Living with a roommate is a smart way to lower the cost of renting an apartment. In some cases, taking on a roommate will help you find a nicer rental than you might be able to afford on your own. But it’s crucial to find the right person to live with, or you could face serious issues for the duration of your lease.
In this article, we’ll discuss where to look for a roommate, how to vet your prospects to find the perfect match, and provide tips for living together successfully. Let’s dive in.
Round up some candidates
Before you can find the perfect roommate, you need a pool of candidates to work with. Below are some ideas for where to begin looking for your future housemate.
There are a number of apps and websites that were built specifically to help individuals match with prospective roommates. These include platforms like Roommates.com, Roomi, and Room Surf among others.
These platforms help you browse roommate ads and create your own. Some of them have their own background check processes, making it easy to vet your prospective roommate before you get attached.
Some of these platforms are paid, but it may be worth it to you to spend a little money to simplify your roommate search.
Ask your network
You want a roommate you can trust, so where better to find that person than through family, friends, and co-workers? Tap into your existing relationships and let people know that you’re on the hunt for a roommate.
Since your friends and loved ones already know your personality and lifestyle, they’ll be able to connect you with individuals they think you would mesh with (and steer you clear of anyone you wouldn’t).
Let your friends and co-workers know that you’re looking for a roommate and mention any prerequisites you have, such as a pet policy or the neighborhood you’re hoping to live in. This will help people qualify candidates before they put them in touch with you, thus saving you work down the road.
Social media can be a powerful way to connect with like-minded individuals, so why not use it to further your roommate search?
Use Facebook groups to connect with people in your area who have shared interests. There may be a group highlighting local rentals, meetups, or a group for an activity you’re passionate about, such as hiking or skiing.
Create a post outlining that you’re looking for a roomie and arrange some coffee chats to meet with potential candidates.
You can also leverage Instagram stories, Twitter, or simply your own followers to help find a roommate. Ask your followers if they know of anyone looking for a shared living situation in your area, and let the referrals roll in. Or, create an Instagram story outlining what you’re looking for and use location tags to get it in front of people in your area.
With any luck, you’ll wind up with a few candidates this way.
Create an ad
Platforms like Craigslist and Nextdoor are promising places to post ads for roommates. Try to create a detailed ad so that your pool of applicants is well-targeted.
If you already have an apartment, include a description of the room your roomie would be renting as well as the common areas, the amenities offered, and the monthly expense of living there. Include a description of yourself, your interests, and your lifestyle to help attract someone you will be compatible with.
If you don’t have an apartment already, create a similar ad highlighting what you’re looking for in a rental, your desired neighborhood and amenities, and your budget.
Do you attend a university or post-secondary institution? Did you recently graduate? The institution’s alumni network could be the perfect place to find a roommate who shares your lifestyle and values.
Search Facebook and LinkedIn for alumni groups where you can network with your peers. Chances are, there are other students or recent grads in your situation who are also looking for a housemate. Since you already have school in common, you have a built-in conversation-starter to kick off your networking efforts.
Vetting your candidates
Once you’ve connected a group of potential roommates you will need to vet them thoroughly in order to single out your ideal housemate. Your vetting process will likely involve multiple stages, from an interview through to a background check.
Here are some tips for managing the process.
Interview your top candidates
Before you can seriously consider moving in with someone, you need to ensure that you can rely on them to pay their share of the rent. Ideally, this person will have a lifestyle and personality that is compatible with yours as well. After all, sharing a space with someone is easier when you get along!
An interview is an essential step in determining your compatibility with your prospective roommate. The interview could be a casual conversation or a formal interview that you conduct in-person or over video chat. Either way, be sure you outline a list of questions before your chat.
Use the interview conversation to feel out your prospect’s personality. How does this person make you feel? This conversation is about more than ticking boxes. Since you’ll ultimately be sharing a home, you want to find someone you feel comfortable being yourself around.
Include questions that will help you gauge someone’s financial stability and employment status as well as their general lifestyle and interests.
The following are some questions to ask your prospective roommate:
- What do you do for work? How long have you been in your job?
- What do you like to do in your free time?
- What is your typical weekly schedule like?
- Are you in a relationship?
- What are some challenges you’ve had with co-living in the past? How have you butted heads with past roommates?
- What are some of your pet peeves?
- What’s your approach to apartment cleanliness?
- Are you more of a morning person or a night person?
Details about your potential roomie’s relationship status, hobbies, and social habits will help you form follow-up questions to figure out what it might be like to live with them.
For instance, if this person is in a relationship, they might have their partner over to the apartment all the time, meaning you essentially wind up with two roommates. Or, they could spend the majority of the time at their partner’s place leaving you with an apartment to yourself.
If they ask you these questions, you really should not fudge your answers. If you’re someone who sometimes leaves the sink full of dishes, you shouldn’t say you consistently clean up after yourself, as that will set up false expectations which can lead to conflicts down the road. Better to be up front – if you really don’t mind a dirty sink, you’re probably better suited to living with someone on the same page, rather than someone who expects a clean kitchen.
Once you’ve found a candidate or two that you feel comfortable living with, you should check their references. Ask for contact information for a couple of past roommates and landlords you can speak with.
Speak to a couple of these people on the phone and ask them what their experience was like living with or renting to your prospective roommate. Once again, it’s worth having a couple of key questions outlined to make sure you get the information you need.
Background check & employment verification
If you’re moving in with someone you don’t have a close personal relationship with, you might consider running a background check.
Keep in mind that your landlord will likely do this anyway, so there’s not necessarily any sense in spending the time or money on performing a check yourself. You can always ask your prospective landlord notify you of any red flags on your roomie’s background check.
This isn’t an essential step, but it’s something to think about if it will make you more comfortable. After all, if your roomie decides not to pay rent for one month, you’ll still be on the hook for it.
Navigating the apartment hunt
If you don’t already have an apartment, work with your chosen roommate to outline exactly what you are looking for. What is your ideal neighborhood?
What amenities are you looking for? How would you prioritize them? For instance, parking might be a non-negotiable feature you look for in a unit, while a dishwasher could be something you compromise on.
The more open you are with your roomie during the apartment hunt, the better your chances of finding something that meets both of your needs.
What to do if you disagree on the perfect place
As you go about searching for an apartment, you and your roommate are bound to butt heads from time to time. You might find the perfect place in a less than ideal location, a great unit with an unreasonably small kitchen, or any other number of factors that might require a huge compromise for one of you.
In a perfect world, you’ll find a place that meets all of your combined requirements, but more than likely, one or both of you will have to compromise on something.
To make this negotiation easier, both you and your roomie should sit down and outline exactly what you want in a place. At the same time, you should both list any deal-breakers you have.
Then, compare notes. Work together to understand what your absolute must-haves in an apartment are and what characteristics would be immediate deal-breakers. This will be challenging, but in the end, you’ll both be really clear on one another’s requirements and it will help you conduct a targeted apartment search and eliminate any units that don’t meet your must-have criteria.
If your prospective roommate proves completely uncompromising at this step, you should consider moving on and finding someone else to look for apartments with. This can be tough if you’re on a time crunch, but you don’t want to live with someone you can’t agree with about key decisions.
Create house rules
Outlining some basic house rules is a good way to avoid potential conflicts with your new roommate. You might discuss things like your ideal cleaning schedule, how you’ll split joint bills, how common spaces should be used, and anything else you can think of that will help keep the co-living arrangement peaceful for both of you.
One important topic to cover is guests. How long can guests reasonably stay without being burdensome? Are you comfortable leaving guests alone in the apartment or is this a no-go? If either roommate is in a relationship, how many overnights per week or month can romantic partners spend before it becomes intrusive?
This conversation might feel unnecessary now, at the beginning of your relationship, but down the road, when unexpected situations arise, you’ll be glad you have guidelines to follow.
Tips for successful co-living
Once you complete the roommate vetting process you might think your work is done, but it’s actually just the beginning.
Like any relationship, living with a roommate requires communication and compromise to be successful. This starts with the decision to live together and should carry on throughout your relationship.
And, as with any relationship, you should be willing to discuss the future.
It’s important to be open with your roommate about your future plans. Most likely, you will sign a 6 or 12-month lease when you move in together. But, what about beyond that?
As a courtesy, try to be upfront with your roommate about what you intend to do when the lease is up– especially as that date draws close.
After all, your roommate will need to know whether you wish to continue living with them or if they should plan to move on when the lease expires.
The idea of finding a roommate might seem daunting (we’ve all heard horror stories), but going into your search with a plan will help ensure your success.
Before you begin your roommate search, outline exactly what you’re looking for in a housemate and what your deal-breakers are. If possible, give yourself lots of time to conduct your search so you don’t end up settling for anyone in a panic. Being clear about your requirements and maintaining open communication throughout the process is sure to help you find a compatible roommate.