Best way to look for apt share in NYC?
April 4, 2014 9:13 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for an apt share in NYC within 20 minutes or so to midtown by train. Is craigslist the best place to look? Do you have any general tips on how to do the search, what to avoid? My experience so far is that it can look good on photos but still be very rundown, but no photos/details is likely to be even that much worse.
posted by rainy to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think your budget will be your greatest constraint. but yes, craigslist is going to be your best bet.
posted by larthegreat at 9:15 AM on April 4, 2014

Craigslist is the best place to look.

However, if you are also a student, check your university's housing office, as they sometimes have notices from people offering apartment shares. People don't necessarily have to be students to post ads on a university's housing notice board, but you do have to be a student to search for and respond to a given university's ads. (I was one such person in January and found my current awesome NYU-Doctoral-candidate-roomie that way.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:21 AM on April 4, 2014

20 minutes from Midtown means it's not your market (i.e. the person renting the room has the upper hand.) You're going to be competing with people to be someone's roommate. So be quick.

So keep a really vigilant eye on Craigslist, because that will be your best bet. The only thing you can tell from photos is if the place is guaranteed to be a shithole; other than that, the only way you can tell is just by wandering around the apartment and seeing it for yourself.

Are you looking in the boroughs or are you trying to find a place in Manhattan?
posted by griphus at 9:28 AM on April 4, 2014

Post to Facebook and ask friends (even non NYC friends) to repost. I found a great (albeit short-term) room in Astoria this way.
posted by justjess at 9:33 AM on April 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, Craigslist, and yes cast a really wide net and write a nice little description of yourself that uses proper grammar/complete sentences and shows off how normal you are (you are clean, respectful, busy and not around the apartment too often, etc).

Set up as many viewing appointments as possible and be ready to tell someone you'd be willing to take the room on the spot if you do find a place you like with a roommate that seems fine. You will be running around all over town and it's work keeping a close eye on craigslist/responding all the time but it's worth it.

When I moved to the city I found a place this way within 24 hours of arriving in town. I could not love my living situation more.
posted by windbox at 9:34 AM on April 4, 2014

Oh, and keep in mind you're competing with people who will go to look at a place and write a check for the deposit/first month's rent/whatever on the spot.

You don't have to do that, but keep it in your arsenal. There's a lot of people with more money than either prudence or time to spare.
posted by griphus at 9:46 AM on April 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Craigslist.

I haven't specifically used it to find NYC shares, but I'm really liking the new map listing function. That'll make it a lot easier to figure out what neighborhoods you're potentially looking at.

When looking at listings, your first priority is that it sounds like it was written by human beings.

What you don't want:

Room to rent in 3 bdr. Kitchen access. Near shops/transit. First/last/security.

What you do want:

(I just copy and pasted this from an actual craigslist apartment listing.)

I am looking for a roommate to share my 2 bedroom apartment, starting June 1st. It is at the edge of [REDACTED]... about a 10 min. walk from the F & G trains at [REDACTED]. It' s a great neighborhood, full of restaurants and shops and very safe. The apartment is spacious, with 2 bedrooms at opposite ends and a shared living room, walk in closet, kitchen and bath in between. The available bedroom is in the back, 11ft x 14ft large and very sunny, with three windows on two sides. Rent is $1250, with a 1 month security deposit. Utilities and cable are $150/ month each on average.

As for me, I am a female [REDACTED] in my early [REDACTED]' s. I work from home sometimes, enjoy cooking and occasionally have friends over. I have 2 very sweet cats. I would like a roommate, who is considerate and reasonably tidy. It would also be nice to have dinner or a glass of wine together from time to time. If this sounds like a good fit, please e-mail me with a bit of information about yourself. Then we can set up a time for you to look at the apartment in person.


Make sure you are 100% comfortable with the gender, age, lifestyle, and career breakdown of the prospective roommate. In fact, I would be negative on an ad that doesn't list this type of thing. Living with a 22 year old guy who works on Wall Street is a really, really different thing from living with a 52 year old woman who is a freelance graphic designer. You might be tempted to be all like "ooh, no, I wouldn't want to juddddgge anyone!" Au contraire. You are living with this person. You have to judge them. I mean, don't be an asshole, and judging what brand of jeans they wear is not helpful. But you have to live with this person. Someone who smokes in the apartment, is an active member of a proselytizing religion, has four small dogs, is an EDM DJ, whatever -- those are things you wouldn't judge in a coworker or a person at a dinner party, but you have to judge in a roommate.

Also, photos of the apartment. If there are no photos in the ad, nope. I'm a weirdo snob and have opinions on things like bathroom tile, and you don't have to be a fancy-ass Oscar Wilde jerk like me. But you want to see that the bedroom has a window. That there is natural light. That it's not in a basement. Etc.

One more thing - pay attention to how close it is to whatever your transit point will be for your commute, whether that's a bus or subway line, the PATH train, a particular bridge, whatever. It's easy to be lulled into a great deal in a great neighborhood and then realize your commute involves a 15 minute walk to the G train. All those "15 minutes from Grand Central!" promises are not to be trusted. Time out the commute yourself with Google Maps, if you don't know the neighborhood that well.
posted by Sara C. at 9:48 AM on April 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

Listings Project is Craigslist for NYC apartment shares (and studios and sublets, etc.) with fewer options but a much higher signal-to-noise ratio.
posted by caek at 9:48 AM on April 4, 2014

Just to clarify, I meant I haven't used the new map function to find roommates on Craigslist. I have used Craigslist many times to find roommates in NYC, in general. Every time has not only been a success, but a great roommate experience.
posted by Sara C. at 9:51 AM on April 4, 2014

Response by poster: Griphus: at this point, looking for a place in Manhattan.

Sara C.: a lot of great points, that's pretty much what I figured out after 2 weeks of looking so far. I'm using gallery feature because I can already accurately guess which area it's in from title / photo / price.
posted by rainy at 10:05 AM on April 4, 2014

Best answer: Another great tool is TripTropNYC from Mefi's own soma lkzx. It'll help you determine what is really 30 minutes away and what isn't. Plug in any NYC address, and it will show you what areas you can reach in 10, 20, 30 minutes, etc., based on walking and public transit.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:45 AM on April 4, 2014 [5 favorites]

When interviewing potential roommates, I always checked to see what their cleaning preferences/ standards are. Someone who says I don't mind cleaning the bathroom, but I hate to vacuum is likely to be realistic, and it's important to have standards that don't conflict too much. Also, same with noise.
posted by theora55 at 1:03 PM on April 4, 2014

Hey, I just did this!

I used the shared-room and by owner only sections of Craigslist. I didn't particularly look for "human" listings, as Sara C describes, but when I found one I did think about what that listing revealed about their desires and try to present myself in a way that would appeal to that. For example, one person name-dropped her school and career and posted very "grown-up" photographs (e.g., matching hardwood furniture). Another described himself as "chill", had some open magazines on the kitchen table, and wrote mostly in bullet points. These two people got very different emails from me.

Every time I visited a place, I brought proof of income (last year's W-2 and a few pay stubs) and a checkbook. I also thought carefully about what I wanted and what I could live with, so I could make decisions quickly once I saw the place. This sounds crazy until you realize that, in the end, I had about fifteen minutes to decide whether I wanted to put down a deposit. It pays to do as much thinking as possible beforehand.

I always paid much more attention to the people than the apartment itself. (That may not work for you; I think I have unusually low requirements of my housing.) I basically made sure all the fixtures worked and there weren't obvious signs of water damage, pestilence, and so on. Mostly I asked questions about their lives and how they felt about various bits of my lifestyle. The kitchen, noise, and general cleaning are the usual points of contention.

A warning if you're new to renting in Manhattan: People will be shockingly rude and completely unapologetic about it. A typical interaction might look something like this: you email their craigslist redirect, they send you a curt text message asking if you can come in the next three hours, you ask for the exact address and get no reply until five minutes before the appointed hour, they double-book you with another person, they tell you they'll call later that day with a decision, you never hear from them again. (Or worse, they tell you the apartment is yours and suggest meeting the day after tomorrow for paperwork and payments, then tell you that somebody else got them a deposit later that day.) Try not to take it personally.
posted by d. z. wang at 9:45 PM on April 4, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks to all who answered!
posted by rainy at 1:39 PM on April 6, 2014

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