Nothing saves money on rent like having a roommate. But shopping for one during the holidays can be tough sledding. The season is hectic, and community-ad websites can invite creeps, scammers and flakes.
Roommates Wanted NYC and like-minded organizers across the country believe they have the antidote: mixers so potential roommates can check out each other in the flesh. The thinking goes: If you go to a bar looking for love, why not use the same setting to find someone just to share living expenses?Roommates Wanted NYC founders Jeff Orlick and Dene Farrell arrange cocktail parties for housing seekers in New York City every second and third Sunday of the month at five bars, including Creek and the Cave in Queens (Dec. 12 is the next date) and Niagara in Manhattan. The entrance fee is $5 for those needing a room (they wear green stickers) and free for those with a room (they wear red). The proceedings are casual, promise to be broker-free, and the bars usually offer Happy Hour-style deals.
"You get a few drinks in people and they start showing their real personality," Orlick, 29, told WalletPop.
Roommate mixers are also popping up in other expensive urban centers like Boston and San Francisco, and at universities, with many hosts using the same anti-Craigslist, pro-personal approach to attract a crowd.
Food blogger James Boo, 27, who lives in a three-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn, N.Y., got two leads at a Roommates Wanted NYC shindig at Alligator Lounge in Brooklyn and eventually chose one of them. "Overall, this is a very effective screening method, but it's really up to those who attend to ask the questions that matter and take the time to apply appropriate personal filters," Boo wrote in an email to WalletPop. "After all, some crazy roommates don't seem crazy at first glance, and everyone has his or her own definition of unacceptable behavior. A certain modicum of caution is still necessary."
Boo brought a mental checklist to assess candidates' "general schedules, personality quirks, pet peeves, etc."
Orlick acknowledged that what the mixers don't provide is a full read on someone's ability to pay rent. "You don't see everything," he said. "You don't get a credit check. But it's a big part of it: Who they are."
Most of the dozens who attend are in their 20s or 30s, and are new to the city or don't have many friends. Those merely looking to meet new pals in their zip code are not discouraged either.
But Roommates Wanted NYC's raison d'etre is to connect roommates and allow them to save money in the big city. Orlick said he is seeing steady growth toward his desire for each function to attract 100 who are in the market for a roomie.
"All we know is there's something there," he said. "There's a hole and we're trying to fill it."
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