These days, it seems like more and more adults are looking to share their homes, apartments, and even rooms with roommates. Over the past 20 years, the cost of housing has increased over 30 percent, so it makes sense people are trying to find others to split the cost with. While living with roommates is a great way to save money, not everyone loves having them, and good ones are not always easy to find.
We’ve all heard horror stories about bad roommates. But how do you make sure you don’t end up with one?
In this article, you’ll learn all the steps to finding a roommate you can handle living with. Who knows – maybe you’ll even make a friend!
Step 1: Define Your Ideal Living Situation
The first step to finding a good roommate is knowing what you want in a home. You can compromise later if you’d like, but it’s good to have a solid place to start from.
To narrow down your options, ask yourself these questions:
Where do you want to live?
Narrow this down to a 5-10 mile radius. Do you want to be close to your job? Do you want to live close to a certain part of town? This will help you find roommates that also want to live there.
For those of you moving from rural areas or suburbs to a city: keep in mind that 5 miles on an open highway is not the same as 5 miles in places like downtown Los Angeles or New York. Use Google Maps to map out routes to places of interest at times when you would be coming or leaving. Are those commutes you can handle?
How much are you okay with spending on rent?
This will help you narrow your search a lot. Come up with an upper and lower range. Some think lower is better, while some don’t want to compromise on quality of accommodations.
A general rule of thumb is to spend no more than a third of your take-home income on rent. So if you make $2100 per month after taxes, you should look for places where your share of rent would cost less than $700 per month. While you might need to spend more or less than one third depending on your area, this is a good starting point.
If you’re moving out for the first time and want to see how much you can afford, use this guide to help you identify your spending habits.
What kind of home do you want to live in?
Do you want to live in an apartment? A house? A condo or town home? Maybe you already own one of these and are looking for people to live there with you. Go through the pros and cons of each and decide if any of these types of homes are off the table for you.
How many people do you want to live with?
In theory, the more people you live with, the more expensive the place you can afford. In most cases, though, more people also equals a more crowded home. Think of how many people you can stand in the type of place you want to live.
When are you looking to move?
Housing spaces are usually open only for a narrow window of time, so make sure you have a time frame in mind when you want to move, ideally down to a few weeks. If you’re flexible, that’s great, but you will find more people who are looking to move within the next couple weeks to couple months when you start your search.
*If you’re trying to rent a whole house, you may want to start looking for one earlier than you would for an apartment. Many house leases are done several months before the move in date. This does not apply if you’re looking for a room in a house, though.
If you care about any of the below, make a note, because you should absolutely ask potential roommates about them.
- Work status (working full time, part time, unemployed, student, work from home, etc.)
- Pets (do you have one or do you want a roommate with one?)
- Smoking (do you smoke or do you want to live with someone who does?)
Step 2: Start the Roommate Search
You should start looking for roommates 1-2 months before your desired move. If you’re like me, it may seem last minute, but unfortunately, that’s just how the housing cycle goes. You’re less likely to find people looking for roommates four or five months ahead of time, and even if you do, they could back out at any point – I know from experience.
But where can you even find a roommate? Although there are regrettably few methods to find a roommate online, here are all the least sketchy ones I know of.
Where to find a roommate
I know, I said not sketchy, but Craigslist really one of the most common methods adults use to find roommates. Make sure to stay away from the ones that say you can rent for free if you share a bed with them…unless you’re into that?
Some of my past roommates found each other on this site and it worked out really well for them. I personally don’t love roommates.com because you have to pay a subscription fee to send or look at messages.
If you’re looking for a room very soon, though, this could be a good option, since people don’t want to have to pay for the subscription for too long.
Friends or friends of friends
Many people choose to live with friends, and it’s a great option if you and your friends’ living habits are compatible (see roommate questionnaire below if you care about your friendship).
If you are moving to a place where you don’t know anyone, ask your friends if they know anyone in your desired area looking for a roommate. You might even find a friend of a friend of a friend who knows someone – it’s worth a shot.
Post on Social Media
You can also ask your Facebook friends if they or anyone they know is looking for a roommate. If you’re okay with potentially having to turn down some weird people from high school, post a status on social media. You can use this template if you like:
“Hi friends. Anyone know someone looking for a roommate in the (city) area in (time frame)? Message me if you or someone you know is interested :)”
Housing Pages on Facebook
If posting a status doesn’t work or you really don’t want to live with your Facebook friends’ friends (no shame – I don’t), there are lots of city-specific housing pages on Facebook. This is how I found my current roommates and it’s worked out great for me!
If there’s a local university near your location of choice, they usually have housing pages open to everyone, not just students. Many recent grads will be posting on this page, so it skews on the younger side, but it really does work.
If you can’t find a university group, try searching “(city/area name) housing” on Facebook and see what comes up.
Whatever group you find, you can use this template for finding roommates through Facebook pages:
“Hi! I’m looking for (number of roommates) roommate to move into a (type of home) in (time frame). Looking for someone who is (what you’re looking for in a roommate: age/gender/work status/pets/etc). Message me if you’re interested or know someone who is!”
Step 3: Questions to Ask a Potential Roommate
At this point, you hopefully have at least a few potential roommate leads. Now you have to figure out who you want to live with.
Keep in mind: housing is like the wild west. Expect people to be flaky until you get things in writing, aka your housing contract. So respond quickly and make moves when you can, because at any point, a potential roomie could ghost you or back out.
When you’re talking to potential roommates, you should try to figure out if you’re a good fit for each other. Be up front about everything – it’s better to learn you’re incompatible now than after you’ve signed a one-year lease. Below are some of my favorite questions to ask potential roommates. Some may be ice breakers and some may be deal breakers. Feel free to pick and choose, or go all in and ask all of them.
- Where you’re from
- What’s your housing budget?
- What’s your schedule like?
- How clean are you?
- What do you consider clean?
- How do you enjoy spending your time?
- Do you have visitors? How often?
- How do you feel about visitors? How long is appropriate for them to stay?
- Do you throw parties? How often?
- Are you okay with parties at the house?
- Do you drink?
- Do you smoke?
- Are you okay with a roommate who drinks and/or smokes?
- What kind of relationship do you want with your roommate?
- What do you think is important in a roommate?
- Do you have a pet?
- Are you okay living with someone who has pets?
If you own your own home and are looking for roommates, you’ll also want to do the following at minimum once you find someone you want to live with:
- Credit check
- Background check
- Employment check
- Collect and contact references
- Draft a contract for roommate(s) to sign
If you’re planning to live with more than one person, make sure all of you are compatible with each other. Just because you’re stoked Roommate A has a corgi doesn’t mean Roommate C will be!
Aand that’s all I got! Hopefully this guide helped get you closer to finding a roommate. Was there anything I missed? Do you have any other methods besides the ones I mentioned? Leave a message in the comments or email me at [email protected]!