Tasked with the responsibility of matching roommates for the upcoming leasing season, Robert Castellucci, working in the leasing office of a student housing development in Gainesville, Florida, settled in with a mass of pen-and-paper lifestyle questionnaires and tenant files. These matches, chosen after hours of selection, were sent out to upcoming University tenants for their approval.
As one might imagine, many were not pleased with their new housemates. The leasing office was flooded with calls from tenants who, after consulting FaceBook to learn more about their matches, found problems with their compatibility. Castellucci believed there had to be a better way. "The idea was born out of frustration," he says. "I was so frustrated from getting all of these calls, and eventually it struck: Why can't we incorporate FaceBook into the matching process rather than it being the knee-jerk reaction to the matching process?" RoomSync became the solution to this problem.
FaceBook began offering apps in 2007. Soon after, Castellucci, alongside co-founders Alex Edelsburg, Michael Hacker and Ariel Himmelstern, started building the application that would become RoomSync. This application works by allowing tenants who have signed a lease at a property, but are still searching for roommates, access to a network of individuals within that complex who are also seeking roommates in given unit sizes.
The first step in using RoomSync as an upcoming tenant is to sign into the application via FaceBook with a special access code. The tenant fills out a questionnaire with data including gender, email address, lifestyle preferences and major.
After filling out this questionnaire, users are redirected to a screen that shows all possible roommate options within the complex. This screen contains thumbnails of each user's profile picture, their major, lifestyle preferences, interests and mutual friends. Once a suitable roommate match is found, a tenant can send a roommate request e-mail, which can be confirmed or denied.
The choice for running this application on FaceBook stemmed from a study conducted at the University of Maryland. "A big reason why we chose to build this on FaceBook is because the information is so accurate," Castellucci says. The research demonstrated how closely someone's personality can be evaluated by studying a FaceBook profile. "Why not leverage that? It's crazy to create a brand new profile for the purposes of roommate matching."
The application was picked up in 2009 with its first client, the University of Florida. The same year, FaceBook recognized RoomSync as one of the top 50 applications on its platform. The positive press, alongside success at the University of Florida, led to a large number of new clients. RoomSync today has more than 100 clients, 55 of which are universities, in locations as far afield as Cyprus.
"[Operators] are starting to realize that the more their residents can be in charge of roommate matching, the higher the satisfaction levels are going to be, and also the less work the property is going to have to do."
Castelluci says New Mexico State University reports a correlation between RoomSync users and GPA and drop out rates. Among the students there, users of RoomSync saw GPA's jump .25 points and a return rates improve by 6 percent, compared to students who chose roommates on their own. RoomSync is also beginning to implement user satisfaction surveys to gauge satisfaction among students.
"I definitely believe tenants are more satisfied," says Jason Neitzel, community manager at Auraria Student Lofts in Denver. The property has been using RoomSync since 2011. "Students get the choice to pick and become friends with people before they move in. If we were doing it manually, we're pulling a bunch of files, putting them on the floor, sorting them by gender and age, then trying to get into their resident profile and figure out what they like to do.
RoomSync is now moving into white-label applications, a variation that allows clients to have their own branded version of the FaceBook application without the use of RoomSync's logo or information.