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Saturday, May 8, 2021

College roommate-finding app by a Western alumnus

By Drew Stuart

It’s once again renting season.

The mad scramble to find a room for the next year of college is intimidating, and not just because of the competition or even the time limit.

No, one of the worst aspects of finding a room is finding another person to live there with you.

Getting a roommate is increasingly necessary as well. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Bellingham’s rent has steadily increased by 3 percent each year, and with low vacancy rates for apartments – 3.4 percent in the second quarter of 2017 – finding a room is difficult enough as it is.

Sure, roommates make rent easier to swallow, but a bad roommate can transform what should be a home into a poor environment for your mental sanity.

So, how do you find a roommate? More importantly, how do you make sure they won’t drive you up the wall?

RentHoop, created in May 2016 by Western alumnus Paul Burke, is a housing app that allows users to select roommates in a Tinder-esque swiping system. RentHoop allows users to search for roommates with criteria such as price, location and qualities they don’t want in their roommates, called “dealbreakers.”

 

RentHoop, roommate finding app page sample. // Photo courtesy of Paul Burke

Burke came up with the idea for RentHoop shortly after graduating from Western in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and economics.

During his own search for an apartment after college, Burke became frustrated after looking through ad after ad to find a roommate, and this frustration sparked the idea for RentHoop.

However, the idea for the “dealbreakers” feature didn’t originate from Burke.

“It was actually my step-dad’s idea,” Burke said.

The “dealbreakers” feature is unique. Instead of telling the app what you like in a roommate, you’re asked to tell RentHoop a few qualities that you don’t like in a roommate.

“Most people can actually recognize what they don’t want in a roommate,” Burke said.

RentHoop, roommate finding app page. // Photo courtesy of Paul Burke

While it’s easy for people to identify qualities they don’t like, it’s harder to define things that people do like about their roommates, he said.

RentHoop links to your Facebook profile, allowing the app to find potential roommates based on common interests or friends. This also adds in a degree of safety — there’s no need to meet up with roommates if you don’t feel comfortable with them.

In addition, RentHoop also allows users to chat with each other, taking some of the uncertainty out of finding a roommate that’s right for you.

“It does show you mutual friends and mutual interests, so, even if you don’t know that person, chances are they’re probably in your circles,” Burke said.

Western actually lists RentHoop as a student resource for their Off Campus Living Service, a hub in myWestern that provides tips and tools for students searching for housing outside of Western’s dorms.  

“It’s a little bit safer than just answering an ad because you can live chat with your potential roommate without having to give them your contact information,” Burns said. “Plus, RentHoop was started by a Western alumni so it feels good to support them.”

RentHoop has evolved since its release. In 2017, RentHoop saw the implementation of the “dealbreakers” feature, as well as design updates to the app itself. Burke explained that RentHoop has been reworked and improved, making 2017-18 a soft-relaunch of the app.

According to Burke’s LinkedIn page, RentHoop has successfully constructed a 98 percent crash free platform on iOS and Android phones.

Since the improvements, the app has received positive coverage and promotion from outlets like Forbes, Chicago Tribune and NBC.

RentHoop is available to download now on iOS and Android phones.

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