U.K.'s Speed Roommating Finds a Place in New York

Someone once told me that you're not a true New Yorker until you've had one really bad roommate experience. If we're going by that criterion alone, then this means I'm a true New Yorker about six times over.

From messiness, to weird habits, to downright creepiness (ever had a roommate who preferred watching TV au naturel -- in a shared studio?), trying to find someone compatible to share an apartment with can be a stressful and harrowing experience, particularly in large cities like New York.

But not if the folks at SpeedRoommating have anything to do with it. The overwhelmingly popular U.K.-based SpeedRoommating service, which aims to ease the search for compatible roommates by providing a fun, safe, social setting for potential roommates to get acquainted, has announced that it's setting up shop in New York City.

According to SpeedRoomating's Matt Hutchison, the service's simple concept (inspired by the idea of speed dating) will save New Yorkers from commuting back and forth across the city, inspecting apartments -- only to discover that the roommates just aren't a good fit. The service's selling point is that in a single, one-hour, casual bar event, they will be able to meet a number of potential candidates in the time it would normally take to review a single apartment.

"Sharing an apartment is all about people, so it makes sense to meet them first," explains Hutchison. "If you're buying a place, then price and location are the most important factors. But if you're sharing it's more about who you'll share with -- an amazing apartment shared with roommates you don't like is never as good as an OK apartment with great roommates."

The idea was born in 2004 by Gemma Allen-Muncey, the director of the widely successful SpareRoom.com, who thought that adding a "speed dating" element to the roommate-finding process would be interesting. Seven years later, over 10,000 people have attended SpeedRoommating events in London alone (where it's called "SpeedFlatmating"). The concept has also been widely copied across the globe, even in Baltimore, Maryland where similar nonprofit-run speed roommating events have proven highly successful.

And next month, SpeedRoommating will descend upon New York City.

"New York has many of the same problems as London," Hutchison says of the company's decision to launch in the Big Apple. "It's big, expensive and there's a constant stream of new people moving to the city all year-round. The best places tend to go quickly, so getting a chance to meet lots of roommates in one go speeds up the process."

Hutchison revealed that SpeedRoommating's first Manhattan event will be held sometime in January to coincide with the launch of SpareRoom.com New York. Though the official event date hasn't yet been confirmed (it will be announced on the website by the end of the year), SpeedRoommating already has created a lot of buzz thanks to an active Twitter feed and word-of-mouth.

"I'd definitely check it out," says 24-year-old Lauren Rodrigue, a Brooklyn resident currently seeking a new apartment via Craigslist. "Finding roommates is one of the hardest parts of moving to New York and it sounds like this would make that process a little more palatable. Especially if drinks are involved."

UPDATE: The official date of the SpeedRoommating launch event has been confirmed for Wednesday, January 11, at Gossip Bar on 733 Ninth Avenue. The event runs from 7:00pm - 9:00pm and entry is free (with a complimentary drink). You must RSVP online.

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