How to Find a Roommate

Author: Alecia Pirulis  

people on bench

Finding a roommate can be fraught with potential problems: The noisy roommate who blasts music until the neighbors complain, the rent-dodger who is never around when it comes time to pay bills, the thief who steals your tuna salad and your favorite T-shirt. But it can also be great – sharing expenses means more money in your pocket, it’s nice to have someone else around to share responsibilities, and you have the potential to make a great new friend.

The best roommate is probably someone you don’t know. If you decide to share an apartment with your best friend, for example, the little quirks and idiosyncrasies that you find endearing today could quickly become annoying once you are living together. Also, a friend may take advantage of your long-standing relationship when it comes to paying bills on time or sharing in household duties, leaving you with the responsibilities – and probably some resentment.

Try to find a roommate that complements you. Also, be sure to take the necessary precautions while interviewing roommates. Don’t be shy about asking for references or doing a background check, and don’t be afraid to ask tough questions. You are looking for someone with similar philosophies when it comes to paying bills, splitting the grocery shopping, cleanliness, noise levels, smoking, drinking, and pets.

But while you want someone with the same values and beliefs, you don’t want another you! Sure, having some things in common is great, but it is okay if you aren’t exactly alike. Someone a little different from you will be much more interesting and they may even get you to try new things. Just be sure to keep a mental list of deal-breakers – those traits that you absolutely won’t tolerate.

Even if you find the perfect roommate, there will be some bumps along the way. Be open with your potential roommate about how you’ll approach issues. Do you want to have an open-door policy, where you’ll discuss problems as they come up, or do you want to set aside some time each week to deal with concerns? Having a policy in place will make you both feel more comfortable and will help you resolve problems without confrontation.

Finding a roommate online eliminates the guesswork with a preliminary screening process that saves you time and potential headaches. Roommates.com allows you to search for a roommate (or roommates) from the comfort of your apartment anywhere in the country. And when you live in a crowded city such as Boston, San Diego, Dallas, or Miami, finding a roommate can often feel like searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack. By utilizing an online site such as Roommates.com, the candidates are narrowed down for you.

Finding a roommate online is also safer since most sites offer a “mail center” where you can send and receive messages through the site, keeping your personal information (email, home address, and phone number) confidential. Whether you are looking in a major city such as Atlanta, Seattle, or Dallas or in a small suburban community for a potential roommate, keeping personal information private (and not plastered all over the bulletin board in the local community center or library) is always essential.

When you’ve selected a few candidates, arrange to meet in a public place, such as a coffee shop. Only when you are sure you’ve found the perfect candidates should you invite them to see the apartment. If it makes you more comfortable, ask a friend to go along when meeting candidates for the first time. It helps to get someone else’s opinion – especially someone who knows you well enough to see potential conflicts that you might not see yourself.

If you haven’t already done so, talk to your apartment manager or landlord and find out his or her policy about roommates, the lease, and who will be held responsible for unpaid rent. Preparing for the “what-ifs” will make you feel much more comfortable about the situation so you can relax and get to know your roommate. Who knows – this stranger today could end up being a cherished lifelong friend.