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Roommate-finding gets a human touch at Long Island City co-living building

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ALTA LIC uses a combination of algorithms and one very popular leasing agent to pair potential roommates

QuallsBenson

Humans have long had a complicated relationship with technology. While it can be used to make life easier and more efficient, it can also take the humanity out of the simplest tasks. Sometimes, though, the two strike just the right balance—something that’s on display at ALTA LIC, a new rental in Long Island City.

ALTA offers both conventional apartments and co-living units that are operated by Ollie, the same company that manages Carmel Place in Kips Bay. Like most co-living buildings, ALTA offers a bevy of amenities—weekly housekeeping, laundry service, cable, and Wi-Fi—as well as social events and a gym with a pool.

But what makes it different from, say, Common—a co-living start-up where bedrooms are rented to tenants individually—is that ALTA’s units are leased as complete apartments. (Rent for a currently available two-bedroom, for example, is $3,200/month, with a co-living rent starting at $1,500/month.) Roommates are tied to each other and responsible for the rent together through their leasing agreement.

That means prospective tenants who don’t have a roommate must find one—and as anyone who has spent hours searching for a potential roomie on Craigslist knows, the process is often less than pleasant.

That’s where Tommy Angelucci, a modern-day version of the Love Boat’s Isaac Washington, comes in. Angelucci, who has worked as a leasing agent for the four years, helps pair up potential roommates at ALTA. “We host open houses for potential residents. I approach them, say hello, welcome them and explain how the process works,” he explains. “People meet each other, they talk to see if they feel they have a possible match. A lot of the time it feels like speed dating. Sometimes people will pull me to the side and say, ‘I’m an NYU student, I’d prefer to live with someone who is also a student and keeps the same hours.’”

Angelucci has access to prospective tenants’ basic data, like desired move in dates, professions, age and gender. But his skills go beyond that: Grace Cannizzaro, an ALTA leasing agents, says that “people love to talk to Tommy.”

“People unload their lives on Tommy,” she continues. “You can’t believe what he can get in 20 minutes—he’s just that type of person. You feel comfortable with Tommy and people tell him everything.”

Angelucci isn’t the only tool that potential ALTA tenants have at their disposal. Andrew Bledsoe, Ollie’s co-founder, created bespoke roommate-finding software called Bedvetter (yes, really) to address the company’s needs. “Ollie wasn’t looking to recreate the wheel; we looked around and did not find any products that could meet our needs,” Bledsoe says. “There was no tool that both forged a household from a set of strangers and also plugged into traditional property management systems for institutional grade assets.”

Bedvetter—“you’ll never forget that name, will you?” Bledsoe says with a laugh—runs on an algorithm that uses 60 different metrics to match potential roomies. Those include things as basic as gender and profession and less basic like “do you cook pungent foods” and “are you a morning person?” And unlike artificial intelligence that becomes smarter on its own, Bedvetter is intended to become better at pairing up residents by using data from exit surveys (which are optional) to determine if, for example, pairing two “morning people” is actually a good thing.

Sarah Shun, 30, came to ALTA with one roommate and was looking for another. She used Bedvetter and found it to be an easy process. After messaging two or three people, she and her roommate found a third roommate, and according to Shun, it’s been “so far, so good.”

But Daniel Carrillo, a 24-year-old accountant and ALTA resident with one roommate, couldn’t find the right match through the software, and Angelucci stepped in. Throughout the process, Carrillo was constantly in touch with the agent, often talking to him three to four times a week. “Sometimes, I felt I was bugging him too much,” Carrillo says. “[But] he was super good and always on top of everything.”

So far, the combination of tech and the human touch has worked out well for ALTA: the building is 60 percent full, and according to Bledsoe, “our hybrid formula—part-virtual, part-human—has been so effective that over 50 percent of our tours result in a signed lease.”

And most importantly, Angelucci offers prospective tenants something that software ultimately cannot: trust and goodwill. For Carrillo, that was irreplaceable. “From the first time I met him—he is Latino, I’m Colombian—we started to speak Spanish,” Carrillo explains. “I just felt comfortable with him from the start. I knew he wasn’t shady, I trusted him.”

Angelucci ultimately found a person that he thought would be a good match, and Carrillo and his new roommate—who are of similar ages, and have similar interests—clicked. “I always tell my friends and family that I got very lucky with the roommate selection because he’s a genuinely good guy I talk to regularly,” Carrillo says.