Roommate shares are increasingly common, whether you’re moving out on your own for the first time, or just trying to get into a more ideal space. But what happens if you don’t have a wide network of friends, to build your own household? Or maybe you’re moving to a new city, or even a new country?
You may have to go with a random roommate share, at least at first, while getting established.
“A good roommate may be the single most important thing to have when one is away at school.”-Barbara Dana, A Voice Of Her Own: Becoming Emily Dickinson
Despite the quote from Barbara Dana, roommates are not just for college students any longer. Perhaps the sentiment should be extended to “a good roommate may be the single most important thing to have in life.” This article about bad roommates from the Huffington Post cites statistics showing incompatible roommates to be one of the top five reasons why students drop out of college, as well as having drastic reduction in GPAs. And while we have returned to the college example, just use your imagination, as far as what effect a bad living situation could have on your career, family, love, or social life.
The college students in the Huffington Post article have a number of online compatibility tools to help avoid this, however, similar to online dating services like OK Cupid or Tinder. Those of us in the wide-open world have no such infrastructure (although there are some apps on the market that look promising), meaning we must use our own tools, resources, and instincts to find the perfect roommate situation.
This can be an intimidating task, that is difficult to get just right, as we have 15 minutes, when meeting someone for the first time, to see if we can live with this person for the next 6 months to a year, or longer. Or, even worse, have to pick a roommate long distance without any meeting.
Know Your Priorities
It helps to have your thoughts and priorities in order, when talking to a potential roommate. Some examples of questions to keep in mind:
- Are you vegetarian or vegan?
- Do you have any pets?
- Are you allergic to pets?
- Do you work at home?
- Do you work in the early morning?
- Do you have a significant other who will be staying over often?
- Do you smoke?
- Do you like to party?
- Shared or separate groceries?
- Cleanliness preferences?
For an extended list of questions to ask, check out this post by my fellow blogger Melissa.
Understand What Roommate Share Ads Really Mean
Of course, the most popular place to find shared roommate situations is Craigslist. That popularity, alone, makes it a daunting task to find the right match, let alone getting in. Some things to keep in mind, when going through roommate ads:
- The Tone – Very professional, or lighthearted slang? The words they use will tell you not only what kind of person your potential roommate may be, but can also help you figure out what they’re looking for, as well.
- Interests – If the ad is conversational, the poster may talk a bit about what the current residents are into. And while it’s best not to judge, off the cuff, if someone lists the gym, yoga, and jogging as interests, it’s pretty safe to assume they’re at least serious about their health, and you could draw some assumptions about their drive in life and lifestyle, from this evidence. Or someone who is way into gardening could be patient and nurturing. Or not. It’s hard to tell, based on these surface attributes, but remember, we’re just trying to narrow down the search here.
- Lifestyle – Speaking of life and lifestyle, this could be the make or break point. In Portland, Or., where I dwell, it is very common to see roommate ads stating ‘vegan only’ or ‘no smokers’, or pro-smokers, for that matter. In Portland, and probably everywhere, the vegans are deadly serious, so you probably don’t want to live with the strictest of the strict, if you enjoy dairy, cheese, or eggs.
- Cost – The price of the room may help give you some insight into what kind of person/people you may be living with, and what they’re looking for out of life.
“The thing is, it’s really hard to be roommates with people if your suitcases are much better than theirs – if yours are really good ones and theirs aren’t. You think if they’re intelligent and all, the other person, and have a good sense of humor, that they don’t give a damn whose suitcases are better, but they do.” – J. D. Salinger, The Catcher In The Rye
- Location – Similarly, do some research on the different areas of your town, and find out what social demographic lives there. You may not want to live in the fast-lane jewelry district, if you’re still scraping by as a hostess or busser.
Watch Out For Scammers!
Okay, now you’re clear on what you’re looking for, where to find it, and have maybe set up some appointments. The last thing you must keep in mind, when finding a roommate share, particularly through a non-official channel like Craigslist, is to watch out for scams.
A new scam has surfaced with the advent of Airbnb. Someone rents an Airbnb apartment for a weekend, shows it to potential subletters or roommates, collects the deposits and disappears with the cash. Check Airbnb listings before handing over money. And always follow this simple rule, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Some suspicious activities to keep an eye out for (from craigslist.org):
- Do not extend payment to anyone you have not met in person.
- Beware offers involving shipping – deal with locals you can meet in person.
- Never wire funds (e.g. Western Union) – anyone who asks you to is a scammer.
- Don’t accept cashier/certified checks or money orders – banks cash fakes, then hold you responsible.
- Transactions are between users only, no third party provides a “guarantee”.
- Never give out financial info (bank account, social security, paypal account, etc).
- Do not rent or purchase sight-unseen—that amazing “deal” may not exist.
- Refuse background/credit checks until you have met landlord/employer in person.
Check out this post, from 2012, to see some other warning signs to watch out for.
Follow these steps, use your head, your heart, and your guts, and you will have everything you need to find the right roommate share, get the right place, make sure it’s real, and live happily ever after.