Looking for Roommates in New York: The Other Side of the Charade

rommate in new york

You probably have already gathered from my two previous posts (read more here and here) that renting out rooms and looking for roommates is an ongoing flow in New York. And, unfortunately, a quite frustrating flow most of the time. People leave because they move back home. Or because they feel unhappy about their current roommate situation. Or because the 2-hour-commute to work is just too much of a pain the neck. Regardless of all of dubious reasons why people move, looking for roommates is just another part of the game.

Up until recently I was mostly on the other side of the line. I was the one who had to look for a new apartment – and go through my 20-something viewings before picking the right match.

But it has been some lucky 8 months until now and, as the story goes, one of my two roomies decided to move back to California after 5 ½ years of Big Apple time. Well, since moving away from this town is never a month-long-decision, we were left rather short-handed in time to look for another roommate. Speak of 1 week. Although 1 week can be a decent amount with all the candidates looking for a home in this chaotic city.

So we start our casting early on Saturday. Still 5 days to go, no reason to panic yet. Our first one is automatically our favorite: A UK chick, who works for a scientific magazine in Manhattan. Nerd as she stands but with a lovely personality. She is interested in the community garden across the street, as so many other candidates following her. It turns out that the key the roomie purchased for $25 symbolizes the golden passage to a piece of nature right across the street.

Then a French girl walks in, telling us about her current neighborhood. “There are only Mexicans in Sunset Park. They speak Spanish all the time!” “Oh, how do you know they are Mexican? Do you have good restaurants around your place?” my roommate who is moving out replies. Considering the fact that she is of Mexican descent, she already looks quite doubtful at this, in her opinion too honest, candidate. “No, It’s awful, no good restaurants, no bars, nothing!” French girl catapults herself right into the trap. “Well, they surely could be Chilean or Ecuadorian, no?!” my now irritated roommate insists. “No no, they are Mexican for sure!” the Frenchie insists. The male roomie is immediately drawn to her blonde hair and strong accent, trying to find reasons for her to move in. After she clarifies that she will move out in August but come back in December, I pretty much give up. The male roomie suggests that she could always find a sub-renter for those 4 months in between but we look at him quite doubtful. Nice way to bring more random people into our home!

Finally, a Chilean girl appears. She is in her 20ies, works very hard, and will barely be home. She seems nice but apprehensive. Because she is currently living with her ex-boyfriend she is seeking to move out. Of course not an ideal situation to be in, we understand. She would also like her father to stay with us whenever he visits her (How often this might be? Who knows!).

Although we both agree that option 1 and 3 are good solutions, we still wait until Sunday evening to make a decision. Perhaps a mistake, perhaps not. 2 candidates flake out, and the 2 remaining are anything but convincing. A quiet freelance writer and photographer who works in Carroll Gardens but who will be moving out for grad school in Fall (to a different state). Since we already stated in our ad that we are looking for temporary roommates, this really does not work with our schedule.

Then an overly enthusiastic girl who jumps at us from the get-go. “I’m a good roommate!” she proclaims while she flounces through the door. “I am the best in the world and will do anything to bullshit my way into this place” is what her attitude conveys. Her bio is rather not convincing: Studied in London for a while but then came back to her family in New York. Currently lives with her parents. So this overly flaky, overly ridiculous human being is sitting on our couch, patiently telling us about her “awesome” life and that the reason she is an hour late is because she was stuck in traffic coming all the way from Westchester. The female roomie drifts off, checking for further candidates on her e-mail. The male roomie and exchange glances in between. We hardly have a chance to mention what we do but are polite enough to tell her how much utilities cost. The word charade has been just invented for this candidate…

As we make our decision, we discover to our dismay that UK girl is looking for a more “social” environment (think baking cookies and drinking wine together every other night) and Chilean girl is looking for something more permanent (we figured this was a lame let-down).

rommate casting like dating

Therefore, round 3 of our roommate casting begins on Monday. Since it’s only 3 legitimate days of searching to go, we squeeze in a total of 10 candidates in one (!) evening! As the male roomie correctly states, we are starting to resemble a youth hostel. By now we have already noticed that our apartment seems to be “the next hot thing.” Conveniently located from Atlantic Terminal in a 5 minute walk, it offers all commodities of bars, restaurants, and quietness in a great area in Brooklyn! And of course the room is big, as is the price swell for such a thriving hotspot.

I select 8 candidates who pour their heart out to me in their e-mails. Two girls are not even in New York but are eager to set up a skype date or bus the 2-hour route from Philly just to look at our “great room.” I shake my head at how desperate people can seem when looking.

Luckily, I only get to see half of the people. The other half drops by before 8 PM. The other 2 roommates are there to show them the room.
I gather from their sunken faces when I walk through the door that the casting has not yet been a success. “This Israeli girl really felt comfortable around our spot!” female roomie complains. “She was jumping all over our kitchen furniture and just wouldn’t want to shut up.” – “Yeah, I don’t think I’ve ever met a guy who was telling so many lame jokes at once” male roomie chimes in about another person.

Our next candidate is a 25-year-old who works in Dumbo and stems from DC. Although male roomie should be thrilled by this candidate (since he studied and lived in DC), he slumps in our chair and looks at the guy with his mouth halfway open. Think zombie-like fashion. The guy essentially is creeped out and turns towards me and female roomie. He seems to have an interesting life but the vibes are not quite right… Plus the zombie in the corner is very distracting! We talk how roommate casting can resemble dating because you have to discuss so many personal things (Do you have a significant other? How early do you get up in the morning?).

The Ukranian girl who follows next does not approve of the heater making “such loud noises at night.” We are talking about slow wavy motion hollering through the heat. And the guy who follows has awkward social skills and a nervous laugh. Finally, an Australian girl in chic fashion walks through our door. She seems to really want the room, a clear answer we are seeking for. She also seems to fit our personalities, although it is really hard to tell in those 15 minutes we are able to spend with her. We finally simply give up on the idea of interviewing more people on Tuesday and offer her the room. So now it’s another female roomie, me, and the male roomie – trying to make it work!

[Oh and what I will never forget? That one guy who was thrilled by my first response and e-mailed me a total of 3 more times trying to find out our address. “Hi, I am still walking around your neighborhood. It’s pretty cold outside and I’d really like to look at the room if you can squeeze me in!” were his e-mails to me. Get a life, stalker!]

3 thoughts on “Looking for Roommates in New York: The Other Side of the Charade

  1. I tried finding a place in New York. It was hell. I settled for North Jersey near the PATH. Best decision I ever was forced to make because I was too stressed out by anything else.

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