RoommateFit, LLC offers “eharmony for roommates?” Hipsters & Cowboys cheer?

This guy is doing it!

Justin Mares is attempting to sell his RoommateFit Software to College Campuses for their Housing Operations

eHarmony for College Dorms?

Justin Mares today announced his new roommate matching software “RoommateFit” which he’s pitching to college campuses to aid in their dorm room assignments. The University of Pittsburgh Business student’s system will ask 42 questions, covering 6 distinct traits, in order to better match like-minded students with one another.

I recall talking with a co-worker in 2001 while working at a large, all-inclusive, student community here in Gainesville who realized the need for exactly such software. “So wait, you mean there’s no such thing as 3rd party roommate matching software out there for college communities?”, he asked me incredulously. “Not really” I said, “most people make their own proprietary system but the whole thing takes a back seat to other business aspects of the operation.” He resolved right then and there to make the first, one-size-fits-all roommate matching software for college campuses and stand-alone communities.

It’s been a decade and I haven’t heard tell of him, or his software, yet.

And that’s probably because it’s not as easy a thing to do as one may initially think. What really matters when matching roommates? It’s not like they’re dating… they just need to do a bit better than not kill each other. So, preferred bedtimes are the big deal? Drinking? Hobbies? Majors? Affiliations like Sororities or clubs? Music choices? How’s the hipster vegan from NYC going to get along with the Agriculture major from Texas who believes Bacon isn’t just a food group but a full-blown religion?

So much more common than you think

Passive-agressive Post-it notes are a staple in student apartments - like Ramen noodles and mini-fridges.

How do you correctly weight the answers to these questions and which factors hide the buried fault lines of potential friendship or ever-lasting war? That’s the problem most campuses and Property Management groups have when it comes to finding “Martin” his new “Lewis.”

If you’re a new college student and are getting an assigned roommate I have a sobering truth for you: That ‘random roommate’ is way more RANDOM than you may actually think.

Many times, and due to the actual calamity of placing/assigning units and coordinating dates/furniture/vendors, etc… roommate matching can, and is often, done based entirely on gender alone: “I got a single guy here for a 4/4, you have a space open with three other guys?” says the Leasing Manager to the Property Manager – “Yeah, done and done. Placed in 1010B, next?”More on this exact process later…

This is where Mares’ software really becomes appealing; if you can sort people to be placed together based on similar interests, reduce immediate roommate conflicts, and speed up the process so the office staff is free to focus on preparing your unit correctly for move-in, everyone wins.

The big question remaining to be seen is this: Will Mares’ system create better matches than random assignment? Significantly better as to justify the cost of his annual service? And how do you even measure such a thing? What’s a successful placement? Is this system better than letting students find their own roommates on Facebook?

Those questions are why most groups don’t see money in attempting to ensure roommates hit it off… “random” or limited review of roommate preferences has worked thus far, therefore, why spend the money?

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3 comments

  1. Thanks for the writeup, Rob. You raise some really good points, that I’d like to quickly address – let me know your thoughts, or feel free to follow up via email (justin@roommatefit.com).

    The matching test I developed is based on several studies done on roommate compatibility, and was created with the help of a psychology Ph.D. with over 25 years of experience creating matching measures. We’re doing a few things to measure the effectiveness of the software with the pilot universities we ace currently working with. Several times this coming year, students will be self-evaluating how happy they are with their roommates, and we will be receiving statistics from the university on reported conflicts, freshman dropouts, freshman GPA and room transfers. This should give us some excellent data to see how effective the matching software is, and we can compare it against the student groups that did not take the test.

    After talking with over 90 administrators earlier this year, I found that students who requested a roommate coming in (or found one on Facebook) did not fare better than those who were paired randomly. This is one reason why universities are willing to spend money to use the service – the other is that bad roommate pairings has been found to be a major factor in a significant number of freshman dropouts or transfers. That’s where a lot of revenue is lost, as well as spending administrator time dealing with conflicts and room reassignments. The latter is especially a problem at larger universities that are already at capacity.

    Again, thanks for the article – love the title – and let me know if there’s any way I can help out!

    – Justin

  2. Justin,

    Thanks for the info! I LOVE the idea and I think if it works well it stands to be wildly successful.

    Your point about saving administrators time and freshmen dropouts is a great one. Having worked only in private, off-campus housing this wasn’t something that readily occurred to me. I imagine that pitch alone (less headaches/save time) would sell the system like gang-busters to over wrought admins.

    Do you envision the system as something a student goes in and answers questions on-line then receives a match based on their compatibility, or you do you expect that they’d fill out something and a Campus housing rep would enter them into the database and send them back the answers? What do you imagine would be your process for licensing such a system to off-campus partners? Any thoughts as to the rate of growth/market penetration you’d like to see in the next 3-5 years? I understand if you haven’t gotten that deep into it given it’s current beta testing phase.

    It really is a necessary service and frankly, one that is long overdue. I’m just glad to see that someone is attempting to provide it and that they appear to be taking it quite seriously.

    Thanks for commenting and feel free to send me updates! I’d love to write more as your enterprise grows and develops!

    1. Rob,

      Glad to hear you like it! With our pilot schools, we’ve actually run the system both ways you describe it. Students have gone online and received matches after taking the test on our site (ex: florida.roommatefit.com), while in another case the university had students take the test via their in-house system, and then returned matched pairs.

      I’d love to talk with off-campus partners about licensing the test, as I think there’s a lot of value to be added there. It’s not something I focused on in the initial stages though, as I wanted to prove out the concept with universities at first.

      I think this has the potential to grow rapidly. Many universities are rather risk-averse, so if we can show data on the effectiveness of the process and have several users to back it up, it’s a very strong selling point. I’d like to be in over 150 universities within 3 years, and have some plans for how to grow it afterwards. I believe in 5 years this can be the matching standard on the market, but it will just take time due to the long sales cycles at universities.

      What are you currently seeing in the housing market? I’d love to keep you updated as things come along. Do you mind shooting me an email (justin@roommatefit.com) so I have your contact information?

      – Justin

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