Off-campus housing for Chapman students is an on-going discussion on campus, especially with students competing for housing with the rest of the Orange community.
Chapman juniors Jonathan Miller, Chase Klitzner, and Sean Thielen felt that struggle when transferring here last fall. But instead of just getting frustrated, they decided to do something about it. Read the Q & A with them below!
1. Describe University Niche. What is its purpose?
University Niche is a new, easy way to find student friendly housing off-campus. For college students, it’s especially difficult to find places to live because most landlords are unwilling to lease their properties to students, and most students are first-time renters who are unfamiliar with the process. University Niche alleviates some of that headache by only showing properties whose landlords are already willing to lease to college students.
2. What made you guys want to start up an online housing portal for college students?
When we transferred to Chapman last fall, we all had similar difficulties finding places to live. We called dozens of landlords and were dismissed the second we mentioned we went to Chapman. We found that a lot of our friends had similar issues, and we saw an opportunity to improve this situation.
3. Were you all nervous at all to start up this big project?
We had talked about it for a while before actually sitting down and deciding to do it. The biggest thing was honestly just sitting down and working on it. I think we recognized the potential for the business to grow/expand even in the early stages, but it’s been lately, now that we have a product that a lot of people are using, that we’ve been more nervous about it just because we have to deal with the actual challenges of running a business and keeping our growth up.
4. How does University Niche differ from other ways to find off campus housing?
Currently, most students use resources like craigslist, Zillow, or Trulia to find off-campus housing. These websites are designed for family renters, and there is no way for students to determine whether or not a landlord will be “student friendly” until they actually speak with them. University Niche is the only real estate website that caters specifically to the student market.
5. Why should students use your site as opposed to the current off campus portals that Chapman offers?
We are in no way “competing” with Chapman. Rather, University Niche is a starting point to help students begin their search for a home. We’ve put a lot of work into making our interface clean and easy to use, and we update the site with new listings every day.
6. Who runs the website, and what does each person do?
Jonathan Miller, 21, PR and Advertising major—marketing and advertising for the site.
Chase Klitzner, 22, Strategic and Corporate Communication major—sales and marketing.
Sean Thielen, 19, English Literature major—web development
However, as we are in such early stages as a company, we all wear many different hats within the company. For example, we all manage the listings on the site and we all participate in designing the website.
7. What are your current and future plans in terms of marketing this service to students?
In the past few weeks, we have been having a direct presence on our campuses by handing out flyers and promotional cards, as well as tabling and putting up posters. We also target students through social media and run a blog about off-campus living.
8. What has been the hardest part about creating and running this site?
The hardest part has been balancing our school work and running the business. University Niche has become a full-time job for all of us, and making that work within our already-busy schools schedules has been a challenge.
9. You’ve expanded into Loyola Marymount and the University of San Diego. What brought on the decision to make University Niche more than just a Chapman housing portal?
Our success at Chapman showed us that our product was something students wanted and needed. Based on our research, we chose USD and LMU as our next two schools because they have very high percentages of students who live off-campus.
10. Where do you hope to see University Niche in the future?
We plan to continue expanding to other schools in California and eventually nationwide.
Check out their site here, especially if you are still on the hunt for a place to live!