Finding a roommate in a large city isn’t necessarily difficult–but finding the right roommate can be a tedious, seemingly never-ending process without the proper tools in place.
Thankfully, we’re now in an age where sophisticated roommate finders do exist and with them come the tools and resources to make this process a whole lot smoother. To show you how, we’ve put together a complete guide on the roommate finding process, with tips on what to know, what to avoid, and how to make the whole endeavor safer and easier for yourself and everyone else.
Sound good? Let’s do this.
Set the right expectations
The fastest way to find the wrong roommate is to have an unrealistic assessment of yourself. Make sure you have a real understanding of where you stand on things like:
- Weekly routine
- Quiet hours / bed time
- Partying / drinking / smoking
- Visitors and guests
If you want your potential roommate to be honest about it, you need to make sure you are being honest as well.
Use Your Tools
You could drive around with a realtor and look at six apartments on a Sunday, or waste an entire Saturday hosting an open house, but what if a roommate finder website could do most of the work for you and provide verified listings in a verified community – all in one place?
As the modern sharing economy has made the way for several room and roommate finding websites. Some are great and some are not so great – and while we won’t go through every single one, we’ll let you know what to look out for and introduce some of the tools that you can take advantage of.
Answer a series of questions about yourself including your likes, dislikes, and other pertinent information to living with someone, and then search for someone based on their answers to the same questions. Not only will you save time searching for a compatible roommate, but you’ll have a greater probability that you won’t be looking for a new roommate in a month. That’s a win-win.
While there are certain laws around employment and landlord background checks, for roommate checks, you are sort of on your own to find a service that is credible.
The good news is that some roommate finder websites include background check options. On Roomi, for example, many of your matches may already have completed background checks so you can be more confident in striking up a conversation.
Most of us are pretty protective of our personal emails these days, so a secure chat feature can really go a long way.
Some roommate finder apps will provide a secure chat feature that not only allows you to get to know your potential roommates but allows you to do so without handing over your personal contact information—that way if it doesn’t work out, you have nothing to worry about.
Room rental scams are not new, and it is still important to follow your gut when something feels off. An added protection of reputable roommate finder sites is that they work diligently to ensure scam listings never make it on their site and all listings are verified.
Some sites like Roomi, for instance, utilize a combination of human verification and modern advancements in machine learning in order to quickly and accurately filter out fraudulent listings. In fact, on Roomi, roughly 18% of property listings don’t pass through. The AI, customer care and security teams also work 24/7 to respond to and monitor for any suspicious user behaviours on Roomi too – where the community can also flag suspicious profiles for further Roomi investigation.
This is such an important one. Even with verified info and a background check, a personality can be altered through text and email.
Make sure to meet a potential roommate in person before signing any paperwork. Try to meet them more than once, and shoot for a meeting both during the week and on the weekend. This will give you a better feel for their real schedule and lifestyle.
However, meeting with someone is not always possible due to time and distance constraints or other personal obligations for the two parties. In this case, it’s better to exchange phone numbers with a potential roommate and find a time to talk or video chat over the phone.
- Finances Up Front
Money can be difficult to discuss, but if you’re splitting rent and don’t want to get burned, you better talk turkey before moving any further.
A simple credit check can not only tell you if a potential roommate has a history of paying their debts, but can also uncover any prior evictions and mounting credit card debt – both of which may be red flags.
You may also want to get proof of employment to ensure your future roommate will have an income to pay rent. Do yourself a favor and request two pay stubs or, at the very least, an acceptance letter for a new job with the salary listed plain as day.
Is your new prospective roommate looking for a new place because they got kicked out of their last apartment? Well wouldn’t you like to know…
It’s totally reasonable to ask for a few references from former roommates. Aim to get an email AND phone number for 2-3 references, and be sure it includes past roommates. People tend to divulge more in conversation, so try a phone call first.
And related to the finances section above, you should also consider using your prospective roommate’s employer as a reference.
- Clarify the Little Things
I know you’re in a hurry to move in or fill the empty room but if you don’t do it right, you may be going through the entire process again in just a few months. Make sure you get all the little things on the table so everyone is clear on whether or not you have a good mutual fit.
- Exact cost of rent
- Estimated cost of utilities
- How long everyone is planning on staying
- What furniture to bring/not bring (including silverware, plates, etc.)
- Will any pets be moving in?
- Food and how the refrigerator will be shared
- Significant others and sleepover frequency
- Ask for a Deposit
A deposit proves a roommate is serious and willing to put some skin in the game. It also protects everyone else if the roommate decides to flake out. Some sites like Roomi will help facilitate first months rent to provide some extra security to all parties.
Essential Don’t Do’s (and What to Look Out for)
- Don’t Wire Money
We all know the scam about the African prince who inherited a fortune, but Larry the conman from Greenwich Village is a lesser known evil, and he can be very convincing.
Under no circumstance should you be wiring money to pay rent. Period.
- Don’t Send Payment Before Meeting in Person
We’re in the age where it’s very common to buy things online site unseen, and exchanging money via Venmo, QuickPay, and the like are almost as common as buying breakfast.
However, there are too many scammers out there in the rental market to fork over your hard-earned cash without doing your homework and actually meeting them in person.
- If it Seems Too Good to Be True…
OK, so the apartment owner already moved overseas for a job and needs to rent the apartment ASAP so they are offering an incredible deal! You’re not in luck, you’re about to be scammed.
We all know the saying, so don’t be duped when it happens to you. Check similar listings in a neighborhood to get a feel for the market rent price. If you find a great deal, make sure to investigate it further and get to the bottom of why it is such a good deal.
If the renter dodges face to face meetings and phone calls, asks for quick wire transfer payment, wants to correspond via personal email, has very poor grammar, or any of the above – you should probably drop it and move on.
- Don’t Go to See a Place Alone
Even if you’ve done your homework and everything checks out, you should still take a friend with you to view the apartment. Meeting in a public place is one thing, (and we recommend it for a first meeting!) but meeting in an apartment alone is best avoided if possible.
- Don’t Give Out Personal Info
Sure, they should know your name, and it can be helpful to connect on social media so you can feel each other out. But don’t give out any information like bank account, social security number, PayPal account, etc.
It helps to use a platform like Roomi that will verify info for you as well as conduct background check on your behalf. This way both parties can create a trustworthy relationship without giving away any protected information. It’s the best of both worlds, as they say.
we might want to mention that not all scenarios is it possible to actually meet the new roommate in person (long distance moves). We see a lot of users exchange numbers to video chat/call each other.