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Roommate Guide: How to find a good roommate
Questions to ask potential roommates, search apps, roommate agreements and how to avoid conflicts
Trying to find a good roommate? Well, others may be looking for you. Many people are looking to share a home — and the rent — with another person. Getting a roommate is a savvy way to lower your expenses so you can save more and spend less time worrying about money.
Know what you want in a roommate
Many people are looking for roommates. As rents rise, more and more of us are sharing homes out of necessity — or for saving up to get ahead. According to Pew Research, in 2019, 20% of households are “doubled up” or shared living spaces with a roommate of some kind. A Zillow survey found that one out of three Americans aged 23 to 65 live with roommates.
Roommate arrangements range from harmonious to downright hostile. The key to finding a compatible roommate is knowing what you want and vetting them properly. A good starting palce is to take a hard look at yourself. What are your expectations about the following?
- Overnight guest frequency
- Party habits
- Food diet preference
- Shared values — religion, sexual orientation, politics, etc.
- Introvert vs. extrovert
- Communication and conflict management style
- Rental/credit history
The more you can share about your preferences — and the more direct you can be about asking a potential roommate about theirs — the greater the chance you end up with a good match.
How to find a good roommate
1. DIY — your personal network
The benefits of splitting rent are great, but living with a bad roommate is a miserable experience. And for some people, taking a risk on a complete stranger can feel downright scary. Ask for roommate recommendations from your friends, family members or alumni network. Ask around to discover if someone you know knows of anyone who needs a roommate. You’ll likely get referrals pretty quickly. If you belong to a gym, sports club, or group of some kind, ask your community. This saves you time trying to do outreach online and vetting strangers.
2. Co-living: Comfortable shared housing with roommates built-in
If you’re looking to find an affordable place to live — especially in a big city like San Francisco, LA, Miami and New York — try shared housing services like Bungalow, Common or Coliving. You’ll be able to get a room in a comfortable house with new-ish furniture, appliances, utilities, and Wi-Fi included. Leases are flexible — typically for four to twelve months. Roommates who don’t know each other prior to moving in are picked based on the likelihood that they’ll enjoy each others’ company.
3. Social — Facebook Groups, Reddit, Instagram and Twitter
Using social media and forums is a useful way to notify your followers that you’re in search of a roommate.
- Use Instagram posts and Tweets to let your online community know you’re searching for a roommate.
- Reddit — This forum hosts all kinds of niche pages referred to as subreddits. If you haven’t used Reddit before, you can find a subreddit for just about anything. Finding city, county, and state-specific housing subreddits can lead to great roommate leads.
- Facebook Groups — If you’re moving to a big city, you’ll likely find a very active group discussing apartments and roommate situations. Facebook Groups also give you the ability to view people’s profiles, photos, interests and social connections at no cost — giving you a jumpstart on the interview process.
4. How to find a good roommate online
Like a dating app, an online roommate finder lets you browse potential matches and pick and choose who you’d like to vet further. Have an open mind but don’t lose sight of your top priorities.
Roommatch takes you through a series of questions from religion and politics to lifestyle and interests, not just for you and your potential roommate, but in terms of the type of living space you both prefer as well. There’s even a roommate quiz you can take to see how closely you match with a roommate. It’s free to use.
Roomster lets you scroll through dozens of prospective roommates and message them directly. The site lets you link to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn profiles, making it easier for you to research your potential roomies. It’s free to create a profile and post a listing with images (and also to receive messages from paid subscribers) but you have to upgrade to connect to social media sites and use the onsite mailbox. A three-day trial is $5.95.
RoomieMatch promises you to avoid “a horde of total nitwits” when you sign up with them. Actual humans review all roommate profiles and they actively work to eliminate scams, bots and other unwanted spam before it gets to you. You can create a free profile, which allows other users to contact you. However, features are limited for free accounts. It’s only $19.95 for a yearly membership.
A Roommates.com basic membership is free — you can add listings, browse profiles and send messages. To read messages from other members, you’ll need to upgrade to VIP Membership: $5.99 for a 3-day trial, $19.99 for 30 days and $29.99 for 60 days.
Roomi is a great site to find rooms to rent in existing homes and apartments, with flexible time periods ranging from 30 days to 1 year or more. Roomi also verifies your background and collects the first month’s payment.
It’s free to create an account, create a listing, search for roommates and message other users. You have the option to pay a one-time fee to boost your listing to the top of the local search results. The paid accounts start at $2.99 for three days.
When it comes to finding a roommate, Craigslist, the world’s largest online classified section is hard to beat. You can find tons of “roommate wanted” postings under “rooms & shares” or “sublets & temporary.” The important thing when using Craigslist to find a roommate is to do your due diligence. It takes a decent amount of time to sort through the listings and make sure that the posting is legit and the living situation safe.
Top 7 roommate conflicts to avoid
If you assume that your job is done once you’ve found a good roommate, you’re in for a surprise. No matter how well-matched you might be, living with someone takes intention and a commitment to resolution. Here the things roommates most frequently argue about:
- Cleanliness (or lack thereof). Not sharing equally in the cleaning, from dishes to taking out the trash, or even small annoyances like leaving half-full coffee mugs around the house can cause major problems.
- Smells. Everything from personal hygiene to food. Hopefully, you can root this out in the interview process or agree to guidelines afterward.
- Not paying expenses fairly. When it’s time to divide up the bills, food or shared expenses, it can be really annoying if your roomie doesn’t pick up their fair share. A roommate agreement can help with this.
- Noise. Not aligning schedules and/or having different preferences when it comes to TV and music volume can easily disrupt your personal space lead to resentment.
- Sex life. Everyone deserves to enjoy intimacy and sex, but that doesn’t mean you want to see or hear it. If their significant other comes over every Sunday, are you okay with that?
- Sleeping in your bed. Not cool if your roommate sleeps in your bed or lets their friend crash there without your permission? It’s a frequently reported complaint.
- Borrowing/taking/boundaries. From eating your leftovers to borrowing your favorite hoodie without asking. Or worse: money, earbuds, a laptop charger. Find a roommate with a similar sense of boundary and ethics. And, whenever possible, both of you should carry renters’ insurance in case you borrow something and break it.
- Relationship expectations. One roommate may want to be super tight friends and the other doesn’t want to invest emotionally.
11 crucial interview questions for finding a roommate
While interviewing prospective roommates, take a pseudo-dating mind-set. Roommate relationships are almost as intimate as friendships or romantic relationships, but make sure you meet up to screen for key compatibility areas. Here are sample interview questions to ask when vetting roomie compatibility:
|What do you do for a living?||Look for reliability and a steady income. Or, at least a consistent gig that pays their bills.|
|Where are you living now? Why do you want to move?||Are they moving because their lease is up, recently relocated, like the neighborhood or had a falling out with another roommate? Find out why.|
|Have you had a roommate before? How did it go?||With every roommate, we learn something about what we want — or don’t want. What did they learn? What are their pet peeves — and are they being honest about them?|
|What’s your typical schedule?||Look for a roommate whose schedule matches up to yours and make sure you can find workarounds where troublesome mismatches come up.|
|Have you ever had difficulty paying rent on time?||This happens to almost everyone at some point. How did they handle it? How did they make it right?|
|How often would you like to have friends over? What do you usually do?||Are you really getting one roommate — or two? How often does their friend come over? How often does each of you want to throw parties? Get guidelines in place early.|
|What would your previous landlord say if I called them?||This person is going to share a rental lease with you, so doing a mutual background check is okay. How easily they talk about their previous renting experience will give you a sense if there are issues. And do call the landlord and offer up yours as well.|
|Do you smoke?||If you don’t smoke but your roommate does (or vice versa), and this is allowed by the landlord, it could be a deal-breaker. If you’re particularly sensitive, you may want to find out if they socially smoke as well.|
|Do you have any pets?||First, make sure you like the idea of a pet and that it doesn’t put a cramp on your ability to find a good spot.|
|How often do you clean?||Be honest with them too. Are you a neat-freak, a rare cleaner or somewhere in between. Find a roommate that works for your style.|
|What’s your ideal roommate?||Is this just a financial transaction or does your roommate expect to have a social relationship too? If the latter, what does this look like?|
Taking on a roommate is a big contractual commitment. Make sure both of you are on the rental lease and sign the agreement. In addition, write and implement a separate roommate agreement.
Roommate agreements are legally binding contracts that both you and your roommates agree to and sign before living together. The roommate agreement is made between tenants and is not part of your lease agreement with the landlord. We aren’t talking a Big Bang Theory/Sheldon version of a roommate agreement, but a simple 1-2 page document outlining what is most important to minimize future conflicts.
What to include in your roommate agreement
- How you pay rent. Together or separately, evenly or is rent based on room size?
- Splitting bills. Who pays what when? How do you share utility expenses?
- Moving out early and subletting. Life happens and plans change or maybe you are incompatible. Agree in advance as to how much notice you need to give, how you handle roommate replacements and how the security deposit gets returned.
- Pets. If you have one, or if you plan to get one, then who’s responsible for pet fees and damage?
- Schedules and private time. Do you need to block hours? Does either of you work at home? Compromise and spell out time blocks in the agreement.
- Cleaning and chores. What will each of you agree to do daily to respect boundaries as well as weekly to keep your place in good order? The kitchen and bathroom are two shared spaces that usually need to be cleaned the most. Agree on a cleaning schedule for those spaces at a minimum.
- Guests and parties. Are there guidelines to agree to in advance for sleepovers, friends hanging out and parties?
- Food sharing. How will the food, grocery shopping and cooking responsibilities be shared? Will you split the costs? Can you eat each others leftovers in the refrigerator or do you agree to label foods off-limits?
- Temperature expectations. Agree to a comfortable heat and A/C setting to avoid conflict.
- How to resolve conflicts. Agree to meet monthly to check in and see how it’s going. And, how you handle major and minor offenses? Always verbally in person or is text sometimes okay?
Once you have discussed each topic and written up a formal roommate agreement, have everyone sign and date it. Congratulations! You have now successfully written and executed a roommate agreement!
For additional advice on finding and making the best of your roommate living, read Sharing Housing by Annamarie Pluhar for practical process, tips, and insights. Or, listen in to the “The Roommates Podcast.” Hafeez and Chris share with you late-night conversation taking you behind the scenes — featuring all the interesting people, perspectives and conversations you’d experience on the way.
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