JumpOffCampus

THE BLOG

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What a student wants

Everyone evaluates apartments differently, and it seems no one knows exactly what they’re looking for. There are just so many factors to consider. Brokers know this all too well. We’ve talked with a lot of them, and their worst nightmare is someone who can’t describe what they want, which makes showing around prospective tenants a lot more time-consuming.

Fortunately, the National Apartment Association has been making big strides in understanding tenants’ needs, especially students. Earlier this month, they came out with their new report which sampled over 10,000 students, and 3,500 parents: Apartment Features, Amenities And Programs That Sell To Students And Parents. Here at JumpOffcampus, we’ve started making it easier to include parents in the housing search, but it looks like parents and students don’t see eye-to-eye when it comes to apartment hunt.

So, what matters most? As you can guess, students and parents had different answers. For students, number one was price, and location was second. For parents, the most important factor was security, also followed by location, with price coming in third. And interestingly, although it may seem that students care a lot about proximity to friends, it ranked higher with parents than students.

So what defines a more secure apartment? According to parents, it’s location and controlled access, which can consist of key fobs or buzzers. If you manage properties with these add-ons, make sure it’s well known! There are a lot of other issues surrounding security, and one of the important ones was well-lit parking areas. This seems like a cheap fix for a lot of landlords, and may be as easy as installing a light on the side of the house. About 20% of both students and parents said it was the single most important security feature for an apartment to have!

-Kyle

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Time’s a Tickin’ for Ed-Tech!

You would think that those in higher education would have a leg up on other industries in adopting new technologies, but sadly this isn’t often the case. In speaking with many administrators, I have found that many still use paper-intensive processes such as keeping off-campus listings in a 3-ring binder… That’s a lot of hole-punching! This means that someone in the housing office within the university is taking valuable time out of their day to field phone calls from local landlords, manually type up the information, then print (and hole-punch!) the listing, before systematically placing each one into an existing binder. 

Students, who are often first-time apartment hunters and often look to the administrators for help, are then forced to sift through said binder, manually taking down each landlord’s contact info for the properties they’re interested in. BUT! How do they even find good matches? This system doesn’t give them a way to filter for say, 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, or even for properties under $1000/month. AND this is all assuming the listings are kept up-to-date and that they are all still available for rent (requiring even more work from the administrators who are tasked with this arduous process). Then let’s say a student finally finds a suitable place to live in with their friends but needs one more roommate to fill the apartment… There should be ONE, centralized place to do this, too! 

JumpOffCampus solves this issue, empowering students to find safe and affordable housing easily, while also allowing administrators to oversee the process and provide real value to their students. While this may just be one example specific to off-campus housing, there are other companies (including some in @Betaspring) who are also tackling blatant technology issues. Shout out to RecoVend

Well, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education (March 23rd, 2012 Edition), we’re in “A Boom Time for Education Start-Ups" and it’s about time higher education institutions caught up with technology. It may seem daunting to make the switch to a new technological process, but the time, energy, and money saved (even in the short-term) are well worth it. "Colleges have students’ best interests in mind, but ‘in a world of good intentions, [the] biggest competition is indecision… Universities are actually shooting themselves in the foot within this market transformation by being slow in their procurement decisions.’" (Michael Staton, The Chronicle of Higher Education, p. 16) 

So, bite the bullet! Get started on that overdue transition into the world of technology. Your tired old hole puncher will thank you. :)

- Mark

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Nightmare on College Ave, Part II: Psycho (Roommates)

Hello again! Since our last post, we’ve received quite a few (horror) stories about roommates. In case you missed it, we’ve already established what makes a bad roommate in Part I of this series, so now it’s time to dive in to some real stories. 

Often times, you can’t choose your freshman year roommate, so a lot of these horror stories stem from awkward situations arise when communication between you two breaks down and you’re both hurtling towards mutually assured destruction. 

One submission, in particular, caught my eye. I’ve altered it somewhat to anonymize names and places for obvious reasons. Enjoy! 

"Would you believe me if I told you that my freshman year roommate morphed from a quiet, nice, studious kid into a passive-aggressive, army-trained killing machine? 

Starting from the beginning, I first met JOE during a pre-orientation program we were both a part of. He seemed respectful and nice, and I was looking forward to making my first friend at school! Well, JOE didn’t seem to have the same thing in mind - he would hang out with people I brought over to our room, but never came out with us or engaged in conversation beyond any standard pleasantries. In fact, he never left our room. This included not going to class, either. He would simply sit at his desk, playing computer games all… day (and night)… long… Even with a freshman meal-plan, he would still order food to our dorm 3 times a day. 

As long as we kept to ourselves, we could coexist. And we did. For a little bit. But it wasn’t long before he turned into a raging psycopath! One night after a long day of classes I decided to listen to some music, forgoing using headphones because I wanted to lay down. Not even a minute later, I could sense strongly negative energy in the room, coming from his side of the room. I looked over, intending to ask whether he minded me playing my music, but it was too late…. An object was already hurtling its way through the air, directly at my head. I only narrowly avoided it and watched it smash into the window behind me, cracking the pane. WTF. 

As you can obviously imagine, this was the beginning of the end of our roommate relationship. I decided after a few more episodes of passive-aggressive behavior like this that it was time to move out. This would have been fine and dandy but the kicker is that before I was able to do so, my roommate was drafted by his respective country’s army and was sent “home” for bootcamp. I’m sure he’s back on campus now but I’m scared to bump into him around campus. Good thing he’s probably tucked away in his room playing  games and eating delivery.” 

While you normally can’t pick your freshman-year roommate, you can definitely avoid situations like these in the future! Check out the Roommate Finder on JumpOffCampus

I hope you enjoyed this story and that you’re looking forward to Part III of this series. 

Once again, send in your own roommate horror stories! I’m looking forward to (maybe sharing) them. We can be reached at admin@jumpoffcampus.com. 

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Best. Roommate. Ever.

Finding the right roommate can be hard. Most people just head to craigslist and start sending emails. You might come across a post like this one from craigslist’s roommate section in San Francisco, but not everyone will be so lucky. 

Then there’s the selection process. A friend of mine was interviewed by 5 potential roommates before being “accepted” into an apartment. People can be very picky about who they’re willing to live with. If you’ve ever had a terrible roommate before, you know that it is very difficult to have a normal and happy life at home when you’re constantly frustrated by your roommate. So depending on the availability of apartments and sublets, it can be really hard to find a spot in a nice place, especially if the price is good.

Instead, you could try one of a million roommate matching services out there. But few of them are free, and they often have long surveys to complete, and who wants to do that? It’s tricky stuff. Here at JOC, we’re working on a real attempt at a great roommate finder, but it’s certainly not easy, especially if we want to give people great matches. 

So here’s the pertinent question for us: If a roommate finder required you to log in with Facebook, would that deter you from doing it?

Let us know at admin@jumpoffcampus.com.

Kyle

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Exploring Your Neighborhood

Now that Spring is around the corner (Spring Break, woohoo!), here are a few tips on getting to know your ‘hood. 

Check out your walk-score (essentially, an aggregate measure of how conveniently located you are to local shops, restaurants, bars, and more). While driving always seems like the quickest and easiest way to get around, walking actually allows you to discover new spots more easily. 

For example, the hole-in-the-wall restaurant that noone’s heard of yet… While “ma and pa” who own the joint may not be the best at SEO and marketing themselves, they probably do offer student discounts for your university/college. In fact, you’ll be surprised at how many of the local restaurants offer student discounts for pick-up or dining in… but NOT for delivery. 

If you’re 21, it might also be a good time to explore local bars, too! There’s always the same-old routine you and your friends get into that defines your college social life, but that can get boring. Now is your chance to discover an interesting new watering hole. You never know, you may even find a gem like Sligo’s

One more thing: you WILL find some weird places that WILL make all these mini-trips into mini-adventures. My personal favorite? Hank Lee’s Magic Factory. It’s seemingly normal on the outside, but the “Miracles for Sale” sign was only a small clue to the (only somewhat frightening) gadgets and gizmos that awaited me inside. 

In all your adventures, please don’t hesitate to let us know what cool things you discover. We’ll share them in our upcoming university-specific entries. 

- Mark

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Is that a single bedroom for $1300?!

We recently got a piece of feedback from a user trying to advertise two rooms in her apartment. It’s a three bedroom place, and she needs two more roommates. She wants to collect $1300 for both rooms. Sounds pretty normal.

The question is, how should that be listed? It’s kind of like a two bedroom for $1300, and could be filled by a pair of students. But it’s more like two separate rooms for rent, each for $650. We were not sure how to handle it. The site can easily support the latter option: a simple sublet listing for $650 will do it (as long as she doesn’t take it down until both rooms are rented). 

But what if one room is huge! Maybe she used the Splitwise Rent Calculator to discover that she should really be charging 700 for one room and 600 for the other. Then what? 

Well, for now the answer is, just make two listings. It’s not very elegant, but hey, how often does this happen anyways?

Kyle

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Nightmare on College St (A Collection of Roommate Horror Stories): A Prelude

"Now this is the story all about how
My life got flipped, turned upside down
And I’d like to take a minute just sit right there
I’ll tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel-Air…” 

Oops, just kidding. Got a little carried away there! 

Anyway, this is the first of a series of (hopefully) many roommate horror stories, something we’ve all been through or have heard about from friends. Let’s start by breaking down the worst roommates by category: 

1. The smelly/dirty/messy ones. Self explanatory.
2. These can walk the walk, and talk the talk… especially in their sleep!
3. Intense gamers. Just hope you’re not in the room when the relationship with their cyber bf/gf passes the next checkpoint.
4. The loud phone talkers. Your mom may want to know what you had on your toast this morning, but I certainly don’t! Eavesdroppers- you’re not off the hook, either.
5. THIEFS! And mooches…
6. Lovebirds are cute <3 <3 but I’d appreciate if your significant other didn’t put the milk carton(s) back in the fridge after finishing them.
7. Weird poster kid. Hello, kitty!
8. The drunk eater… I guess you could do worse than waking up with a pizza box in your bed, but stay away from my leftovers!
9. No fun allowed! Does having a couple friends over on a weeknight to watch some quality reality TV *REALLY* count as a party?
10. What did I miss? Leave us a comment!

In “Nightmare on College St - Part I” we’ll go into more detail and provide some classic examples on a few of the aforementioned. Stay tuned! 

- Mark

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The more students we come across…

With the recent growth in university attendance (up by 1 million each year since 2007), schools across the US are running out of places to put their undergraduates. We’ve heard horror stories of freshmen being housed in distant hotels for entire semesters while administrations struggle to find adequate housing. But now, many schools have begun housing projects to build new dorms and apartments for their students.

This week, the University of Arkansas announced a new 1,200 bed dorm construction project, and the University of Texas, Denton announced a new 430-bed dorm. Berklee College of Music (near our hometown) also recently started construction on a new dorm on Mass Ave. All three projects are planned to be completed for the incoming class in the Fall of 2013. 

Check out the press releases here and here.

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JumpOffCampus Updates!

Hello, Hello! 

About 6 weeks ago we began sending out a weekly newsletter documenting some of the interesting things we’ve been up to. The purpose was really to keep interested people involved, but it’s also turned out to be a great way to spur conversation amongst a lot of our mentors and advisors! 

Below is our most recent newsletter, with a quick recap of last week’s as well. If any of you (readers) are interested in being added to the mailing list or want to catch up on previous newsletters, please email us: admin@jumpoffcampus.com, thanks! 

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Hello All, 

Once again, Happy Holidays! We hope everyone enjoyed the start of 2012. Apologies for the lengthy newsletter this time around but we had some technical issues with sending out the newsletter to everyone last week. For that reason, we’ll start with a quick recap, then get into this week’s updates: 

  • Interns from Tufts University are getting started this week and next. Doug is interested in Marketing, Social Media, and Campus Outreach; Alex wants to gain sales and account management experience; Vincenzo wants to help with HTML, CSS, and JQuery. 
  • We made a contact with a board member of the Massachusetts Rental Housing Association (MRHA) who wants to help us by publishing an article about us in a newsletter in the near future. We will explore making contact with individuals through other states’ Rental Housing Associations as well. 
  • Our feedback loop lives on, as we are continually evaluating our various conversion funnels and other metrics gauging our site functionality and effectiveness. We are concentrating on student registration, landlord registration, and the creation of new listings. We have made slight alterations and split-tests of our pages and processes to see what is best. Our most recent change being with the landlord registration funnel. 

This week, we have officially decided it’s time to experiment with an “outside-in” model. We will launch a version of the site for any students and landlords in the area, without any explicit partnerships. In addition to trying out a slightly different approach to gaining users and content, we’re also experimenting with a different revenue model: pay-per-lead. This model would allow landlords to create and advertise their properties on the site for free, and simply charge them for each inquiry they want to view. We hope that this has the desired effect of demonstrating value and establishing long-term relationships with landlords who might not have registered on our site had we charged them a monthly listing fee with no guarantees of any inquiries. 

Students registering will now be able to choose their school from a list of our partners, or enter in their own. This will also serve as a lead generation tool for us when deciding about new schools we want to approach. Most important is how we will get users on the site since we’re forgoing the partnership channel. To do so, we will be experimenting with different advertising strategies, such as Google Ad Words. At the very least, it will be a good exercise in determining the cost of acquisition of our users which we have been unable to determine definitively to date. 

That being said, next week will mark the beginning of the new sales cycle for the traditional model of targeting universities. Wish us luck!

All the best,

Mark & Kyle

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Anonymous asked: Hi, Would you be able to add College of the Holy Cross to your site?

Unfortunately not. We spoke with Paul Irish, who said that they don’t think it’s worth implementing since only ~200 students live off campus every year. Let us know if this isn’t true though, and perhaps you can rally your friends to petition Paul!