Many young adults would prefer to explore their new independence by renting their own apartment, but financial realities sometimes make finding a roommate or roommates a necessity. Rental properties located in large cities can be extremely expensive, assuming a suitable apartment is even available.
Few entry-level workers can afford to pay rent and utilities by themselves, so they must somehow locate a compatible roommate and trust him or her to share intimate living spaces. If such a pairing works out well, then both can afford to live and work in an expensive city. If the wrong roommate is selected, life can become very difficult quickly. Either a replacement will need to be found in a hurry, or an uneasy truce will have to hold for the entire duration of the lease.
So how do you find a suitable roommate? There are several different ways to make your needs known, but you should also take the time to consider what qualities you are looking for in a roommate. If you accept the first applicant with a steady job and the deposits for utilities and rent, you may be setting yourself up for financial
Here’s how to find a roommate, and questions to ask yourself while interviewing applicants.
- Think like a potential roommate. This means targeting your flyers and other advertisements in places most likely to be frequented by a good roommate. A downtown coffee shop with a younger clientele may be a better place to advertise than a laundromat if you’re looking for a younger roommate. College campuses often allow students to post flyers on community bulletin boards, as well as register with student housing services. Alternative newspapers may reach a younger demographic than the traditional paper, although both offer maximum coverage for the money. Churches with active singles or young adult groups may be open to an announcement.
- Ask co-workers about their living arrangements. Often a co-worker will be in the same situation as yourself- newly employed but not settled in. They may also be looking for a roommate or would be amenable to the idea. The advantages of having a roommate from work would be similar work schedules and salaries, but the disadvantages may be the same as dating co-workers. Even if the roommate situation doesn’t work out, you’ll still have to encounter that person on a daily basis. Workplace stresses may find their way into your personal space. Before selecting a co-worker as a roommate, make sure you have an understanding of keeping work and home as separate as possible. It’s best if you and your roommate have shared interests outside of the workplace.
- Answer a ‘roommate wanted’ ad yourself. Instead of taking on the responsibility of interviewing potential roommates, you may have better luck being an applicant. Scour the classifieds in the local paper and look for communal bulletin boards. If you match the qualifications listed in the flyer or ad and the rent seems affordable, you might do better moving in with someone else instead of hoping for a suitable roommate to share your current apartment.
Other apartments or houses may offer extra privacy or be located closer to work or the heart of a city. If you’re not locked into a lease and your own search has not been successful, you may want to explore this option. There may be a bit of a shift in ‘power’ between the original renter and a new roommate, but remember this is primarily a financial arrangement.
- Place an advertisement in traditional and alternative newspapers. Word your ad carefully to reflect the specific qualifications of a potential roommate. Spell out your smoking preferences, along with other critical elements such as pets, children, gender and age. If you’re amenable to a roommate of either sex, say so in the ad. If you would prefer a same-sex roommate, be sure to include that information. Potential roommates need to know the amount of rent and utilities they would be responsible for paying. Include contact information such as your first name and phone number. Ads placed in a large city newspaper are bound to generate a lot of calls, many of them unsuitable for your needs. Takedown potential applicants’ information and set up specific times for interviews. Never accept a roommate based solely on a phone call. You’ll need to see how he or she relates to you in person. Do they seem pleased with the terms and their share of the living space? Are their work schedules compatible with yours? Do they have solid character references?
- Ask yourself if you really need a roommate. If you anticipate pursuing a romantic relationship in the near future, would a roommate’s presence be welcomed? Could you find a more affordable apartment and remain on your own? Roommates can provide companionship and a better social life, but they can also make decisions which can hurt you financially. Small claims courts are filled with cases of roommates not paying their share of utility bills or otherwise violating their part of the living arrangements. Circumstances can lead one roommate to move out unexpectedly, leaving the others to pay a larger portion of the bills. Be sure to get everything in writing and keep copies of all payments made towards household expenses. In order to avoid conflicts down the road, it’s best to look for roommates who are economically and socially compatible with you. Extreme age differences or income disparities can prove to be problematic as the months go by.