Building Blocks for Student Housing

OMB1

A UCSD campus founder of OnMyBlock, a website and app that aims to improve the search for off-campus housing, discusses the company’s social referral process and upcoming launch

As spring quarter approaches, a fraction of Tritons will begin searching for off-campus housing. They will likely turn to UCSD’s off-campus housing directory, Craigslist or random housing ads. However, Corey Breier, UCSD’s lead campus founder of OnMyBlock — an online service and mobile app designed to ease the process of moving off campus — believes there’s a better avenue to finding college housing.

“The social referral process works if you get lucky and put a lot of work into it [or] are well-connected,” he said. “But there’s no reason there should not be a platform for it.”

OMB, which will launch tomorrow, Feb. 25, aims to become the one-stop shop for off-campus housing for students. Students can use the iOS app or website to search for housing and read past tenant reviews.

OMB was founded by USD alumnus Morgan Schwanke, who used to sublease the homes of friends that were studying abroad to other students. He saw that students were constantly on the move and wanted to address this issue through his platform, which allows users to tailor their housing searches to find leases as short as three months.

“A lot of apartment leases are for one year [even if] you [only] want it for nine months because you don’t need it for the summer.” Brier said.

With OMB, users can start by choosing the college they attend and then adjust their search based on neighborhood, number of bathrooms and bedrooms and availability. But OMB is more than just a search tool; it allows users to write reviews of the places they’ve lived at, bringing the social aspect of college housing online.

“You as a student are looking for a place that is friendly towards students … Maybe you’re looking for a quieter place or [maybe] a louder place where you can host parties … The reviews from past students who have lived there will help you make a more informed choice towards your next house.”

Students repelled by the faceless nature of Craigslist may find more confidence in OMB’s tenant feedback and a feature called a “fact sheet” that summarizes a listings’ perks.

“Craigslist is just a name and a number, whereas, with [OMB], you will definitely have a rough picture of that person you are going to live with… and you will have students [giving feedback,” Breier said.

The true test will come after the platform has cultivated a large enough following for listings to have regular reviews. It is, after all, this aspect that is supposed to set OMB apart from other options.

The OMB team has a lot plans for its future: launching an Android app, integrating student reviews of nearby stores and restaurants, enabling bidding on popular listings and creating “Facebook-style” roommate profiles. To bring the rental experience full circle, OMB also wants to give users the ability to sign their lease right on their phone or laptop.

OMB is flyering on Library Walk on March 2 and hopes to increase awareness of their service among students. While OMB doesn’t tell students everything they need to know about moving off campus — you need to buy real dishes — it may be an organized start to finding a temporary place to call home.

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