Are you tired of living alone?
Or maybe you’re tired of being solely responsible for the rent and utilities. If so, you’re not alone. Many Americans not only feel the psychological effects of living alone but are also facing a growing financial responsibility that falls squarely on their shoulders. It’s a hard road when your hell bent on living alone, especially in more expensive American cities like Miami, FL, Los Angeles, CA, or New York.
We did a bit of research and found that Pew Research is reporting that the number of adults now sharing living space has increased over the past decade. And while this number is partly attributed to to parents moving in with their children and vice versa, it can't be denied that "doubling up" has its advantages. For starters, it breaks the psychological toll of living alone in an increasing digital world where people would rather text or Facebook than meet up face-to-face for a cup of coffee. Even more so is that having a roommate is an ideal option for those who could use the financial perks of sharing the bills, or others who are not home enough to water the plants, feed the cats, or let the dog out in the backyard.
Whatever your reasons may be for seeking out a roommate, there are some great ways to find a good match and important things to consider before agreeing to room with another person. Don’t rush into rooming with someone out of financial distress, but don’t hold out too long in attempting to find the perfect match. The perfect roommate may not exist as we are all human with our little quirks. But you can develop a criterion list of qualities that a potential roommate must meet before sharing quarters with him or her.
Without making someone feel as if they are being ‘interviewed’ or ‘scrutinized’ – how do you go about finding that future roommate? Do you turn to Facebook and post randomly in groups asking others if they need a roommate? Or do you post an ad to CraigsList in hopes that someone who meets your criterion will reach out to you. Perhaps you talk to you family and friends in hopes of finding someone to move in with you to burden the financial responsibilities. There are many techniques that you can use – each of which come with pros and cons. VerticalRent has done the research for you and have categorized a few different options by your ‘risk tolerance’ to things going awry.
What do we mean by ‘risk tolerance’ to things going awry? Well, how comfortable are you rooming with someone with a sub-600 credit score who might not be able to come up with their fair share of the rent next month? Are you comfortable asking your future roommate to share their credit information with you? And what about prior felonies or convictions? How do you know if who you’re thinking about sharing quarters with wasn’t arrested last year with assault charges? The person may seem charismatic and friendly on the surface, but what if another side of them comes out when they drink that you haven’t seen personally. Are you going to accept this risk, or will you validate their background?
Back in the 1980s, Ronald Reagan was famous for saying: “Trust, but Verify.” This wise quote from one of America’s most revered Presidents still holds true today. We will explore how renters like you can ‘Trust, but Verify’ in a sea of potential roommates. There is nothing more important than deciding who you hang your hat next to for a period of time. We hope that this article helps you make the right decision.
Finding Roommate Candidates
When it comes to scouting out prospective roommates, there are many services online that are free or inexpensive. When you are putting ads out for roommates, try to include pertinent information about yourself because this will save you a lot of time in wasted interviews. For example, if you're a dog-lover and fail to mention it in your ad, only to have an interview with a potential roommate who has dander allergies, that's a wasted trip. If you’re an ex-smoker that sometimes gets too buzzed on Friday night and smokes socially at your house – mention it. Don’t leave any surprises and be fully transparent. Try to include as much as you can about yourself to help foster transparency:
- Work schedule (day/night shift)
- Where you have lived previously
- Your living habits (To bed early, or late?)
- What Rent You Can Afford to Pay
- Include some personal information such as your passion for sports, obsessive reading habit, or love of karaoke.
Things like these will help prospective roommates have an idea for what kind of person you are. Services like VerticalRent’s Roommate Finder help roommates verify what they self-proclaim. For instance, most people are going to naturally inflate what they can afford to pay for rent – but can they back it up with income verification and proof of credit score? It’s important that you ‘Trust, but Verify’ when choosing your roommate.
Typically, one should be able to afford 1/3rd of their monthly salary allocated to rent. But, how do you know if that person is juggling immense college debt, child support, and back taxes? The easy answer is that you don’t know if you’re not willing to verify. If you’re risk tolerance is high – go ahead and roll the dice with gut instinct. Perhaps you have a 6th sense or possess a stellar judge of character. This instinct will help you choose the perfect roommate and lead you to using services like CraigsList and blindly asking on Facebook social channels: “Anybody looking for a roommate?”
If you value your sanity and safety – we recommend that you ‘Trust, but Verify’ and will show you how to do that in this article. But, first, let’s review the riskiest ways of finding a roommate that were once popular.
Who doesn’t know CraigsList? It’s been around for decades and could possibly win a popularity contest against Facebook. For those that have been living under a rock since 1995, Craigslist is a free website that offers access to millions of users seeking everything from antique sales, to jobs, and you guessed it – finding a roommate!
We have to admit that CraigsList is still a very powerful platform to reach the masses. In fact, many Landlords and Property Managers continue to use CraigsList for rental property vacancy advertising due to its massive reach and popularity. But there is a dark side to using CraigsList that most don’t want to accept. That dark side is very well documented across the Web in the form of real-life stories of rental scams, abductions, and murders. Let’s first take a look at a few rental scams that are well-documented:
- Consumer Reports published this article: 5 Warning Signs That a CraigsList Rental Listing Is Probably a Scam
- Military Times published this article about CraigsList Rental Scams: CraigsList rental scams date back at least a decade … and troops can be targets.
- Sara Gates contributed an article to the Huffington Post about “How I Fell for an Awful CraigsList Rental Scam and What I Should Have Done Differently.
Even more alarming is the sheer amount of CraigsList Roommate Horror Stories that Google returned in a search. Rona Vaselaar contributed an article entitled “I Found My Roommate Off CraigsList and He Turned My Life Into a Gruesome Nightmare.” There are literally dozens of forums online dedicated to providing renters an ‘outlet’ to vent their horror stories of using CraigsList to find a roommate.
But hey, most people shrugged off the warnings that the General Surgeon issued for cigarettes until they started seeing family members dropping dead in their 60s. Maybe those horror stories were written by overly dramatic people with nothing else to do with their time except pen a 2,500-word count article about their rooming experience? Perhaps real-life news about a “Victim of CraigsList Roommate Attack Distraught Over Court Delay” where Danielle Jones of Miami was put into a coma after an alleged attack by a roommate she met on CraigsList.
Although still very popular and used often – using CraigsList to find a roommate is probably your riskiest option according to the sheer volume of horror stories we found. There is no way for you to easily verify the identity of the people you meet on CraigsList easily. The platform is uber popular and still used by millions today, but we caution both renters and landlords to tread carefully when picking a roommate with this channel.
Platforms like Facebook or Instagram are also great ways to get the word out that you are seeking a roommate. Since most of your social media friends know you, they might have a better sense of your living style and be able to recommend a roommate.
Much like CraigsList though, you have no way of quickly validating the background of a potential roommate – other than what they tell you, or what someone else tells you about that person. It’s a gamble, but it’s less of a risk to use social media in our opinion that CraigsList to find your next roommate.
Niche Roommate Finder Services
Over the years, several online roommate finder services have appeared online. We encountered a few popular services like Roomiematch.com, Roommates.com, and Roomster.com. Without diving into the specifics of each service, they sort of reminded us of eHarmony or Match.com – but designed for the roommate finder scene. Each web-based service allowed you to define specific criterion that you were looking for ‘in a match’ and allowing the technology to link you up with someone who would be an ideal roommate based on mutual desires.
The idea seems plausible for pooling potential roommates from across the Country, but the allusive element of “Trust, but Verify” is still missing from the equation. Several of the services, including Roomster, as an example focus on verifying the roommate through social media channels, email address, and phone number. We found this to be an excellent way of ensuring that people are whom they claim to be – but none of the services offered a means to truly verify and validate background information. Let’s take a quick look at some of the features of these niche solutions.
Ranging from free to up to $19.95 a month, Roomiematch has a user-friendly platform that lets you search using various filters to help you find possible good matches.
Depending on how much you want to spend on your roommate search, roommates.com offers users the opportunity to create a free profile but you won't be able to answer messages unless you purchase one of their multiple account options.
Ask Friends & Family
As with using social media, asking friends and family if they know of anyone who would be a good match means those who know you best will know those who would be well-suited and those who would not be as a living partner. Ever been on a blind date that was setup by a family member? Enough said.
Interview Roommate Candidates
Interviewing roommates is just the first step. Be sure to decide to meet someplace public. You are, after all, meeting with a stranger. It's best to meet somewhere public where you can talk casually. A coffee shop or park might be a good idea. Be observant of their mannerisms and appearance.
According to ListAKA, the ten most common reasons for roommate issues are:
- Late Rent
- Regular Parties
- Dealing with Damages
- Sharing Things
- Bathroom and Kitchen Issues
With these things in mind, try to think ahead when preparing to interview your possible new roomie. Find out as much about their lifestyle as possible and try to share as much of yours, as well. This person could be the next person who sees you at your best, worst, most sleepy, grumpiest, or sickest so you'll want to make sure you are compatible.
Remember this decision is yours so it's up to you to determine whether the prospective roommate will be a good choice. When meeting in person (never make a roommate agreement without first meeting in person), take time to discuss each of your lifestyles, habits, hobbies, passions and expectations.
Communication Is Key
When interviewing a potential roommate, it's important to establish an open-door policy when it comes to communication. As with any relationship, being able to air grievances is important so you and your roommate will both need to have a clear understanding of communicating issues, questions, problems, and solutions.
Ask About Cleaning Habits
For some, a dirty plate left in the sink or a full garbage can become quite annoying. Ask them specifically about their cleaning habits and expectations.
Find Out Why They're Looking
If you're interviewing someone who's seeking to live closer to work or family, this can be a great thing but be wary of individuals who claim they are trying to get out of a bad living situation or other roommate drama.
Measure Their Ability To Maintain Themselves
Just as your landlord does checks on your income, job, credit, and background, so, too, must you look at the ability of your prospective roommate to cover their costs and hold up their end of the bargain. How long have they been employed? How much do they make? What other expenses do they have that could potentially cut into their share of the bills?
Before Deciding On A Roommate
After you've advertised and narrowed down your candidate pool to just a few, follow-up with important steps to fortify your decision.
Unfortunately, some of the nicest people can be impossible to live with so even if your talk over coffee went fabulously, it could turn out that this seemingly ideal match is anything but. Be sure to check references such as: previous landlords/roommates, employer, friends, family members. You’ll need authorization from the potential roommate to perform any sort of reference check.
Do A Background Check
A comprehensive background check will help you discover any information you likely would not get via checking references. This is the component of ‘Trust, but Verify’ that we mentioned at the beginning of this guide. With VerticalRent, renters can pull their own background and choose whether or not to share it with another roommate.
By creating a ‘Trust Circle’ on VerticalRent, roommates can transparently share information with one another to establish a level of understanding and trust from the very start of the relationship. It’s a quick glimpse into another renter’s background to absolutely ensure that nothing is lurking in the shadows.
Taking this route is by far the least risky avenue to finding a roommate online.
Work Out a Written Agreement
Once you have done your due diligence and found the perfect match for a roommate, be sure to get a written contract signed and notarized. This will help protect both you and your new roommate from any possible disagreements or problems. There are many forms available that you can browse through and find the perfect one for to ensure your new living arrangement will work for everyone. If you have any other questions or concerns about finding a good roommate, contact us today and we can help!
About the author
Matt Angerer is the Founder and President of VerticalRent. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics that help Landlords, Property Managers, and Renters across America. He is particularly interested in helping renters understand their local marketplace, pick the best places to live, and find an awesome roommate. Since 2011, VerticalRent has grown to service over 100,000 landlords and renters across America.