Austin-based student housing company RentComfy extended its service to the Portland State campus on April 7. RentComfy.com calls itself “eHarmony for the apartment search.” The website and mobile app is a service for students to create profiles and find matches for local apartments and home rentals.
For students who live off campus, finding housing can be challenging. “We have an off-campus housing guide, but once students live off campus, we don’t really facilitate housing,” said Brittany Land, a senior and front desk assistant in PSU’s housing office.
PSU encourages its students to live on campus to enrich their educational experience. “Our mission is student success and engagement,” said PSU Housing Director Michael Walsh.
With PSU’s large student demographic, housing everyone is impossible. “We recognize we can’t house 30,000 students, so we try to help people find something that’s going to work for them,” Walsh said.
“We refer almost exclusively to University Pointe,” Walsh added.
University Pointe is owned by American Campus Communities, an Austin, Texas based for-profit company that specializes in college student housing.
Oregon native Jordan Wright co-founded RentComfy to address student housing needs throughout the country. “We pull all kinds of listings and only match students with apartments within their price range,” Wright said.
RentComfy relocated to Austin to develop a relationship with American Campus Communities, which uses RentComfy at some of their student housing communities.
RentComfy provides students with incentives for using their service. When students sign a lease on a home they’ve found through the website, RentComfy pays them a percentage of the fee charged to property managers. “We’re making money off the students, so we think we should share that with the renter,” Wright said.
Students using the service receive personally tailored listings, and RentComfy users can interact with each listing. When they decline an apartment listing, they can explain why they’re not interested. This aspect helps the website to offer only the most relevant listings in an apartment search.
For many students, living off campus can be too expensive in comparison to PSU housing. Each year, PSU makes an effort to provide affordable housing for students. “We do market analysis each year to peg our prices a little lower. We’re usually about 85–90 percent lower than market prices,” Walsh said. Students can find housing cost comparisons on PSU’s housing website.
RentComfy tries to orient students to the housing expenses near their schools. “A lot of students don’t know what price they should be looking for in their campus area. Our website automatically provides the average price for the area,” Wright said.
The website also provides a subleasing service. RentComfy contacts property managers as a third party for students in order to find good matches for apartment and house subletters. “We do this for students without giving away any personal information,” Wright added.
“One of the big challenges [for students] is finding compatible roommates. Most landlords don’t care about whether or not roommates are going to get along,” Walsh said. “Our on-campus staff is specifically designed to help students sort out any issues with roommates. The for-profit market doesn’t focus on that.” On-campus students fill out questionnaires about lifestyle, interests and other pertinent information.
RentComfy plans to add a similar service to their repertoire, addressing the gap that is usually found in off-campus housing. “We’re working on having an option for finding roommates, but we don’t have it yet,” Wright said.
Since RentComfy extended its service to PSU and other Oregon universities, they’ve been consistently gathering data to improve service for students. “We’ve had a couple thousand visits [per] month from Oregon in the short time we’ve been there,” Wright said.