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Living with a roommate or roommates in NYC isn’t something you only do if you're a cash-strapped 20- or 30-something—more older New Yorkers need to live with roommates to help pay the rent than ever.
Over the past year, the number of 50 or older New Yorkers living with non-relative roommates grew by 27 percent, a surge driven primarily by financial need, according to the roommate matching site SpareRoom, which provided NYC data to Brick Underground from its recent national study on baby boomers living with roommates.
While some older New Yorkers live with a roommate for companionship, the city’s high rents are now pushing one in three to live with a roommate for the very first time, often because of a divorce or other life change. Roughly 24 percent of baby boomers report an income of $30,000-$40,000 and so will likely need a guarantor to rent an apartment.
Nine out of 10 are sharing an apartment because of the cost savings, which SpareRoom says can total more than $25,000 a year.
“People think of apartment sharing as a young person’s game, but that’s no longer the case,” says Tom MacThomas, U.S. general manager for SpareRoom. “The over-50s might not be the biggest group, but they’re definitely the fastest-growing.”
Across the country, more seniors are renting rather than owning, and NYC has the largest share of 60-plus renters than any other big U.S. city—and it’s the only city with more 60-plus renter households than those under age 34, Brick Underground reported in March.
This uptick is expected to continue as one in five Americans will hit retirement age by 2030—and older people are projected to outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history, according to the U.S. Census Bureau
If you’re 50-plus and looking for a roommate in NYC to help with the rent, because you have a spare room, or would just like the company, read on for some tips on what to take into consideration and some sites to start your search.
What to look for in a roommate when you’re 50-plus
Obviously, you’ll want to fully vet—financially and personally—who you’ll be sharing a place with. Brick Underground’s 21 best questions to ask a potential roommate is a good starting point for finding a match at any age, but there are a few other things to think about.
If you’re looking to rent out a room in an apartment you may have lived in for years, make sure to find a roommate who has a similar lifestyle and habits.
“If you’re a morning person, don’t room with a night owl,” says Martin Eiden, a broker at Compass.
To SpareRoom’s MacThomas, shared interests are important, but not as much as shared values, “and that’s a nuanced difference that people don’t really think about, especially when they’re younger,” he says.
It’s great when you and your roommate like the same sports team, foods, wine, or TV shows, but if you have different political or religious views, that could cause a pretty big rift that’s not easy to overcome, so take your time getting to know someone before agreeing to share a place with them.
It’s important to stay “super open-minded,” MacThomas says, and remember that even if it’s your place, as soon as you open it up to a paying roommate, “you’re sharing that space—it’s not just yours alone,” he adds. A roommate has a right to communal space as well.
So an apartment with a separate kitchen, living room, office, or den can be an ideal layout for living with roommates, especially if you'll both spend a lot of nights in.
While you’ll (hopefully) put your roommate on the lease to protect yourself and hold them financially responsible for their half of the rent, you might also want a more personal written contract that covers important cohabitation parameters, such as cleaning the apartment and guests.
“At this stage in life, you have seen many things go awry because there was miscommunication, and a written agreement will minimize this,” Eiden says.
Where to find a roommate when you’re 50-plus
While you might be able to use one of these 14 best websites for finding a roommate in NYC, there are ones that are specifically geared toward the needs older renters.
As with most roommate-finding sites, you’ll have to fill out an online profile to help match you with someone who has similar needs and interests. While some offer full-scale background and credit checks, others don't, but link to resources you can use to do so on your own.
• New York Foundation for Senior Citizens
Founded in 1968, this non-profit, non-sectarian organization has a home-sharing program for seniors in all five boroughs. Potential hosts and guests are interviewed by licensed social workers, and its proprietary Quick-Match computer program “assesses compatibility based on 31 lifestyle objectives” like financial needs, location preferences, and lifestyle objectives, Linda Hoffman, president and founder, tells Brick.
NYFSC also performs background checks on all program participants, conducts phone and in-person “match meetings,” and helps negotiate shared living agreements. Guests can have reduced or no financial contribution at all in exchange for services like helping with errands, or staying in the apartment at night in case of emergency. The current median age of matched hosts through NYFSC is 71, and matched guests is 58, Hoffman says, and most matches are made in Manhattan, where the current median rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $4,425.
• Senior Homeshares
This free service matches homeowners and home seekers based on your profile that covers budget, location, habits, housing and accessibility needs, and more. If you’re not tech savvy, you can designate a friend or family member as a “helper,” or co-user, to navigate your account for you, or use the company’s phone, email, or chat support.
This site matches single, 50-plus women based on similar profile parameters as Senior Homeshares. While it does not offer credit history or criminal background checks, it suggests resources for you to do so. Cost is $30 per month for a two-month minimum.
With this platform, homeowners can offer rent reductions in exchange for help around the house, and you can request a background screening, including eviction history, on any possible renters. It also provides a rent calculator, sets up state-specific homesharing agreements, auto rent payments, and membership includes three 30-minute attorney consultations to help you through the process. Cost is $25 a month.
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