Whether it’s love or hate, we all have an opinion on our roommate. You see your roommate pretty much everyday … and if your fellow apartment-dweller leaves crumbs on the floor, often you’re the one who happens to step on them with your bare feet. Or, if you come home after a rough day, maybe your roommate is the one who cheers you up – it could go either way. The point is, you’ll see your roommate a lot. So it’s important to have a good one.
That said, finding a good roommate can be another matter. A reader recently wrote in, asking for tips on the subject. She had no one in particular in mind, and she was moving to a new city. This can be tricky. It’s a question akin to complicated social matters such as, “How do I find someone to date?” or “I want to make some more friends … what’s the process for that?” In other words, finding a roommate isn’t like baking a lasagna – there’s a not ready-made recipe to follow and then you’re done.
Regardless, there are some basic things you can do to give yourself some options. First, I would recommend networking. Start with your friends. You might think none of them need a roommate, but you might be wrong. Or one of your friends might know someone who’s in need of a roommate – and then you’re connected. Tell everyone and anyone that you need a roommate – it’s free, it’s easy, and if you find someone, you’re in luck. And don’t limit yourself to talking to friends face-to-face. Remember email, texts, Facebook, Twitter … and remember to ask colleagues, extended family, classmates, anyone you can think of that might know someone you might want to live with. This is by far the best way to find a roommate situation that will work out. When the referral is from a known source, chances are high that many types of weirdoes and undesirables have been already weeded out in the process.
Also, if you’re a recent college grad, consider putting a posting in your school’s newspaper … it’s quite possible that graduating senior or two are looking for a roommate. And, reach out to the alumni association in your city – they often have message boards for just such a scenario.
If networking isn’t turning up anything promising, like anything else in the twenty-first century, there’s a website for the problem. Not just Roommates.com, but many websites, in fact. Time Out New York has an article on eight such roommate-finding services in the NYC area, and New York Magazine offers their own list. Two other sites, Easy Roommate and Roomie Match are nationwide. Also, search in your area for roommate matching services particular to your locale.
That said, the big Kahuna in roommate shares is still craigslist. In most big cities, there’s a robust market for shares. What are shares? It’s when you and one or more people share an apartment, but don’t necessarily know each other before moving in. Usually, one of you has lived in the apartment for a while, and the other is taking the spot of someone who is moving out. In New York, if you’re looking for a place, the absolute easiest (and cheapest) way to find digs is to go on craigslist and start setting up appointments with people who have an opening in their place. With craigslist, you know that anything that looks good will have a lot of competition, so check out Alissa’s advice on how to stand out in the crowd.
For the uninitiated, craigslist can be stressful … but it’s very common practice and often works out well, if you’re thorough in vetting the situation. Personally, I’ve been on both ends of it – I’ve found places via craigslist (and obtained new and previously-unknown roommates) and I’ve also put an opening on the market and had my choice of potential roommate-move-ins. While both situations take some work and can be a touch nerve-wracking, they can also be very successful. And the alternative – never living anywhere unless you’re good friends with everyone involved, can be unrealistic, particularly if you don’t have a lot of cash.
The next question is how to vet potential roommates, especially if they’re strangers. We’ll tackle that in part two of our series – so stay tuned for more soon!