Whether you're in college and looking into off-campus housing for the first time or you're already established and looking for someone to pay a share of the bills, finding a roommate is no easy task. With that in mind, we've created a primer on how to find a good match. Read it over so you can get familiar with the process and feel ready to take on your next roommate search.
Pros and cons of the roommate search
You'll save money
The most obvious benefit of seeking a roommate is saving money. When there are two of you living in the same apartment, odds are you'll share most of the bills. Whether you end up splitting them down the middle or finding an alternative arrangement that works for the two of you, the end result is more money in your pocket each month than if you were renting on your own.
By the same token, you may be able to spend a little more on nonessential expenses when you're splitting the costs with someone else. For example, while getting cable TV and a DVR may have been out of the question if you were living by yourself, it's more doable when there's someone else to cover half the expense.
You can split the responsibilities
Similarly, if you work toward finding a good roommate, you'll also have someone you can trust to take care of half the responsibilities in the apartment. Maybe you hate cleaning the kitchen, for instance, but don't mind tidying up the living room. In those situations, you can share the burden of keeping the place clean.
A roomie can also help you communicate with your landlord on important issues. If you're unable to meet the landlord when he or she comes to do maintenance on the property, your roommate can pick up the slack. Alternatively, if your roommate forgets to tell your landlord about your newly discovered pest control problem, you can be the one to break the bad news.
You'll have built-in companionship
The last benefit of having a roommate is that you'll likely have a friend to come home to at the end of the day. While a close friendship between roommates isn't a given, a roommate is a built-in source of companionship. If you choose to live with someone, you'll have opportunities to explore entertainment or other activities together.
You'll have to share your living space
When you live with a roommate, you do have to learn to share your space. If, for example, your roommate wants to have friends over and use the living room for a movie night, that's their prerogative. You'll have to be all right with the idea of camping in your bedroom for the night.
On the other hand, if you know you're the type of person who really has trouble sharing living space with others, it may be worth it to look into getting a studio apartment instead.
You may not get the perfect roommate
Living with roommates is always going to be a gamble. While you can hope you and your new roommate will get along well, that may not always be the case. However, the important thing to remember is that bad roommate situations don't last forever. At worst, you'll only have to make it to the end of your lease before you can move on and try again with someone else.
Tips for placing roommate-wanted ads
Ask for referrals
Most of the time, living with someone who is a friend of a friend will be preferable to living with a total stranger. With that in mind, don't hesitate to ask your network for any referrals. Social media is an ideal resource. Put a notice out on your accounts, like Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) or Twitter (NYSE: TWTR), letting your followers know you're interested in living with roommates. Someone you know might be able to help you find the right match.
If you're advertising your roommate search, provide the details of your living situation. Be clear about what it costs to live in your apartment each month, including rent and utilities. Be candid about what type of roommate you are, too, such as whether you're messy or neat or whether you like to go to bed early or are a night owl.
Conduct an interview
Once you've gathered a few promising applicants, your next step is to conduct an interview to see which person might be the right fit for you. During the interview, you'll want to ask plenty of questions:
- How often do you clean your current apartment?
- Have you ever had difficulty paying your rent on time?
- What is your schedule like?
- Do you like to have friends over often?
- Do you smoke or drink often?
- What's worked well in your previous roommate situations?
- What hasn't worked well in your previous roommate situations?
- Have you had difficulty with a landlord before?
Consider doing a background check
After you conduct interviews, if you've narrowed your options down to someone you don't know, consider doing a credit check and a background check. Unfortunately, it's hard to know who you can trust, and it's better to be safe than sorry.
The website YouCheckCredit.com will let you perform both credit checks and background checks for a small, one-time fee.
Get everything in writing
Lastly, in addition to the lease, you'll want to make sure that your chosen roommate is willing to sign a roommate agreement. Your agreement should outline details such as who gets what room, how much rent is owed by each of you, any rules that you both agree to follow, and how you intend to divide up the responsibilities of keeping the apartment up and running.
Best services to help you find a roommate
If you can't get a referral for a roommate, sometimes an app can act as the ideal matching service. Below are a few options for apps that can help you in the course of your roommate search.
Roomi is ideal for those who have safety at the forefront of their minds. Like many other roommate apps, Roomi allows you to make an advertisement for a roommate, but it also has a feature that allows you to require users to complete a background check before they even apply for your ad. You can also send messages in-app, which means you don't have to worry about giving out your personal email address.
As the most widespread roommate app, Roomster is available in 192 countries and 18 languages. It allows users to match with each other based on a series of questions about personality traits, hobbies, and interests. It also offers a keyword search feature that makes it easy to find your perfect match.
RoomieMatch is another app geared toward safety. All submissions for roommates are verified by human reviewers who are careful to rule out scammers. They also run an IP address analysis on users to verify their location.
The bottom line
The process of finding a roommate is never an easy one. After all, deciding to live with someone is a big commitment. With that in mind, use the tips and resources above to learn how to find a roommate who will be the best fit for you. With any luck, and a little time and effort, you'll be able to find a roommate who will help you pay the bills -- and maybe even become your new best friend.