Roommate Match Website Hosts "Speed Roommating" Events
Hell’s Kitchen, NEW YORK– More than 20 New Yorkers mingle their way through the dimly lit bar, some with a friend, some venturing alone. Pink and white nametags labeled either “need a room” or “have a room” guide the search for living arrangements that many find stressful and overwhelming.
SpareRoom.com introduced “speed roommating” to Manhattan in January, advertising its free events on Facebook and Google. With more than 2.1 million users, SpareRoom.com is Britain’s most popular roommate hunting website.
One in four speed roommaters in Britain report finding a match, according to SpareRoom spokesman Matt Hutchinson. The match success rate is not yet known for the New York events, which currently take place every other Wednesday evening at Gossip Bar on 9th Ave. and 49th St.
Geneva School teacher Eunice Lee, 32, heard about SpareRoom from her roommate, whom she found on Craigslist two and half years ago. While happy with the result– “We’re soulmates,” Lee said about her current roommate– the process of searching, emailing and scheduling visits took more time than she would have liked.
“It’s just like dating,” Lee said. “That’s why I’m going to try speed roommating for the next couple of weeks."
Originally, the events resembled speed dating. Participants who needed a room would sit on one side of a venue and those who needed a roommate would sit on the other, rotating every seven minutes. But the seven minutes were six minutes too many for New Yorkers, and it was inefficient for them to meet every person when ages, genders, price ranges and personalities can filter the search from its start.
In Britain, speed roommating (called flatmating there) has enough attendees that events are held in specific neighborhoods, attracting more suitable matches in taste and price.
“The plan is to do this in New York once the numbers have risen,” Hutchinson said. “Brooklyn and Queens would seem to be the obvious places for neighborhood events, so we’ll look at the ads on SpareRoom and see which areas are likely to be most useful to people.”
Lee’s current roommate, Caitlin Donovan, 27, has been using SpareRoom to find a new roommate in London, where she will move in May.
“It’s just been nice to connect with the same kind of people, people moving to London from here,” Donovan said. “I was excited when I heard they were doing [speed roommating] here in New York.”
Lee is asking $1,300 a month for her apartment on the Upper East Side. “It’s a really nice apartment,” Donovan said, who accompanied Lee to a speed roommating event and helped screen potential roommates for Lee.
The next speed roommating event is on Wednesday, May 2 from 7-9 pm.