By: Demetrios Salpoglou
Having a roommate has many benefits. You can afford a much nicer apartment when you share the responsibility of paying rent with another person. You can meet new people and learn new things about the city in which you live. Despite the numerous benefits of having a roommate, the difficulty of finding the right person to live with discourages many people from living with a roommate.
We’ve all heard of roommate horror stories. Some of us may have even lived it, and if not chances are you know someone who has. The loud roommate who crashes through the front door at 2am on a work night. The one who ate the last slice of your grandma’s peach cobbler. That person who NEVER cleans the dishes, but leaves their mac and cheese spot welded to the side of the pot for you to scrub clean. The list goes on and on!
While these experiences are hard to forget for those that lived them, it doesn’t mean that the majority of roommates out there are a bad egg. With the correct due diligence, and few helpful tools, finding a good roommate can be easier than you think. Here’s a few tips on finding the right roommate.
1. Make a List of Attributes and Deal Breakers
You should treat looking for a roommate as if you were hiring for a job position. It is crucial that you know what you want from a roommate—and even more important, what your deal breakers are. Here are some important things to consider for screening for a potential roommate:
Financial Responsibility: Don’t ever be afraid to ask for a credit check for a potential roommate, especially if your name is on the lease. If a roommate leaves you high and dry, it could have a negative affect on your credit score, so don’t be shy about this one. The bottom line is that if a person is late with paying their bills and have a poor credit score, your chances of getting rent and utilities paid on time, diminish greatly. It’s much better to put the work up front and find roommates that have a solid history of paying rent.
Lifestyle Preferences: If you like to go out on the town and come home late, you may not be compatible with someone who is a home-body and likes to go to bed early. If someone likes to smoke and drink alcohol often, that may be a big turn off for someone who likes to live clean. It is super important that you talk these things over with the person. Many people also believe that talking for 30 minutes in a mutual location such as a coffee shop can help keep the conversation open and it is a more neutral setting.
Privacy and Relationship Expectations: Some people consider a roommate relationship like a business relationship. We share space, we’re friendly with each other, we share responsibility, but we’re not going to be besties. On the other hand, some people may actually be looking for a person to fill the role of roommate and friend. Whatever your expectations are, you should make sure you both are on the same page on this one before moving in together. Remember, there is no right or wrong, there is just preference. Studies have shown however that people who tend to have the same interest in activities such as hiking, fishing, biking etc. tend to be better long term roommates.
Household Chores and Overall Cleanliness: If your Type A and you need a clean household to live in, chances are you don’t want to shack up with a hoarder. This should be discussed in your first meeting, and clear expectations must be set for household chores and responsibilities prior to shaking hands on a living arrangement. You can still work around household chores and overall cleanliness discrepancies if you have professional cleaners come in once per week. Never be afraid to ask if the person would be interested in or have the budget for weekly cleaners. Many apartments seekers now actively ask if cleaning can be included in the rent. We have noticed an upward trend in larger apartments and bigger bedroom counts of weekly or bi-monthly cleaning included in the rent.
2. Get the Word Out
Long gone are the days that you place an ad in the classifieds to find a roommate. Although it is still possible to find roommates on Craigslist, the website is not as popular as it used to be and if you’ve used it before, you’re well aware of the risks associated with it.
Even if your well networked in the Boston area and have a large pool of people to reach out to, that still doesn’t guarantee you’ll find someone compatible. This is by far the hardest part of the process, and a big reason why we launched our roommate matching service on Boston Pads. We developed a list of screening questions to ask a potential roommate to help match them as best as possible with like-minded individuals who share the same outlook on roommate responsibilities and relationships.
Some other popular ways to get the word out about looking for a roommate are:
- Ask people you know. When trying to find a roommate, most people find it is more effective to ask their co-workers, family members or friends whether they know anyone who is looking for someone to live with in the area.
- Utilize social media – write a post that you are looking for a room for rent or a roommate on popular social media sites. Be sure to make your post public and add local hashtags to make your post searchable for those looking for roommates.
- Take great pictures and videos of your apartment. Make sure you clean and organize it to the highest possible degree. Make sure you take pictures of your place on sunny days with as much natural light as possible!
- If you have a great landlord, mention that in your internet post. Not all landlords are created equal!
- Contact your alumni association. Alumni associations have chapters in most major cities and are a great way to find a roommate you have something in common with.
3. Meet in Person
It is always important to meet someone in person before choosing to live with them—do not just take them on their word about who they are. Most roommate seekers consider meeting in person first as a fundamental process to success. You should take the time to meet your future roommate in person and ask them questions about their personal habits and previous co-habitation experiences. Some organized roommate seekers often set up a half day of back to back roommate interviews in 30 minute intervals to figure out the best person that provides the greatest compatibility. Have a notepad ready with your top ten questions to ask.
Don’t be shy here. If you neglect to ask these difficult questions, you may be setting yourself up for a very bad situation. You don’t need to be aggressive or abrasive. Be direct, friendly, and honest in your interaction. Maintain eye contact, smile, and they will feel comfortable answering all those difficult questions. If they’re not comfortable answering them, that may be a red flag.
Ultimately, trust your instincts here. If you feel something is off about the person, then it probably is.
4. Protect Yourself
Even if everything checks out, it is still a good idea to take some legal precautions to protect yourself before handing over the keys to your apartment.
- You should run a credit check.
- You should verify the person is employed.
- You should ask the person for references.
- You should have all the utility costs clearly explained in writing, and how they are paid for, and in what percentage etc.
- You and your future roommate should sign a roommate agreement, and you should put their name on the lease if possible.
Also, remember that your lease most likely will require you to clear any additional occupants with the property manager or landlord before you bring someone in. If your landlord does give you the authority to find your own roommate, be sure to set the right expectations with the landlord when it comes to the lease/credit check/background checks etc. Many landlords want to work with you closely so that everything goes smoothly. Working with a licensed real estate agent is also a good idea because many of them know the sub-letting process very well and can rapidly assist with paperwork. There are great real estate companies out there such as: Boardwalk Properties, Nextgen Realty, Jacob Realty, Douglas Paul and Blaire Capital that are leaders in roommate rentals. There are also websites out there such as www.bostonpads.com and www.offcampuspads.com where you can provide all your information and they can help accelerate your search and find a roommate more quickly because they aggregate people seeking roommate solutions.
Finding a good roommate isn’t the easiest thing to do, but it’s not impossible. In a city like Boston, demand for good apartments is very high, so you shouldn’t find any shortage of potential roommates that are interested in sharing a space with you. Keep that in mind when you meet a potential roommate. If they aren’t the one, there’s plenty of other fish in the sea.
You can utilize our roommate matching service for free to find the perfect roommate for you. We can help you take a lot of the guess work out of finding a good roommate, and help guide you through all the steps listed above.