When you're moving to a new city like Seattle, San Francisco, or New York City, you might not know a lot of people in the area. Still, you know you need a roommate to help cut costs and maybe even keep you company. Even if you're only moving to a new apartment across town, finding a compatible roomie can still be difficult. Knowing where and how to look for a new roommate can alleviate some of the stress associated with your roommate search.
Which Comes First: Housing or Roommate?
While it's not as puzzling as the chicken or the egg question, many renters find themselves wondering if they should look for housing first or a roommate first. To answer this, determine your priorities. Do you value an ideal living space or a perfect roommate more?
If you decide you care more about who you're living with than where you're living, look for a roommate first. Once you find someone who is close to your perfect match, you can start looking for a living situation that works for both of you.
If you decide you need to live on the first floor of a Victorian house with windows facing West it's best to look for housing first. After finding your ideal real estate, you can start your roommate search. If you know you want to live in a specific area, a good option is using Kopa's Housemate Finder. This tool lets you find housemates looking for an apartment in the same area you're looking in.
Another option is moving into already occupied housing. Oftentimes, an apartment is already rented and the current tenants are looking for one more roommate. This option lets you find housing and roommates at the same time.
What to Look for in a Roommate
As you know, everyone is different. So, consider what qualities you think make the best roommate. Do they keep to themselves, or do they like to hang around in common areas and chat? Are they insistent on following a weekly cleaning chart, or are they okay with some clutter? Along these lines, make sure to think about what makes a bad roommate.
When you're thinking about and talking to potential roommates, be upfront about your living habits. For example, maybe you think you'll be quiet after 10 pm, but you know you regularly make elaborate midnight snacks.
Another thing to consider besides personality is budget. Even if you find someone who seems like your perfect roommate, your budgets may not match. Although it's helpful to have similar housing budgets, different sized bedrooms can allow for some wiggle room since a person staying in a small room may pay a smaller portion of the total rent.
One more thing to think about is your rental terms. Does your prospective roommate need housing for the same time period as you?
Where to Look for Roommates
Today there are all kinds of places to look for potential roommates, from Tinder to mutual friends. As you've probably guessed, some options are better than others.
Your Current Connections
It might not be your first thought, but try talking to your current connections (real people) and see if they know anyone looking for housing in the same place as you. Your family members may have friends in the area or a friend of a friend may be starting an internship at the same company as you!
Also, don't forget to investigate networks available through your company or school. If you're interning, your company may be able to connect you with other interns. And your college or university might know of recent grads moving to the area.
Utilizing social media platforms including Facebook and LinkedIn can help connect you with others looking for housing in the same area as you. Most cities have Facebook groups specifically for people looking for roommates.
Roommate Apps and Roommate Finders
There are lots of apps and websites whose main goal is to help you find a roommate. Note: We left out Roomster for a reason.
The people at SpareRoom claim to screen every ad put up, promising safety. This site lets you search for an apartment share as well as list rooms you need filled.
By screening all ads, the people at Roomiematch work to weed out scammers. With the free option, you have to wait for potential matches to contact you. For $19.95/year, you can contact anyone you think would be a good roommate.
This site lets you search for people who need a room as well as for those who have a room to rent. Roommates.com operates in a large part of the country, including smaller cities and towns.
Room8 is a mobile app that optimizes co-living through roommate matching and apartment searching. They're fairly new to the game so you may not see potential roommates or apartments in the city you're moving to quite yet.
Diggz allows you to search for roommates or list a room in 15 different US cities, including Los Angeles and NYC. By using information from your profile, Diggz uses an algorithm to match you with potential roommates that you can then "like."
Kopa's housemate finder allows you to find rentals in a specific area and then find housemates that are compatible and interested in the same housing as you. After finding a group of housemates, you can request to rent a space together.
Even with all the new ways to look for roommates, many people still post open housing and/or roommate requests on websites like Craigslist and Reddit. If you find a roommate through one of these sites, make sure to verify it isn't a scam before you sign any paperwork or send any money.
Before You Commit
Once you believe you've found your ideal roommate, it's important to ask them some important questions. Even if they seem to have a similar schedule and definition of "clean", make sure you ask about their pet peeves and ideal temperature indoors. And let them ask you questions as well!
Make sure you look for red flags and signs of scams. If your potential roomie wants you to send a check to them rather than your landlord, take note. One common scam is when a person sends you a check for too much money and then asks you to send a check to a third party.
If you want to check the honesty of your potential roommate, ask for references from former roommates. Not only will this give you some insight into the person's trustworthiness, but it can also tell you how clean they really are. If you want to be extra sure this person is legit, you can always ask them to complete a credit check and/or background check.
If everything works out, make sure to get multiple forms of contact information including email address and phone number. Before you start living together, compose a roommate agreement together. Writing down the details about cleanliness standards, payment terms, and guest policies will help you avoid future conflicts and awkward roommate situations.