Many people would like to share their home and their expenses with a roommate but worry about ending up with someone less than perfect. Maybe you’ve heard horror stories or you’ve had a bad experience in the past.
How would it feel to find a new roommate who is reliable, friendly, and trustworthy? Wouldn’t it be better to know that you picked the right roommate and avoid any problems or hassle?
In this guide, we’ll discuss how to find a new roommate using roommate finder websites and other local resources. We’ll also go over communicating, meeting people, credit checks, rental agreements, and dividing up the bills.
You’ll also learn how to screen out weirdos and scam artists.
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1) Ask your friends, family, and co-workers.
The first consideration you have for finding a new roommate is to ask your friends, family, and colleagues. This option makes a lot of sense because you trust them and they’ll help screen out creepy or crazy people for you.
You can assume that meeting any new potential roommate can go one of two ways; it could go great, or like the worst blind date you ever had!
I would advise that you be extra picky and avoid referrals from friends, family, and co-workers who don’t have good judgment with screening prospects who are clean, responsible, and not crazy.
If people you know are not able to hook you up with a good match for a roommate, it’s OK, lots of people have this problem.
Sometimes it’s best to forget about trying to get referrals and move on! Don’t feel so bad either, because, in my experience, 85% of all my successful roommates were always with complete strangers.
Let’s explore some more options for finding a roommate in the next section; this next idea just might be the miracle you’re looking for.
2) Research local community resources.
There are tons of resources in your local town for finding roommates. Let’s review the list below for some examples.
- The bulletin board at your favorite coffee shop, college, club house, bookstore, gym, church, library, or favorite hang out spot.
- Searching on Facebook for a page that specializes in shared housing and finding roommates in your town.
- Find a popular blog or online forum specific to your area. Where people post wanted ads for finding a roommate, some colleges even have their own website for shared housing.
- Don’t forget about Craigslist, it’s a great option for just about every town; it’s the modern day newspaper classifieds.
I would recommend asking other people you know in your area if one type of resource works better than the other. For example, maybe there’s a hot bulletin board everyone uses at your favorite bookstore.
If none of these options work, your next best resource is using a roommate finder website. I’ll show you how to find a good one in the next section.
3) Find a reputable roommate finder site.
There are many roommate finder websites and apps to choose from; some cost money, and some don’t. The idea of using one of these sites might make you feel a bit awkward at first, like when you first go to an online dating site. Follow the advice I’m about to share with you and those weird feelings will go away.
First, when you find a site that looks like it has promise take some time to review the homepage and sort out your thoughts. You’ll have a gut feeling for it after a while, GO with it! A good roommate finder website should have the following features and characteristics.
- A Facebook, Twitter, or other Social Media presence.
- An iPhone or Droid Mobile app for you to use.
- A confident looking homepage with high-quality photos, and not cheap looking stock photos.
- A free account sign-up with full search access for finding other profiles in your town. (Why would you be interested in paying for a roommate finder site if there are no listings in your city?)
WATCH OUT for sites that use sneaky sign-up forms to get your e-mail address or credit card!
Whether you use a free or paid roommate finder site does not matter. Both options are good if it’s able to deliver you a great lead. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to find someone that fits your standards within 15 – 30 days.
Believe it or not, the process is pretty straight forward and very much the same on all these different sites. But to do it successfully, you’re going to have to filter through people that might be posing as scammers or con artists.
Scammers and con artists are always going to manage to find their way on any successful website that offers a service. That should make you want to be on the site even more because it means you have a decent selection of honest people too!
Why are scammers good do you ask?
Well, the scammers want to be where people are and if that site is successful with real people, it has the scammers too. Finding a roommate is a numbers game, you have to filter through the good and bad.
The website will most likely have ways to detect fake profiles that scammers will use. It will then delete them as needed, but that is not a 100% full safe. So be careful and use your best judgment, a bit of common sense will also go a long way too.
People who participate on online dating sites like OkCupid, Tinder, Bumble, POF, and Match are going through a similar process. It will require you to have a thick skin. You’ll have to screen a lot of people, to find that perfect match unless you’re just plain lucky!
Even when you do find a match, people may renege and not respond to your message. The worst is when someone sends you an offensive message during a conversation that seemed to be going fine.
Each roommate finder website will perform better in some locations than others. You’ll have to find out through your own experience or ask another person in your town if they’ve had success with one vs. another.
Online dating websites and apps are the same way too. Here in the Bay Area, OkCupid works well for most people, much better than POF!
Your location does matter.
We’ll get into that more in the next section.
4) Finding a roommate finder site for your area.
To find the best roommate finder website options in your area I like to use Google. Try a simple search with the words “roommate finder.” If you don’t get any good results, put your city name into that search. For my search that I talk about below, I used “roommate finder Oakland”.
Depending on where you live, your results are going to vary. Google will adjust its search results for the local city you that live in, weird how it does that, (kind of annoying too).
On my search page, I found eight results, with some paid ads at the top. After reviewing my options, I narrowed it down to five that looked promising.
The five I felt were the most valuable was: Craigslist.org, Roomster.com, RoomiApp.com, a local city shared housing Facebook Page and an online forum for San Francisco (SF) State.
For my final two, Roomster and RoomiApp really stood out to me because they have a Facebook Page, and a mobile app you can use. Craiglist is a close third, and if I were going to SF State, that online resource they have would probably be at the top of my list.
The next step is to check these out and fill out a registration, then see if any good prospects come out of it. There should be plenty of room listings and personal profiles to go over if people in that location are using that site. Make sure you skip the listings without a photo!
When you find someone interesting, it’s time to communicate. We’ll cover that next.
5) Communicate with potential roommates via online messaging.
When you initiate an online conversation with a stranger, your goal is to discover any behavior that would set off your radar for creeps, weirdos, or scammers.
Some red flags during your e-mail conversation:
- Their personal information might be fake.
- They can not offer any reliable references.
- Not confident explaining how they make money.
- They are nervous at the thought of having a background check.
- They ask you for too much personal information up front, such as credit card numbers or social security numbers.
It’s nearly impossible to judge someone’s personality via e-mail messaging so use this opportunity for small talk and ask a few basic questions about who they are.
I also enjoy asking them “What makes an ideal roommate to them?”.
If you are hitting it off with a great e-mail conversation, it’s ok to exchange phone numbers. If you are feeling good about them after a phone or text conversation, go ahead and plan to meet them. We’ll discuss that next.
6) Meeting your potential roommate.
I recommend you meet at the location of the residence you are going to share or meet in a public place nearby at a coffee shop or cafe. If you feel nervous about meeting this new person, you can bring a friend with you.
If this person turns out to be a deadbeat because they flake out, I would cancel them off my list and find someone else. Second chances are hard to come by.
When you meet, don’t make it feel like a job interview. You want the meeting to feel casual, that’s the best way to learn about them and their true personality.
Asking more questions is fine too, but sometimes the best way to ask a question is by indirectly asking it. Here is an example.
Say you want to ask them, if they know how to clean, here is how I’d do it.
I’m going to ask them my cleaning question by telling them an old roommate story; this is a true story by the way.
Here’s my story:
In 2009, I had met an old roommate, and we completely hit it off. Then they moved in, and everything seemed normal for the first month. Then with a serious look on their face, they asked me if I could show them how to use the vacuum and the mop.
I was in total disbelief that they would ask me this, but I found it a bit humorous at the same time. A bunch of other cleaning problems came up after that too, and I was not going to be their maid. They moved out a couple of months later.
The lesson here was I could have saved a lot of time if I knew about the cleaning problem before they moved in. So I always bring that story up and see how they respond to it.
The last answer I’d want to hear from this new potential roommate is:
“I don’t know how to use one either, can you teach me?”
If you’re having a great conversation, asking questions, telling stories and it’s working out, great! You might have a winner, and you can choose them.
It’s now time to get down to business! In the next section, we go over what is required to share a space with someone.
7) Rental applications, agreements, and other forms.
So you’ve found the right person to be your new roommate! Before you live together, you need to get the legal paper work out of the way.
Warning and Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, so I cannot offer you any legal advice on reviewing agreements or contracts. But I am going to provide you some brief tips on things you should consider before signing your name to these documents.
Before you agree to any terms with a new landlord (or roommate), you need to inquire about any concerns you have relating to living and sharing the space with someone.
Make sure you clarify things like: Pet restrictions, long term guests, parking permit limitations, smoking areas and the total money needed to cover first month’s rent with the deposit. This will all be covered in the Rental Agreement.
If you’re planning on renting out an extra bedroom in your place, make sure the landlord does not have any restrictions on doing so. If you own the place, then obviously there is no one to ask but yourself!
Rental agreements and applications are all pretty standard. You can see many examples from a simple Google search or a self-help law website like NOLO.com.
After you complete the rental application, there are usually more forms required before you can move in. These forms will provide your consent for checking your background, references, and credit report. The references that will be requested are old roommates or landlords you rented from.
It’s perfectly reasonable for landlords to ask for all of this information. If they are not asking for it, I’d have a big question mark about them! If you are renting out that spare bedroom in your home, you’d be playing the role as the landlord, doing the same thing.
Before submitting these forms, I highly recommend you use Credit Karma and Annual Credit Report to get a free copy of your credit score and credit report for free! Having a copy of your report will help you know what to expect from the one your landlord pulls.
Oh, and keep this in mind! When you’re doing a reference check on someone, and you call the current roommate or landlord. They might be willing to lie and say “Hey, there a great tenant or roommate!, you’d be lucky to have them, and I’m going to miss them oh so dearly.” They might be saying that to get them out because they were, in fact, awful!
It’s not a bad idea to verify your new roommate’s income by checking W2’s or recent paycheck stubs. A landlord will always ask for these things if they’re properly screening new tenants. But, only after the proper consent forms have been signed!
Now, we get into more fun stuff in the next section. Bills!
8) Dividing up the bills with your new roommate!
Sometimes the utilities are not part of the monthly rent; these will need to be paid directly by you and the other roommates. Divide the bills up as fairly as possible. However, if one of you works from home, that person might be paying more of the power bill because they are consuming more.
If you own a house and are renting a spare bedroom out, you should not expect your roommate who rents a bedroom to pay 50% of the overall utilities. 30% might be a more fair amount to contribute since they utilize such a smaller portion of the living space.
Sometimes people have a bad credit rating with old unpaid utility bills. You could get a roommate with this situation, this will burden your situation and could be a warning sign for what’s to come. Be careful!
My final words…
Finding a new roommate, filling out applications, and agreeing on utilities is only half the battle. Before you finalize any shared living arrangement, make sure you setup the right roommate agreements and other details regarding your lifestyle, etc.
Click on “Roommate Living Secrets Explained!” to find out more. You’ll also discover the 4 main reasons why living with a roommate is better than living alone. Plus, you’ll also find some helpful tips to keep things civil and make it a positive experience for you and your roommate.