Student Mietta Marchingo is among an increasing number of young people turning to Facebook groups to find affordable rentals with suitable housemates.
Marchingo, 19, who lives in inner suburban Melbourne, says many of her friends have had more experience dealing with Facebook groups than with professional agencies.
After relocating from Central Victoria to study, Marchingo sifted through prospective houses on The Rent Network (Melbourne) until coming across a place that felt like home. She shares a four-bedroom Victorian home in Brunswick with three others, ranging in age from late teens to early 30s.
Facebook now hosts several rental groups through which young people are finding ways to bypass real estate agents and connect directly with established share-house occupants.
Groups such as The Rent Network, enable lower-income students and young adults to apply for cheap, safe, shared rentals. House-hunters can publish posts on the Facebook sites, including detailed descriptions of their preferred price-range and house-mate traits, and those with available rooms can then interact with any potential new tenants.
Marchingo says interviewing for a new housemate did not run smoothly.
“We advertised on the Rent Network and had people drop out of interviews at the last minute, not show up,” she says. “It was just generally pretty awful and very awkward.”
The Rent Network was founded by 25 year-old Perth native Kate Miller, who has watched multiple like-minded groups spring up. Fairy Floss Real Estate, Queer Housing Melbourne and Melbourne Sustainable Sharehouse Service are just some of the rental communities young Melbournians have created in their fight for cheap and accessible housing options.
Miller created the Facebook rental communities after watching friends face difficulties in both the Perth and Melbourne housing markets. Two friends resorted to “couch surfing” while others tackled the dangers of meeting anonymous potential housemates via classifieds websites such as Gumtree, she says.
She found real estate agencies were also hesitant to approve tenants under-30 and decided to turn her frustration into the creation of a young people’s rental network, a space that is “easily accessible, safe and secure”.
The Rent Network (Melbourne) has had a rapid growth in numbers, with more than 17,000 members since its inception in 2013. More than 25,000 people have joined the Rent Network groups in total. Members are accepted into the private group by approved page administrators, and are then free to post descriptions and photos to prospective housemates or tenants.
Miller says she believes the convenience of using Facebook as the portal to housing connections as well as socialising is a contributing factor in its efficiency and success.