Roommate matching platform Room.me is launching in San Francisco today to help all the new people moving to the tech capital match up with people they might actually like living with.
The Bay Area is experiencing a serious population boom – some estimates put San Francisco at an upward trajectory of more than 10,000 people per year. Not only does that mean fewer houses available (the reasons for that are complex and for another day) it also means it’s harder to find the best roommates for your situation.
Room.me co-founder Max Kersting explained to me over bites at the Battery in downtown SF that it’s a bit like Tinder, but for picking roommates.
He got the idea from algorithms used on dating websites to match up potential lovers and thought the same idea could be applied to roommates.
Room.me works by matching potential roommates up with different personality types based on a the kinds of quizzes dating sites use, but tailored to a preferred living situation.
It asks the usual questions like if you care if other roommates smoke or have sleepovers with partners a lot, but also things such as if you are a night owl or a morning person and if you prefer living with another night owl, or if you’d rather have a roommate that is a morning person. It also asks if you are looking for new best friends or would rather others stay out of your way – all things that can make a tremendous impact on who you match up with.
One sore point with a lot of people I know with roommates is the cleanliness factor. The majority of roommate listings on Craigslist emphasize they are looking for a clean roommate. However, those roommates may not be the cleanest themselves and it’s easy for people to just say they are super clean before they move in. Kersting told me Room.me gets around this by asking different questions in different ways and quizzing users randomly to make sure they are really on the same page as those who are looking for a better roommate.
While there is a lot of competition for apartment listings on Craigslist, Hotpads, Zillow and even one in New York calling itself the “eHarmony for Roomates” named RoommateFit, there’s still a lot of space to fill. According to a recent Zillow study adults are relying more than ever on roommate living situations to save on expenses and doubled-up households account for more than 76 percent of all living situations nationally.
Room.me seems to be coming at a good time for SF roommate hunters. The current housing crisis, including high rents and scarcity of available apartments means slim pickings. I’ve been in my place for a few years now, but even back then it was tough to find the right apartment in a safe, affordable neighborhood. Friends tell me horror stories of the current landscape and of weird casting-style interviews just to get a spare room.
On the other side are those already in the house or apartment. Go through dozens of interviews with desperate people and some people are bound to tell you whatever you want to hear just to get picked for your open spot. And picking the right person is extremely important. Once they’ve moved in and paid rent, it’s really hard to get rid of someone if you don’t actually own the place.
A personality matching algorithm is definitely a missing component in the San Francisco roommate journey, especially considering those looking around right now may be locking themselves into something for a number of years. Room.me could provide a way to divide those you’d enjoy living with from those who make life hell during that time.
Room.me raised $1.1 million in seed so far from Axel Springer, Grazia Equity and an International Business Angel pool.
Kersting’s plan is to grow the base of users in San Francisco and move to other big cities from there. “This is a perfect place to start because the roommate situation is so crazy here,” Kersting said.