Can finding month-to-month housing be made easier? These lawyers hope so - Technical.ly DC

Growth

May 5, 2016 12:05 pm

Can finding month-to-month housing be made easier? These lawyers hope so

Roamer is a marketplace for short-term subleases, inspired by the founders' struggles in law school.
Roamer wants to make it easier to find short-term housing.

Roamer wants to make it easier to find short-term housing.

(Photo by Flickr user Shaun Farrell, used under a Creative Commons license)

The summer internship is an important law school rite of passage. It can also be a logistical nightmare.

Think about it — the average student might find herself quickly searching for short-term housing in a completely new city while at the same time trying to find someone trustworthy to sublet her apartment back home. It’s a challenge.

Alexander Galicki and Kentaro Murase felt this challenge firsthand during their studies at Georgetown Law. They also noticed that, for many of their classmates, the labor-intensive search for housing through Facebook, Craigslist, friends just wasn’t cutting it. Even in D.C., a city that runs on interns and thus has a robust short-term housing market, there are no go-to, foolproof tools for finding subleases.

“Why is there nothing out there?” they wondered.

And, proving their entrepreneurial spirit, Galicki and Murase decided to create something. Roamer first launched in beta in February 2015 as a marketplace for law and MBA students to find month-to-month, furnished summer housing.

When I called Galicki to talk about Roamer he was in New Mexico (he’s got a job there currently), where, from the sounds on the other end of the phone line, it seemed really windy. He admitted it was hard to get Roamer up and running that first summer — there was a sort of “chicken and egg” problem with providers of housing and seekers of housing.

But, he said, eventually he and Murase managed to pull together about 2,000 users, and facilitate around 500-600 transactions. They then took part in an incubator program at Georgetown, where they spent time pouring over the data. Was Roamer working? Did people want this? You know, the kind of existential questions entrepreneurs must ask and answer truthfully, and often.

What they found was that there are high-demand areas and low-demand areas. They also discovered that, when it comes to pricing, there’s no real method to the madness. Shouldn’t the price of a sublease be based on demand? So, when Roamer version two relaunched this past February it was with an auction component. Now, those looking for housing place bids on subleases, driving up the price for popular places in popular cities (D.C., NYC and San Francisco are among the top cities).

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Roamer wants to “bring transparency to the real estate subleasing space,” Galicki said.

Now approaching its second summer, Roamer is still a work in progress. At the moment it’s only open to those with .edu addresses, but other young professionals who might want to use the service can email to plead their case. Roamer lists places in a bunch of cities, but Galicki said maybe, in the future, they’ll pivot to focus on just D.C. and NYC.

Another idea he’s got is to, at some point, turn Roamer into a coliving company (hey, Technical.ly Brooklyn says coliving is hot). But that’s very much TBD. The company is also still in the midst of figuring out a viable business model — for the moment both Galicki and Murase are working as lawyers, and Roamer is a sidehustle.

“No one has ever solved month-to-month housing,” he said. “It’s hard.”

But somehow, it seems like the challenge is what keeps Galicki engaged.

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