After Alexandria Rosario, 21, spent a year working on Florida Atlantic University's campus, she decided she wanted to help others achieve a dream — the American dream.
Creating a student housing website, BocaStudents.com, last September, just after most students were settled for the semester, came next.
Rosario, who worked as a property manager and joined the National Association of Realtors before she was even legally allowed to drink, is succeeding in a niche market she says most landlords are "hesitant" to work within.
Now, BocaStudents is expanding south to help those at FAU's Davie campus find housing nearby, with Rosario hiring another Realtor from Keller Williams Realty to help rebrand the site as SouthFloridaStudents.com.
"Honestly I think students are the easiest people to rent to, I think it's more of everybody else being aware that students are not horrible renters ... they think students are loud, obnoxious, they're going to destroy everything," Rosario says. "Really, that's not usually the case."
To date, Rosario says she's helped more than 20 students find housing. And although students could use other sites like SizzlingCollegeHousing.com, or the more established, Boca-based FloridasBestRealty.com, which started as a student housing site in 2001, Rosario's site features a "Roommates" tab that she says has helped dozens more find affordable living situations.
Sherrika Mitchell, 21, lived on campus and worked with Rosario before deciding to use BocaStudents.com.
"Lexi found me a place a lot cheaper than actually living on campus, and it's in a convenient location," Mitchell says.
That location is a three-bedroom apartment in a Delray Beach community that Mitchell shares with roommates she was paired with through Rosario.
But there's more to Rosario's success than just knowing a few FAU students and their friends at nearby colleges, according to Marshall Sklar, creator of FloridasBestRealty.com.
Sklar says Rosario is right about landlords who worry about renting to college students over other groups.
"Most people in general are skeptical of college students but what they overlook is that there are students enrolled at FAU and other local universities that range from 17 years of age to over 80," Sklar says.
In most cases, Sklar's firm and Rosario's site circumvent the assumptions of landlords, either by collecting a full security deposit or having parents or guardians co-sign when students can't prove their monthly income is at least three times their rent. Sklar also agrees with Rosario that the student housing market is one of the toughest in the real estate business.
"Many have tried, most have failed," Sklar says. "All it takes is one unhappy client or a bad review online and your entire business can be affected."
Rosario says the behind-the-scenes frustration of working with students all become worth it in one moment: "When you get to see their faces when they find the place that they're looking for."
Dbouscher@SunSentinel.com, 954-644-3264, or tweet @DylanBouscher
Are you a South Florida college student still looking for housing this fall?
Visit BocaStudents.com for details on group showings for apartments in the following areas: