We all want to find the perfect roommate who’s fun to hang out with, isn’t too messy, and importantly, who we can trust not to eat our last Pop-Tart. As it turns out, sometimes the best roommates aren’t our best friends, and sometimes our best friends do not make the best roommates. Finding the perfect person to live with is about compatibility and reliability. Do you both tolerate the same level of noise? Are you early birds or night owls? And if so, will your similar schedules mean fighting over the bathroom or kitchen appliances at the same time every day?
Thanks to the internet and good old-fashioned networking, it’s never been easier to find a roommate. And depending on your situation, there are a few different ways you could go about it.
Someone Who Knows Someone
It’s much easier to share a home with a total stranger if that stranger comes recommended to you by a friend, family member, or coworker. One of the best things about this option is that you know the person you’ll be living with will be accountable to your mutual contact, and no one wants to be responsible for suggesting a roommate that turns out to be a nightmare. This is a great way to find someone if you’re looking for a roommate within your current city or another city where you know plenty of people.
Another way to find a roommate through networking is to send out a general social media announcement explaining your situation. At the end of the day, social media is networks of connected people, and all people need somewhere to live! The further you’re able to extend your message, the more likely you’ll be to find someone, especially if you’re in a time crunch. If you do go this route, remember to be mindful of your privacy settings on the post. It’s a good idea to start by advertising to friends only, or friends of friends, before making the post public.
Sort of like online dating but for roommates, your perfect roommate could be just a click away! Websites like Roommates.com, EasyRoommate.com, and Roomster.com share a standard format – you create a profile explaining a bit about yourself and what you’re looking for, then you scan through existing users in search of those who fit your specific set of criteria. After you narrow down your most promising candidates, you ask each other questions, exchange contact information, and hopefully meet in person and eventually sign a lease. The nice thing about this option is that you can meet and screen potential roommates without the same obligations you might feel if you were recommended someone by, say, a coworker or your aunt. You can chat with these candidates pretty casually, get a feel for who they are, and see if your personalities mesh before jumping into anything.
Online roommate matching services are a particularly great option if you’re moving to a city where you have no contacts, or if no one you know seems to be looking for a roommate.
An Old-Fashioned Ad
While it may seem pretty old school, there’s still something to be said for the classic bulletin board ad requesting a housemate. Be sure to describe your place in helpful detail and include contact information, but hold off on disclosing the address or your full name, since bulletin boards do tend to be pretty public.
Similarly, online ad platforms like Craigslist have “Housing” categories where tenants in search of a roommate can attach photos and descriptions to listings. In some cases, this may be a cheaper alternative to an online match service.
Before You Settle On A New Roommate
It can be tempting to talk to a person once and declare your search over, but just because an individual presents well over the phone or over a quick coffee, doesn’t mean they’re easy to live with, financially stable, or have put forward the most genuine version of their personality in that first impression. Be thorough, and remind yourself (and potential candidates!) that compatibility as housemates is not a judgment call on who someone is as a person.
Don’t Interview Just Once
Don’t offer up your home to someone you’ve met only one time, and make it clear from the get-go that your vetting process will be thorough. This should scare away the candidates who are less serious and let interviewees know that you’re committed to finding the right person, not just any person. Talk to various candidates, and follow up with the ones you think seem the most trustworthy and reliable. The longer your conversation, the more opportunities you’ll have to identify any red flags or obvious incompatibilities.
Ask The Important Questions
Just as your best friend might not make the best roommate, the candidate you chat with most comfortably may have some qualities or a lifestyle that don’t make them the perfect roommate. Plus, asking the right questions puts you in a better position to judge character – someone who avoids answering a direct question or seems to be giving you the runaround may not be the kind of person you want to take a chance on.
- Ask what your candidate does for a living, since it’s pretty important that they be able to pay the rent and bills. If the person you’re interviewing changes jobs a lot, is precariously employed, or doesn’t work at all, it may not be worth the risk to take a chance on them.
- Find out what their living history is like and why they’re looking for a new place. Have they lived with roommates before? What kind of relationship did they have with ex-housemates and why are they parting ways? There’s nothing wrong with wanting to move if you didn’t like your old neighborhood, or your lease is ending, or you’re starting a job in a new city, but someone who has a history of shifting from place to place and not getting along well with former roommates might be bad news.
- Ask about pets, especially if you already have a pet a potential roommate would have to get along with. If a candidate would be moving a pet in with them, ask specifically where it would be kept, what their routine with that pet is like, and what kind of noise you can expect the pet to make.
Be Honest And Upfront
Just like you’re counting on them to be honest with you, it’s your duty to be honest with potential roommates. Telling them right away what your expectations are and alerting them to any potential issues with the unit will minimize the risk of arguing about these things later on, after they’ve already moved in and committed to a lease.
- Tell them the specific costs (or average costs, if bills fluctuate) and how much they’ll be required to pay. Let them know if you expect them to split certain bills or household costs, and be clear about your expectations of how much they should contribute to shared living expenses.
- Be honest about the state of appliances in the unit, whether certain appliances are finicky, and let them know if there are certain ones your unit doesn’t have that they might otherwise typically expect.
- Tell candidates what the water pressure in the shower is like, if the water temperature is consistent, how long it takes for hot water to kick in, and any other water-related concerns.
- If applicable, let them know if the neighbors make a lot of noise and which times they’re most likely to be heard, especially if your potential roommate works from home.
Get Everything In Writing
When you first get into contact with a potential candidate, it’s a good idea to give them a basic outline of the lease over text or email, as well as any other special conditions specific to your unit or situation. This way, you have something to point to if they later try to claim you didn’t tell them or they didn’t know.
It may be awkward, but there should be nothing wrong with getting your new roommate to sign paperwork acknowledging the terms of your agreement. The right person will totally understand, especially since you haven’t known one another very long. Get your chosen candidate to sign the lease, or draw up a sublease agreement so you’ll have a legal backup if they can’t pay the rent or are held financially liable for damage. Once everything’s in writing, you’ll both feel a sense of finality, and can move on to the move in phase.