How to find a good roommate?

How to avoid signing your life over to a mortgage
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How to find a good roommate?

Post by C40 » Tue Aug 13, 2013 10:40 pm

There's a good chance I'll be buying a 2BR house soon. $500 from a roommate each month would be awesome. It'd also be nice to have someone who's home when I travel for work. I'll be in a new city where I know very few people so far. I do work for a fairly large company, so that could be a potential source, but I don't know if I'd want to risk my worlds colliding. (

I had roommates in college and I learned:
1 - Having good roommates can be awesome. Much better than living alone. :P
2 - Having bad roommates can suck. :|
3 - It can be hard for me to tell whether someone (even current friends) will be a good roommate. :?

Does anyone have advice on how to find good roommates?


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Re: How to find a good roommate?

Post by Ego » Tue Aug 13, 2013 10:55 pm

After running a credit check on a prospective tenant I am almost always amazed by the results. It really says a lot more about a person than what their friendly demeanor and facade may indicate. I would run a check or at the very least say you are running one in the ad. That will weed out many of the potential disasters. I like

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Re: How to find a good roommate?

Post by Natha » Wed Aug 14, 2013 11:21 pm

I have had housemates continuously since I graduated high school, and for the past 8 years I have found almost all of them on Craigslist. In my opinion/experience, there are two critical components to finding a good roommate: (1) the ad and (2) the interview. (3) Another component, references, can also be useful.

(1) The point of the ad is mainly to attract *high-quality* applicants. You can and will filter incompatible applicants later, but if you don't attract high-quality candidates in the first place, you're not going to have success. To this end, the ad should satisfy several criteria. (a) It should be reasonably long. Not a novel or anything, but at least one or two well-written paragraphs. You want to signal that you are intelligent, serious, responsible, etc., and thereby give similar people an incentive to respond to your ad. (b) It should describe the place (obviously). But this description should emphasize features that will be attractive to your target group. For example, I mention that our house has a walk-in basement for indoor bike storage, which is especially convenient if you like to bike year-round, and that the house is a couple of blocks from the university's arboretum. (c) You can also mention interesting things about yourself, if you think that will be of interest to people you will like. But don't necessarily mention generic things that will weaken the signal. I usually have not described myself in my ads. (d) If you know of some interpersonal deal breakers, then do NOT mention them in the advertisement. For example, if it is absolutely unacceptable for dishes to be left in the sink, then you should not mention that in the ad, but rather bring it up in the interviews. If you mention it in the ad, you might inadvertently bias the person during the interview. (On the other hand, if there are qualities you're looking for that are not absolutely critical or cannot be lied about, it can be helpful to mention them in the advertisement, in a positive manner only - remember, your purpose here is to attract compatible people, not to filter incompatible people.) (e) Be sure to include a bunch of attractive photos of the place. The first photo, which will be displayed in grid view, is especially important. (f) The title is also important. I recommend a flashy word like "beautiful" in the title (assuming it is true), because it increases the probability that a person in your target group will open the ad.

(2) After your ad is posted, you will (hopefully) get a bunch of responses. A lot of these will be incoherent one-liners. Trash those. Write back to the people who send substantive responses and who seem reasonably promising, and propose an in-person tour and interview. Skype can also work if the candidate is out of town. I try to schedule all the interviews on one or two days, in order to save time and to compare the candidates more easily, but that might not be possible. During the interview, you have several goals: (a) you want to see whether you will get get along with the candidate on a human level; (b) you want to make sure that there are no deal breakers; and (c) you want to attract the candidate if they are compatible. I usually start the interview with a tour, and then I ask the candidate whether they think this is a place they might like to live. If so, I invite them to sit down so we can get to know each other. I start with bit of conversation about what each of us does professionally, where we're from, how we spend our free time, etc. This addresses items (a) and (c). After the conversation has been going for a while, I turn to practical house matters. This is when I would address item (b), deal breakers. Depending on the topic, I would not recommend asking direct questions like, "Do you leave dishes in the sink?" because the person might not be completely honest - consciously or unconsciously. Instead, I would address the topic obliquely/neutrally, e.g., "So, when it comes to the kitchen, some people are huge clean freaks, and, like, obsessively clean up right away after they're done cooking or using a dish or whatever, whereas other people are more easy going and they'll let dishes pile up in the sink for a few days and then wash them. Where would you say you fall along that continuum?" On the other hand, some topics should be addressed directly, e.g., "You may notice that we don't have a TV in the living room. Is that okay with you?" This commits them to not bringing a TV when they move in.

(3) At the end of the interview, if everything has gone well and I like the candidate, I say that I have a bunch of people looking at the place, but it seems like we might get along well, and I ask them if they are interested in living with me. If they say yes or perhaps yes, then I have sometimes asked for two or three previous roommates as references. I try to present it as something I ask of everyone (which is true), not a specific suspicion of them. I either email or call the references and ask them three questions: (i) What is the best thing about being housemates with X? (ii) What is the worst thing about being housemates with X? (iii) Is there anything else you think we should know about X before we sign a lease together? If this is in an email, I also say, "If you'd prefer to call instead of write, my number is Y." I should say that I have not found this step very useful, but I think it could help rule out horror-story tail events that I've avoided by chance.

After each interview, I make a few notes about the person and insert them in a ranking. After all the interviews are complete, I obviously recommend offering the spot to your favorite candidate. If they turn you down, then you can go down the list. But don't ignore warning signs! It's better to repost the ad and conduct a second round of interviews than to live with someone incompatible for an extended period of time, or to have to kick them out.

So - anyway, that's my approach. FWIW. But like I said, I have found it very effective.

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Re: How to find a good roommate?

Post by Natha » Wed Aug 14, 2013 11:32 pm

Also, to be clear, in step (3) I mention to everyone I like that I will need references if things move forward, but I only actually ask for references when I am sure that I will live with the person if the references are okay.

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Re: How to find a good roommate?

Post by bluepearl » Tue Aug 20, 2013 12:22 am

@C40 - hijacking your thread, heehee...

@Natha - thanks for the detailed response, very helpful and will put them to use very soon :)

@Ego - I'm confused about on-site services. Do you just use them for credit checks or do you use them for creating your rental forms? Do they have rental forms for house share situations?

Everyone - where do I get free template, rental forms? There seem to be such a thing in Canada but I don't know if there is one for the States?


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Re: How to find a good roommate?

Post by fuyu » Mon Sep 02, 2013 1:16 pm

This is the template my previous landlord used. ... eement.pdf

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Re: How to find a good roommate?

Post by RusBR » Tue Dec 13, 2016 8:24 am

One more time I would like you emphasize on the importance of references. Often, even just a person's reaction to that question can tell you all you need to know about him or her.

My personal advice is get everything is written and avoid making verbal agreements, no matter how much you feel you can trust your chosen roommate.

For finding a good roommate you need to search everywhere. I’m talking about reputable websites that match roommates, local newspapers. And don’t forget to ask your friends for a referral.

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