Scores of students get bogged down by apartment-hunting anxiety each year. But, as of June 1, students have been able to reduce their stress with the click of a button.
UCF senior Evan Dolgow, 21, and alumnus Jonah Katz, 23, combined their skills to launch YOapartment.com, a website that allows students to rate and review apartments.
Currently, YOapartment.com features 40 popular UCF housing options, including Plaza on University and Knights Circle. Users must log in with Facebook or their Gmail address before they are allowed to post a rating or comment on the site.
“It turns out that our initial hunch was right, people like sharing their experiences,” Katz said.
The duo said they pride YOapartment.com on being a centralized site for students looking for information on apartments in the UCF area. The three-week-old website is similar to RateMyProfessors.com, a source that relies on student feedback to rate and review college professors.
“I want it to be a one-stop shop,” said Katz, who used his bachelor’s degree in computer science to create YOapartment.com. “People who are looking for apartments, whether they’re current UCF students or fresh high school graduates, can go on the site and get everything they need.”
In addition to listing amenities, floor plans and cost on their site, Dolgow and Katz have a ratings section. Students can rank an apartment complex’s security, parking situation, cleanliness, social scene, maintenance and location using one to five pineapple icons.
Dolgow said attending the Rosen College of Hospitality Management encouraged him to implement the pineapple feature. The fruit symbolizes warmth and friendship at Rosen, as put by Dolgow, and “everyone deserves to feel that way when they find an apartment.”
After three days, before the duo had formally marketed the site, YOapartment.com had 70 reviews. They had simply told a few close friends and created a Facebook page. On June 27, the site had over 200 reviews.
Dolgow said he was pleased to see that both the negative and positive responses were critical. Former residents of UCF apartments disclosed insider information to potential buyers. And, ultimately, that is what he and Katz were trying to accomplish.
“Every single review comes down to a simple question, ‘Would you recommend the apartment?’” Dolgow said. “If you read a blatantly negative review, you get a bad taste in your mouth. If you read a critical review and then see that the person still recommends the apartment, that’s pretty solid. It’s good to see that that question is really changing the game.”
Dolgow’s friend and UCF senior Francesca Giraldo, 21, reviewed Boardwalk at Alafaya Trail, the apartment complex she lived in last year, and the Retreat at Orlando, which is where she currently lives.
“It’s a very simple, clean interface,” Giraldo said. “All the information is there for you.”
Since Giraldo submitted a review, she is now in the running to win $50. Dolgow and Katz said they hope the incentive will encourage more students to flock to the site and write a review. The cash prize is coming out of their own pockets.
“Even though it’s not a lot, it gives students a little more motivation and it makes them realize that we’re serious about our mission,” Dolgow said. “We’re going to put our own time and money into spreading the word and trying to make a real resource for people. At the end of the day, we’ll put our own money into it. We already have.”
In the coming weeks, Dolgow and Katz are looking to build the YOapartment brand by creating Instagram and Twitter accounts, as well as sending out a weekly email blast with a list of subleases. They said they are hoping to reduce the traffic on Facebook’s UCF class pages by bringing those students to YOapartment.com.
“It’s about trust and honesty,” Dolgow said. “We want to show students that we’re not like [those] other apartment websites. We don’t want to spam them with useless information and advertisements. We want this website to be a tool, and we’re going all out for UCF.”
This story was originally published on June 23, 2016.
Shana Medel is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Email her at ShanaM@CentralFloridaFuture.com.