A Montreal guy has found a brilliant way of finding a Toronto housemate: let the internet do all the work.
Toronto’s rental housing market is tough, especially for a student on a tight budget. One way of saving some money is to move in with housemates, but how does an out-of-towner with few Toronto connections manage that?
Some move into sketchy, semi-legal rooming houses. Some luck out on Craigslist. Hugh Podmore, a 22-year-old McGill graduate currently living in Montreal, is trying out a third way: viral marketing.
That, at any rate, would be one way of describing his approach to finding a housemate, which has consisted of putting together a charming, comic-strip-like photo album of himself, posting it online, and then watching it spread like crazy.
In the photo album, titled “I WANT TO LIVE IN YOUR HOUSE! (But not in a weird way),” Podmore is shown standing in a bare room. Using the whiteboard and some props, he explains his situation in a way that’s both goofy and full of personality.
“As a roommate I keep kitchens/bathroom and shared spaces clean!” says the whiteboard, as Podmore stands next to it with plunger and Windex in hand, diving goggles over his eyes.
In the photos, Podmore also gets across a little about his background and what he’s looking for in an apartment: he’s moving to Toronto to pursue a master’s in earth and space science at York, he likes kite surfing, rock climbing, and quidditch (which they play for real at McGill), and he’s looking for a place with convenient TTC access, and with rent under $650, hydro included.
“The entire point of doing it was that people would get to know me on as personal level as possible without actually meeting me,” Podmore said. “I figured if people saw [the album], and then if they decided that it appealed to them, then people who it appealed to would be people I’d get along with.” He was inspired by an Australian photographer who used a similar method as a way of preventing his camera from getting lost.
The photo approach is a lot more inviting than an email, or a text-only Craigslist ad—and it has the added benefit of being a lot more effective at drawing attention to itself.
“It’s been like an avalanche of social media replies, and some tidbits of actual roommate offers,” Podmore said. “I think I certainly have way more than I started with, and way more than I ever expected to find.”
He originally shared the photo album on Craigslist, but it wasn’t long before someone discovered it and posted it to Reddit Toronto. From there, it worked its way onto Reddit’s front page—a significant accomplishment for any web meme. The album is now making the rounds of local Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. After one day online, its hit counter registers more than 51,000 views.
For Podmore, who says he only has two friends living in Toronto, the reaction has been overwhelming. Some of the responses he’s been getting have been extraordinary. “There’s this really adorable girl on Facebook who responded with a whiteboard presentation of her own,” Podmore said.
He’s particularly interested in living in either the Annex or the Junction.
“And can you mention that I play ultimate frisbee as well?” he asked. “I didn’t include it because I didn’t have a disc when I took the photos.”
Podmore has requested that potential roommates contact him through his Facebook page.
Photos by Hugh Podmore.