common practice among college students, and since the average rent for a unit in the city has soared over $2,000 for the first time this year, according to real estate data firm Reis, Inc., many people are now looking for ways to make their housing more affordable. Coupled with the “no more than four” student-crowding law currently in place in the city, ameliorating expenses, especially for students, has been difficult.

Many universities around the city have also felt the spike in demand for housing, both on and off campus, with Boston College and Emmanuel College both in the process of opening new residence halls in the upcoming semester.

“From a college student’s perspective, off-campus housing is in very high demand,” Ethan Johnson, MCAS ’18, said. “The whole process of finding the appropriate unit is very stressful.”

Roomi has already been downloaded over 300,000 times in the other cities where the platform is already in use, according to its Web site. Roomi’s app and desktop experience are designed for those seeking to rent out empty rooms as well as those searching for a new home. The platform lets users create a profile and search for shared living accommodations, housemates, and rooms simply and quickly. A security specialist verifies every listing before it goes live in the app’s database.

After making an account on the platform, users undergo an extensive questionnaire regarding their lifestyle—questions include sleep schedule, smoking habits, and social hours. It then also asks about the user’s preferred location and desired price range.

It then produces several results that match up with the parameters set forth by both the people who created the listing and the inquiring user. Roomi, using the detailed profiles of its users, allows users to search for housing and housemates who meet their needs and preferences. Landlords can also view and message those who have viewed their rooms.

“Location and affordability are key parameters for students and young professionals looking to rent, but flexibility and security have also become paramount,” Yadav said in a press release. “By creating a safe and secure way to communicate and evaluate potential shared living candidates, Roomi is creating a way to feel safe with potential housemates. Roomi helps you feel at home in your new home.”

With this new safety feature included in the process, the company aims to take the horror stories often associated with unknown roommates out of the equation. In the age when “Ubers for x” dominate the startup scene, especially in the city of Boston, the platform for a new startup to succeed in the city already exists.

Featured Image by Madeleine D’Angelo/ Heights Editor

April 28, 2016