Since a number of my acquaintances were enjoying online dating, it quickly occurred to me, the same principles could be used to find roommates.
By Pam McDonald
Karen Venable thought she was on to something last year when she beta launched Roommates4Boomers.com (R4B) – a roommate matching site for women over age 50. But even she is surprised by the overwhelming positive response. Within weeks of launch, Alexa Rank (which calculates and compares website traffic) showed R4B in the top 8% of traffic. Additionally, one in every 16 visitors signed up for membership, which is almost 3 times the average.
“I’m astonished by the response and the number of inquiries, including those wishing to do newspaper articles and even documentaries,” Karen stated. “I’ve been inundated with calls from around the world.”
Like many female Baby Boomers, Karen maintains a cadre of women friends she relies on for conversation, companionship, rapport, and understanding. So, in her mid-50s, when she found herself single again and with an empty nest, she began wondering how she – and other women-of-an-age – might put together the kind of lives they wanted.
“I was well educated, physically active, with lots of things I still wanted to do and achieve,” Karen said. “And given how important my women friends have always been to my well-being, I thought we might benefit from finding roommates who could also be compatible as friends. Since a number of my acquaintances were enjoying online dating, it quickly occurred to me, the same principles could be used to find roommates.”
With her MBA in finance and experience running her own marketing business, Karen began her research. “Evidence showed,” she said, “very few roommate-finding services even existed and none had established dominance on the Web. I saw a huge void to be filled and that’s how Roommates4Boomers was born.”
The way it works is this:
- Women looking for a place to live, as well as those with extra space to rent, join Roommates4Boomers.
- They fill out detailed profiles and describe their housing situation.
- Members can search the profiles and articles as much as they’d like for free.
- A $29.99 monthly fee kicks in only when a member wants to begin contacting potential roommates via the site’s secured messaging system.
- Members can continue looking for roommates as long as they’d like.
According to Karen, “Our proprietary software uses detailed personal profiles with a sophisticated algorithm to match potential roommates. Matches are made not merely on geographic desirability but on many factors – such as preferences, attitudes, tastes, and habits that point to a high degree of compatibility.”
Founded in Portland, Oregon, where Karen lives, Roommates4Boomers is experiencing its greatest use there, in the San Francisco Bay Area, and in Sarasota, Florida. “We’re working tirelessly to increase membership in other cities across the country,” Karen said. “To promote interest we sometimes offer discounts to area women’s organization, so those interested should contact us directly.”
R4B has already expanded from its Portland office to Shanghai, China. “We want to assure quality control from conception to manufacturing,” Karen noted, “so we’ve ‘gone global.’ We also make it a point to work only with environmentally friendly factories.”
Members find that roommates offer them a number of benefits, including the following:
- Life enrichment with a well-matched, like-minded pal with whom to share housing and experiences
- Reduced expenses by cost sharing – for living expenses but also for travel and fun
- Safety and security in locating potential roommates – Roommates4Boomers does not vet or check backgrounds of its members, but it does provides tips and recommendations for members to do so.
Among the most highly read articles on the site is one titled Reinvent Your Home Life: Think of a life that’s so much more fun, with a roommate – especially a Boomer roommate! “This is so much in keeping with what we know about Boomer women,” Karen commented. “Over-fifty women today are fierce, independent, active, connected, and believe in having fun.”