Finding a roommate on Craigslist is notoriously unpredictable. It’s just as possible to get lucky with a perfect living situation as it is to be stuck with a disaster.
Perhaps going offline is the solution. SpeedRoommating aims to take the guesswork out of finding a fitting place to live. Roommate compatibility is the first order of business in the speed dating-like events, held roughly every two weeks since making their U.S. debut in New York this January.
The events are an offshoot of Spareroom.com, the roommate-finding service, which serves a similar function to Craigslist, but with a more user-friendly interface. The site started its first “Speed Flatmating” events in the U.K. in 2004, and the events are much like the speed-dating events they’re based on. Upon entering the bar, prospective roommates fill out nametags with their names, their preferred living areas and their price ranges, and chat with like-minded potential roommates as well as those offering a room to rent.
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“The whole roommate-finding thing moved online in the late ’90s, early 2000s, and that’s great, it’s a great way to find things,” says Matt Hutchinson, director of SpareRoom.com. “But the interesting thing is these events bring it full circle, so it takes it back offline into the physical world.”
Those in attendance don’t always walk away with a roommate — though Hutchinson mentions a story of a woman arriving at an event with her luggage and leaving with an apartment to live in. The event generates no profit (attendees get one free drink each), but SpareRoom makes up for the loss by directing traffic to the company’s apartment-search website. And Hutchinson points to a wider benefit, saying that those who don’t leave the event with a lease agreement often find people with whom they can search for apartments, or even just compare search strategies.
“There’s a lot of different stories out there,” says Danny Ugarte, a student who attended the event hoping to find a place to live in New York City. “So you just have to find the right one and the right fit.”
After making the rounds during the first few minutes of a SpeedRoommating event in February, Ugarte huddled around an iPad with a new acquaintance as the two compared apartment-searching strategies. That connection didn’t result in a new roommate, but three days later, Ugarte signed a short-term lease with a landlord he met at the event.
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