No more shady landlords. No more unfair housing contracts. BYU Capstone Graduates recently launched a website that is turning these statements into reality.
Finding affordable housing in Utah can be a challenge, especially for college students. Part of the difficulty for students is finding housing that is both recommended and has trustable management. All too often, students sign housing contracts for places they haven’t been able to visit in person, which means their hasty signing can lead to living situations that come with unwanted baggage, such as dirty apartments, unresponsive management, or noisy neighbors.
The Lowdown is a website meant to prevent college students from ever signing a contract they’d regret. The idea was originally pitched in a BYU IT & Cybersecurity Capstone class by Rebecca Cazanave, a BYU Graduate with a master’s degree in Creative Writing.
When on the website, college students can leave reviews of places they’ve lived in years prior. The reviews on The Lowdown website are in-depth, with details being shared about the social environment, parking availability, and management responsiveness.
Working for Versity Invest, a real estate investment company located in California, Cazanave was originally tasked with making an online magazine for BYU students that discussed housing needs and availability. After beginning the project, Cazanave realized that she could better solve the students’ problems by creating content for it, rather than just writing about it.
She pitched The Lowdown concept to her boss, and they immediately loved it. “Students helping students find housing.”
Around the same time that The Lowdown was conceptualized, Derek Hansen, a professor in the IT & Cybersecurity program, was looking for companies to sponsor BYU Capstone projects. Rebecca saw his listing online and jumped at the opportunity. Looking back on the process, she commented that for companies considering sponsoring capstone projects, “there’s no downside.”
Using the BYU IT & Cybersecurity Capstone program as an opportunity to launch The Lowdown, Rebecca initially introduced the idea to the Capstone class in August of 2021.
Timothy Gow and Riley Larson were two of the students in the Capstone class where Rebecca initially introduced the idea of “The Lowdown”. After the completion of the Capstone project, they were hired full-time as web developers.
The process to build this website from scratch during the Capstone program was lengthy, with Gow remarking that “by the end of Capstone we had the infrastructure of the website complete… we had all the data for what we wanted in the future.”
Larson also reflected on his capstone experience, stating that despite the difficulty of staying motivated during senior year, he “ended up putting a lot of work into capstone because I wanted to push myself… Often times you have a lot of autonomy. If you want to push yourself, you'll get great skills and experience here you wouldn’t get anywhere else.”
In the time following, the team continued to build the website, generating new reviews and implementing user testing to find out what they could improve upon.
In January of this year, The Lowdown was officially launched for public use. It will continue to be a free platform for students, where Cazanave and her team will grow its size and reach other college campuses.
Jennifer Treter, a Capstone graduate on The Lowdown Team and UX Designer, explained that the team “got it to where people can submit reviews and look at them. That was our huge first step. The next step is incorporating the property managers, basically making it so they can hop on and make contracts available.”
Speaking further on this next step, Riley Larson described how property managers “want leads and people to live in their complexes. Trying to balance that and make it a good experience for students is interesting.”
As The Lowdown continues to grow, we encourage students to leave their own housing review on the website as well! It’s incredible to witness the results of a BYU Capstone project while also being able to contribute to it. In a concluding statement, Cazanave stated the following about the fulfillment she’s seen from this whole process:
“Taking nothing and turning it into something is incredibly rewarding. Watching the right people come into the project at the right time and seeing us develop a project together that is helping students… there's nothing more rewarding than that.”