Is the Pandemic Changing Roommate Matching Strategies?

by Katie Sloan

COVID-19 has introduced new challenges to the roommate matching process. According to respondents of a recent survey conducted by Student Housing Business, there are several new layers of complexity to an already challenging process: 

  • Social distancing makes it difficult to facilitate traditional meet-and-greet events to introduce potential roommates.
  • Students are concerned about choosing roommates with a similar level comfort and adherence to safety guidelines. 
  • More students would prefer to rent for single rooms, foregoing roommates. 

Results of the survey, which was sponsored by RoomSync, highlight roommate matching strategies and offer insight into student housing professionals’ opinions of the strategies. 

Sixty percent of respondents work in corporate offices; 40 percent work on-site at student housing properties. Of the on-site respondents, 90 percent were property managers or assistant/leasing managers. Of the corporate respondents, 50 percent were executives, 22 percent were in operations and 20 percent were regional managers. 

What are the strategic breakdowns? 

  • 49 percent of respondents say residents choose their own roommates.
    • Of these, 62.5 percent say the students match on their own and report matches to the leasing/property management team, while 37.5 percent use a self-selection app (like RoomSync).
  • 47 percent say matching is completed by the leasing team.
    • Of these, 91 percent base the matching on basic information (gender, smoking preferences, etc.) and lifestyle preferences (clean, quiet, etc.), while 9 percent base the matching on basic information alone.
  • 4 percent say matching is random and all of these matches are completed by the leasing team. 

Thoughts from the Leasing Office

Respondents shared what they like about their current methods, what they’d like to have
in the future and comments about how COVID-19 is impacting their decisions:

“Roommate matching software is especially valuable right now, given that you cannot roommate match in person.”

“We need something that helps take into account transgender residents or residents with emotional support animals (ESA).” 

“The ability for students to specify major and year classification would help with the selection process.” 

“It is very labor intensive. We have property management software that we could use to do the matching, but teams prefer control, whether it is better or not.”  

Some respondents worry that a technology solution puts them at risk of complaint: “We are skeptical of fancy matching tools and algorithms. If roommates are not compatible and we placed them [together] then the resident and parents call to complain no matter how fancy the matching claims to be.”

Meanwhile, other respondents noted that offering a technical solution to facilitate self-selection by residents “removes management from liability and permits better confidential self-selection.” One executive commented, “We have all had residents who give one set of answers if they came with parents, for example, and another if they completed a survey on their own. The technology also eliminates this as well as the need for get-togethers as it can be completed virtually.” 

This survey is sponsored by RoomSync, which offers integrated roommate matching software to empower roommate choice and create happier resident experiences.

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