Perfect Strangers: How to Find Roommates in NYC

Sometimes it feels like it’s easier to find a soul mate than a roommate. If you’re lucky, you can find both in the same person! If you’re not so lucky, you have a long road ahead of you.

This article is here to make that road shorter and less bumpy. It’s a guide on how to find roommates in the city that never sleeps, New York City! Hopefully your new roomie will. Without the snoring. 

There are lots of places to live in New York City. One thing that makes unique New York so unique is that the city is made up of five boroughs, each with different pros and cons of their own, giving you more diverse choices in terms of housing, costs, attractions and accessibility.

Where You Can Live In New York City

The five boroughs are Manhattan, Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens and Staten Island.

Brooklyn is by far the best representative of different environments. Brooklyn is a mix of wealthy, trendy and working-class. The population of Brooklyn is actually the highest of the five boroughs, with over two and a half million residents.

Queens is a more predominantly working class borough, although it is up and coming in the trendy department, as artists and young professionals flee the rising prices in the already gentrified areas of Brooklyn. Immigrant communities also make up a large part of the tapestry that is Queens. Queens’ population is catching up to Brooklyn at the speed of a Dodger, with a little over two million people residing in Queens. 

Manhattan is the borough everybody pictures when they think of the New York City they’ve seen in beloved series like ‘Seinfeld’ and ‘Sex And The City’. Manhattan is the ultimate melting pot. However, with real estate prices in the most coveted borough of the five being what they are, you might need multiple roommates in NYC if you want to live in Manhattan among the nearly two million residents.

The Bronx is an interesting mixture of urban and nature. The Bronx has flavor and culture all its own, even though you just have to travel uptown to get there. With a population just under one and a half million, The Bronx would be the ninth most populated city in the United States if ranked among all cities in the country.

The other island and fifth borough, Staten Island, is accessible by Ferry. It is mostly suburban. Staten Island has the smallest population of the five boroughs. Just half a million!

Besides comparing the boroughs to see which fits your needs, budget and lifestyle best, each borough can be further broken down into neighborhoods. You can really narrow your search, which is helpful when searching online or entering keywords or identifying a listing.

This research can also come in handy to protect yourself. If you have made yourself familiar with the neighborhoods and the average prices in the area, then you will be able to call out potential roommates or landlords that are trying to overcharge you.

Even before looking for a roommate, it is prudent to choose the area that will serve your purposes best, instead of the other way around: finding a roomie, but then discovering that the neighborhood is not for you. 

Find roommates in NYC

What Kind Of Roommate Are You?

Who are the people who might need a roomie? Could you be one of them? 

Roommates are for all kinds of people, young and old! Literally, young and old. Statistics show that the two age groups with the highest percentage of renters among them were in the categories of under thirty and over sixty. In fact, the percentage of twenty-three to twenty-nine year-old adults living with roommates rose almost fifty percent in the last five years.

Studies report that New Yorkers spend over sixty percent of their income on rent. Nothing of which to be ashamed. Forty percent of New Yorkers live with someone to whom they are not married or related, ten percent higher than the national average of thirty percent. So it’s considered normal. 

The average median income in New York City is close to four thousand dollars a month, which renders it no big surprise that many people live with roommates in NYC. A roommate can bring costs down to as small an average as twelve hundred dollars per roomie per month.

Beyond that, everybody has their reasons, just like you have yours. Be sure to ask any potential roommates what their reasons are, to aid in measuring your compatibility. 

Roomy With Benefits

No, not that kind! Other kinds! Like more room, less cost.

For example, As the number of bedrooms increases, the price decreases exponentially. Therefore, wouldn’t it be significantly cheaper to get a roommate for a two-bedroom than take on a one-bedroom to yourself?

Think about it. What kind of person are you? Do you value your privacy? Do you enjoy companionship at home? These are the questions one must ponder when considering a roommate. 

Many people don’t even make as much income as the cost of their rent in New York City, and are forced regardless of their preference to make due with a roommate.

Thus, services and strategies exist that can make your selection process smoother and more reliable, which this article will get into in just a moment.

Consider Co-Living

Before delving into tips on how to find roommates in NYC, here is another option which has sprung up in recent times: Co-living.

What is Co-living? 

A new platform has emerged recently which solves some common roommate problems. They are known as co-living spaces. 

Co-living spaces come with furnished rooms, so there are no disputes over damaging each other’s furniture.

Co-living spaces come with wifi and other utilities included in the price, so you don’t have to worry about what is in whose names and splitting up the bills. They also tend to include amenities such as laundry facilities on site.

Some co-living spaces go even further with the amenities, providing a place for you and your roommate to socialize with each other and others. Amenities such as cafes, lounges, workout spaces and even rooftop pools!

Finally, co-living provides an answer to a common and evergreen roommate dispute: cleanliness! Many co-living spaces include weekly cleaning fees in the price. 

Check out Common, which also offers pairing services and not the wine and cheese kind. Or ALTA living units in the Queens borough neighborhood of Long Island City or AYA on the Upper East Side.

Roommate Responsibilities

Of course, you and your new roommate will have a responsibility to each other. Living spaces are sacred. The privilege of having a roommate comes with certain obligations.

The first obligation is the landlord. Are you the one moving in? Or is a potential roomie going to be moving in with you? Whichever arrangement is being made, the terms of the lease and the landlord must be reviewed, preferably by both parties. Do you have to notify the landlord? Is it necessary to add the roommate to the lease? These are questions you will need answered. 

Even if signing a lease is not involved, it is good practice and due diligence to at least sign a personal agreement, drawn up between the two of you, or taken from an online template, or prepared by a lawyer, if it doesn’t add an unnecessary and burdensome cost to the proceedings.

Negotiation Is A Two-Way Street

Remember, negotiation is a two-way street. All the best negotiating coaches will remind you that in negotiations you should always be working towards a win-win outcome. Negotiations are as much there to protect you as they are for the other party to make their demands. You may be getting involved in a long term situation you will be legally bound to uphold so don’t skip this step. 

Topics you will want to cover include house rules. Agree on these ahead of time to minimize disputes arising later. House rules can include guest policy, substance policy (drugs and alcohol) and even what groceries are shared.

Basically, get a feel for each other’s lifestyles and how rigid each of you are. Because there will inevitably exist, in most or all cases, shared spaces such as the kitchen and the bathroom, not to mention the living room.

Another thing to discuss is cleanliness. You can make a schedule but not everybody can always stick to it. Don’t forget the cost of cleaning supplies! Splitting the bill for a cleaning service, since you are already roommates, is another option that makes sense.

Discuss these things ahead of time to ensure the situation doesn’t turn unpleasant fast. Do you really want to be looking for another roommate or apartment just two months later? 

Roommate Agreement

What To Look and Look Out For

Similar interests are great, and where you look for a roommate will have a great effect on the chances of similar interests. This article will dive into that shortly.

But similar interests are kind of a bonus, really. The truth is, both parties share a common need: housing. Sacrifices and compromises will have to be made.

Some common ground you can try to tread on include work schedules, apartment layout and budget.

Similar work schedules can have both pros and cons. If you both work during the same hours, it is less likely one of you will bother the other by staying up past bedtime hanging out with noisy companions. On the other hand, if you both come home at the same time, neither of you will ever have the home all to yourself and it may always seem crowded! You can see the need for coordination.

The layout of the apartment should be discussed. Who will stay in which room? Where will things be stored? Don’t forget policies for common living spaces. 

Budget is important as well. Can your roommate afford all the costs? Will they be a burden on you? When one person has much more money than the other, it can become a sticking point. 

What To Ask For

Pretty much whatever a landlord asks for. A landlord protects himself and there is no reason you shouldn’t as well.

Asking for references may seem a little creepy. But honestly, this is the bare minimum and probably least intrusive of the other documents you might ask for. 

You will want to ask where they work and while discussing finances can be an uncomfortable conversation, it is a good barometer of how comfortable and forthright the other party is willing to be. Asking directly a potential roommate’s income can be tricky; On the other hand, it is necessary to be certain they can afford their share of the rent.

Work history is important too. If they change jobs a lot, they might not be good at the commitment it takes to rely on a roommate. If there is a risk of long(or short) periods of unemployment, there is a risk they won’t be able to cover their expenses in that period.

Luckily, these days, you can complete a lot of investigation of your own volition, thanks to social media. You can confirm many work details by researching a potential roommate’s LinkedIn account. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are also viable options for discovering common interests and identifying potential disagreements that could arise. It may seem creepy, but it is potentially less uncomfortable than an in-person conversation.

Just remain aware that a person’s presentation on social media can also be misleading. And remain aware that most likely they are doing the same thing to you. 

Protection is Nine Tenths Of the Law

There really is nothing wrong with protecting yourself. Feel emboldened to ask for pay stubs, if you will be adding the roommate to a lease, or especially if the lease is in your name and you will be shouldering all the responsibility in your name. 

Conversely, if you are moving in on someone else’s lease, ask to see it. Check-in with the landlord yourself. Ask to see proof of rental balance and receipts. Confirm that it is legally allowed in the lease for you to move in. Also confirm that there are no unpaid balances that might put your living situation at risk should the roommate default on their responsibilities and leave you holding the ball. 

Keep in mind that it is also illegal in New York City to charge a boarder more than the amount of the monthly rent. If the rent is two thousand a month, the roommate can’t charge you twenty-two hundred a month. They are not permitted to make a profit as a private citizen. That may seem logical, natural and ethical, but to prevent it still requires a law.

They can charge you more than half the rent, to save themselves some dough, and you could potentially do the same if you are on the receiving end of the roomie situation. But it’s super unethical and you wouldn’t want someone to do it to you. 

Most landlords and every rental company run credit checks. It’s an option, but it’s a little more cumbersome for the private citizen. The renter will probably not agree to the fee, leaving you to pay for it. And you have to ask for personal data, such as social security numbers. It’s possible if you really require it, but it will be more problematic and raises privacy issues. 

This may seem like a lot and very intense, but it’s really not the worst and both parties should be understanding of the need to vet one another. Housing is complicated in almost every country. You don’t even want to know all the stuff they ask for in Paris! 

A Central Perk

One of the most important factors is chemistry, really. You both have a mutual need but what’s the vibe? Trust is important, you know? 

Besides all this pseudo-bureaucratic paperwork and procedure, have a cup of coffee together! There may not be a real Central Perk in New York City – save the occasional pop-up event – but there are plenty of coffee shops that offer a friends-ly atmosphere. Where you might expect Monica or Chandler or Rachel or Ross or Phoebe or Joey or any combination of the six to pop in at any moment!

Talk a little with each other, get to know each other, have a conversation. Despite all the security concerns, don’t forget there is a human being at the core of it, just like you. You never know what you might find you have in common. 

Let The Search Party Begin!

You must be feeling good and ready now, armed with a strategy and procedure. You’ve done the background work. Where to start? 

Ask your friends. Put the word out. You need a roommate. You have an extra room. A  ‘Search party’ is a good idea, where you invite friends over for hor d’oeuvres, drinks and an announcement.

It is always better to find a roommate through personal acquaintances, a built-in reference. Plus, if they are friends and you are friends, it is more likely you might share common interests. 

Alumni networks are a great place to start. Reach out to your former university. They usually have services for alumni who are trying to find roommates in NYC, linking them with other alumni who need a place to live. Conversely, if you are looking for a room, alumni who are offering. 

Colleagues! Put a flyer up at work. Put the word out to your network of professionals. Ask around at the office. Again, since your co-workers kind of know you and know other professionals, you are more likely to find a personal reference and maybe even common interests. But at least somebody with a job!

Perhaps you don’t live in New York City but plan to move there. One way to find out what options you have is to send out social media posts. Google the social media hashtags associated with renting in New York City. This research will be very valuable in any case.

It even applies to those already living in New York City. Let your social media followers know you have a room or are looking for one. This is a quick way to cast a wide net. It may not be as personal but it gets results. 

Finally, New York City is full of rental agencies and private brokers brimming with properties. They can often pair you with someone on an already existing lease. Of course, there will be a fee for using their service and sometimes it can be steep.

And yes, Craigslist still exists! And it is a viable option, don’t knock it. As long as you apply all the due diligence outlined in earlier sections. 

A Net Full Of Resources

Speaking of the original world wide web rental listing service, explore the internet. There are a number of websites which offer services related to finding a roommate. Here’s a quick rundown:

  1. Facebook Groups – After googling some hashtags, it should be fairly easy to find some of the best Facebook Groups related to finding a roommate in New York City.
  2. Spare Room – Spare Room is an active web community. You can enter search criteria to find potential roommates. You can post an ad for free or pay a little for a higher search ranking. They also offer events and contests.
  3. Listings Project – This is a free weekly email list. You can also post an ad for a low fee. The list is privately curated. It especially caters to artists who have special needs like space to create. 
  4. Roomi – Roomi is an app. The staff vets all candidates and there is a chat feature so you can connect directly with your potential roomie. 

Not on the internet in New York City is one more service, for those of you who fall in the previously mentioned older people category. Check out the New York Foundation For Senior Citizens Home Sharing Program if you are over sixty. Many of the candidates there aren’t in it for the money! They are just looking for companionship or a little help around the house. 

Now hit the ground running and launch your search for the perfect soul mate – I mean, roommate! Hopefully both. Good Luck!