Looking for a place to stay is by no means an easy feat especially for college-goers, but a local website is offering a convenient platform for them to find suitable accommodation.
SALLY, a young adult who is about embark on the next phase of her life, is excited about the move from her hometown in Penang to pursue an A-Levels course at a university in Subang Jaya.
As she is unable to secure in-house accommodation and is new to Subang Jaya, she arrives one week prior to the start of term and goes on a mad dash to hunt for a room.
After making numerous calls and visits, she settles on a unit that is touted to be furnished with air-conditioner and cooking facilities. But what greets her upon moving in, is a cramped room with a single fan and an electric kettle.
Rooms that look vastly different from what is advertised, some with faulty or inadequate facilities, are the type of problems that students have to deal with when it comes to looking for a place to stay.
This is not all, many of them have to put up with unscrupulous and irresponsible agents who often paint a great picture of the rooms and apartments that are to be rented out and demand large deposits.
To address such issues, a group of entrepreneurs decided to set up a website to provide a safe and convenient platform for college and university students to find and book a place to stay.
Hostel Hunting, an online marketplace for student accommodation, is run by My Hostels Sdn Bhd, a start-up headed by Loke Weng Leong, Keek Wen Khai (better known as Khai), Joey Lim and Marcus Low.
“We created Hostel Hunting because we are familiar with the problems that students and property owners face,” said Khai.
“Many of these students are from out of town or foreign countries, so it’s very difficult for them to look for a room just before term starts.
“It’s a time-consuming process for them to look for a place, yet they have to make a decision on short notice. They have no local knowledge of the area they will be studying and staying, and have poor access to information when looking for a room.”
Low added that students are also at the mercy of dishonest property agents, and cited the example of his girlfriend and her group of university friends who lost RM7,000 to a bogus agent.
“Hostel Hunting provides a platform for landlords to reach out to students, for transactions to safely take place, and offers genuine and correct information,” said Khai.
“It offers detailed descriptions and photos of the properties including distance to student’s institution, a private messaging system with the landlord, and ability to rate and review units and landlords.”
In addition, Loke said the company provides the assurance that if the room is different from what was featured in the website upon a student’s check-in, a full refund will be provided.
“The student pays for the first month’s rental deposit through Hostel Hunting and that payment is held for a month. If there are no problems, the deposit is then passed to the landlord.
“However, if there are any discrepancies, such as the room’s amenities not matching what was posted on the website, the student will get a 100% full refund of their booking deposit.
“The company’s services are free for students. We only take 50% of the service fee from the landlord upon a successful booking,” said Loke.
As Hostel Hunting allows room comparisons and encourages reviews, Khai said these serve as an incentive for the landlord to renovate and make their properties presentable and comfortable.
Landlords have to list upfront all the details on their properties, including deposits and advanced rental fees required, distance to nearest educational institutions, facilities provided (type of Internet connection, housekeeping service, furnishing and parking space), house rules and room availability date.
Low said the company is able to assist landlords who are not so tech-savvy.
The properties come in various forms – houses, condominiums or shoplots, with either selected rooms or the entire unit available for rent.
The rooms are available as private or shared types, some with en suite bathrooms.
It offers searches by institution location, preferred area, room type and budget range.
“We provide a zero-risk matching service. However, we’re not involved in the tenancy portion of the deal,” said Loke, adding that Hostel Hunting hopes to raise the quality of accommodation for students.
“Both the landlords and students are obligated to post genuine information on their properties and profiles. And both parties have to reach a mutual agreement for a room to be booked.”
Loke acknowledged that they can’t stop working adults from renting rooms via Hostel Hunting.
Hostel Hunting started off with over 300 rooms in the Subang Jaya and Bandar Sunway areas that belonged to more than 20 owners in December last year, and expanded to include Cyberjaya in March.
“We are now working to include other areas in the Klang Valley by mid-May, such as Setapak, Cheras, Petaling Jaya and Nilai. And we hope to cover the entire country by October,” said Lim, adding that the company plans to promote its services through roadshows at schools, colleges and universities.
He said that it will continue listening to market feedback, and add features or tweak the website to enhance it.
“We are presently offering a school leaver’s grant of a RM300 fee waiver for the first month’s deposit to SPM leavers with 3A’s and above in their results. Applicants must submit a copy of their result for verification purposes,” said Lim.
Meanwhile, Loke said Hostel Hunting is working with various universities and colleges to use its name as an accommodation resource for their students.
KDU University College is one of the institutions that will list the in-house accommodation for its Utropolis Glenmarie and Damansara Jaya campuses on Hostel Hunting’s website.
Speaking on the collaboration, KDU University College Student and Alumni Centre senior manager Mitchell Liong said: “KDU students will have more options in terms of accommodation choices, especially now that we are at our new location (Utropolis Glenmarie).
“As students are able to compare between in-house accommodation provided by the institution and external accommodation, they will be able to decide which is better suited for them and make an informed decision based on that.”
He added that the website’s online tools also help the institution to better track the availability of its in-house accommodation units.
On the types of accommodation provided by KDU, Liong said the Damansara Jaya campus offers student houses and supreme houses located around the campus’ neighbourhood, while the Utropolis Glenmarie has in-house student hostels.