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How to Find the Right Roommate in a New City

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Moving to a new city is stressful even under the best of circumstances. Finding a new roommate is likewise stressful, even in a city you know well. Combining the two — new roommate and new city — is practically a guarantee of exponential levels of stress. Our guide to how to find a roommate in a new city will take you through the process, with tips to help you avoid the most common pitfalls, suggestions for where to look and a step-by-step approach that will help you find the right roommate with minimal stress.

Before You Start Searching

What do you want in a roommate? If you don't know, the best time to figure it out is before you start talking to prospective roomies. Doing a little advance prep work can save you a lot of wasted time — and could head off a roommate disaster before it happens.

Step 1: Figure Out What You Want in a Roommate

What does your ideal roommate situation look like? Start with a list of make-or-break requirements, using this list of questions to help you come up with an ideal roomie profile.

  • Does gender matter?
  • Are you pet-friendly? What kind of pets?
  • What are your sleeping habits? Can you tolerate someone with a different — or directly opposite — sleep/work schedule?
  • What's your approach to daily chores? How important is neatness/cleanliness to you?
  • How much time are you hoping/expecting to hang out with a roommate?
  • How about guests and overnight visitors? 
  • Are you okay with a noisy roommate — and what constitutes "noisy" for you? 

The answers to these questions will help you sift through potential roommates as you go forward, and will be especially useful in writing a "Roommate Wanted" ad if you choose to go that route.

Step 2: Create a Personal Profile

Once you've got a pretty good idea of the kind of roommate you'd like, it's time to think about the kind of roommate you'll be. Remember, this search has two sides, so craft a well-written personal ad describing yourself, what you're looking for and what you bring to the arrangement. Here are some examples of things to include in your blurb.

  • Background info. Why you've moved (or are moving to) the city, what kind of work you do, why you're looking for a roommate.
  • Your typical schedule. Do you stay up all night? Are you seldom home, or home all the time? 
  • Your interests and hobbies. Are you a fitness buff? Do you enjoy hanging out at home? Going to events? It will help potential roommates imagine what it will be like to live with you.
  • Your personality. Are you an introvert? Do you enjoy having lots of people around? Are you neat and tidy or more relaxed?
  • Be sure to include any other roommates — including pets. 

If you already have an apartment and are looking to sublet:

  • Describe your apartment or place, including any special amenities. Include pictures if you can.
  • Be clear about the costs — share of the rent and fixed-rate utilities, as well as a realistic estimate of usage-based utilities like power and heat.
  • The general neighborhood where you're located and any features that make it attractive. 
  • Describe the available room, including the general dimensions and any particular features, like an attached bathroom.

If you're still hunting for housing, include:

  • Your housing budget, including rent and utilities.
  • The area of the city you hope to live in. If you don't know the city well, describe what you're looking for — for example, "a walkable neighborhood with easy access to public transportation and nearby parks and recreation opportunities," or "close to the industrial park in a bike-friendly neighborhood."
  • List your make or break requirements, such as off-street parking, private bathroom, kitchen access or separate entrance. 
  • If you come with pets, make sure you mention them. Include their size and breed if possible, as many landlords have restrictions on which pets they'll accept.

Finally, think about the things you'd want to know if you were planning to move in with someone. Do you have a partner that's a frequent overnight guest? Do you travel for work often? Do you host Saturday night gaming sessions that run into the wee hours? The more information you provide, the less likely it is that there will be unwelcome surprises later on.

Step 3: Create an Ideal Roommate Agreement

A roommate agreement comes later in the process, but this is a good time to find — or create — one that helps define your ideal living situation in your mind. Check out these sample roommate agreements for ideas on the types of things you should include.

The Roommate Search

Once you've done the prep work, it's time to start your actual search for a compatible roommate. Surprisingly, some of the best options for finding a roommate — even in a new city where you (think you) know no one — are some of the oldest and most tried and true.

Step 4: Explore Your Personal Network

Start by telling everyone you know. Your personal network is still one of the best ways to connect with others —and you may be surprised to find just how deep your personal network can run. Post about your search on your social media accounts — share that personal profile you wrote while you were prepping, for example — or just say you're looking in X city and ask friends if they have any connections there. It just might turn out that your old college roommate's cousin's sister-in-law is looking to fill a room in her apartment, and it's right down the street from your new office. 

Step 5: Check Your Alumni Association

Speaking of old college roommates, it's a good time to check in with your college's alumni association and networks. If they have an Alumni FB page, join it — especially if they have a page dedicated to the city where you're taking up digs. Check in with your college sorority, fraternity, sports teams and other organizations you might have joined in your college years. They often have an amazing social reach.

Step 6: Go High Tech With Social Media and Apps

The internet is still one of the best places to connect with people, so take advantage of it. Some suggestions for getting roommate recommendations in a new city include:

  • Join the neighborhood's community page on Facebook. Don't forget local mutual aid and other community FB pages.
  • Check out Reddit for any /r threads dedicated to your new city/neighborhood.
  • Try Bumble BFF. Best known as a dating app, Bumble also has a BFF mode that matches you up with people looking for friends with common interests. 
  • Craigslist is still a thing, but be sure to do your due diligence when responding to CL listings. There's no vetting, so you're on your own to make sure people are who they say they are.
  • Padmapper is a housing search app for finding apartments to rent, but if you download the app, you can use the "Post Your Pad" feature to search for roommates and people to sublet a room in your place.
  • There are several premium websites and apps dedicated to helping people hook up with potential roommates. The costs range from about $20 a year to $30 a month. They include:

Step 7: Go Low Tech With Community Bulletin Boards

Don't overlook the old-school low-tech approach. Make the rounds of local supermarkets, colleges and social gathering places to check out postings on their community bulletin boards. Check the classified ads in the local daily or weekly newspaper. Sometimes, the too-good-to-believe stories are true and you might just snag a sweet deal on the rent in return for running a few errands and agreeing to mow the lawn once a week in the summer. 

Narrowing Your Prospects

Hopefully, your prospecting has turned up at least a few potential roommates (and maybe more than a few). Now the real work begins — narrowing down your list until you find the person you want to share your home with for the next year or more. That's going to take some face-to-face conversations, and maybe a little snooping. 

Step 8: Get Personal

It should go without saying that you should never agree to move in with someone without meeting them face to face first. When you do, you should come prepared with a list of questions — and expect that they'll do the same. Seriously, if they don't have questions for you, it should at least raise a yellow caution flag. You have to wonder why they'd be so desperate to find a roommate that they're willing to take anyone at face value. As for your questions, here are some of the important topics you should discuss with potential roommates before you agree to live together.

  • What do you do for a living? Are you currently employed?
  • Why are you looking for a roommate?
  • What's your typical schedule like?
  • Do you smoke or drink? What are your vices?
  • What are your favorite things to do?
  • What are you looking for in a roommate?
  • How do you feel about sharing food and cooking duties?
  • What's your pet peeve (in a roommate, especially!)?
  • How do you feel about overnight/weekend guests?
  • How do you feel about dividing the chores between us?

Step 9: Look Into Their Social Media

If there was ever a time to do a little social media snooping, this is it. Remember, you're planning to share a home with this person, so there's no shame in finding out everything you can by any means necessary. Checking out their social media accounts can be an education. Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and other sites can give you a quick overview of the activities they enjoy, how often they go out, and what types of people they spend their time with. 

When you've narrowed your choices down to one or two people, you might even consider paying for a simple background check, similar to the ones landlords run on prospective tenants. The wrong roommate can jeopardize your credit rating, get you evicted, or even, worst case scenario, put your personal safety at risk. This is one time that it pays off to be suspicious.

Don't be afraid to ask for references — and be prepared to provide some of your own. It's perfectly reasonable to want to know if the person you're planning to live with has people who will speak up for them. 

Watch out for red flags. While your personal red flags may vary, there are a few universal ones that should make you take a step back no matter how much you personally like a person.

  • No gainful employment. And if they seem to be unemployed, but have plenty of income, be sure you're comfortable with their source of income. 
  • They're vague about why their last roommate left — or why they left their last roommate. 
  • They have a history of not paying their rent or bills. 
  • They (or their home) are unacceptably sloppy, unclean or unkempt.
  • They like to party all the time, party all the time…unless, of course, you also like to party all the time. 
  • They come with an unofficial non-resident roommate — a significant other, relative or friend who is pretty much always there.

Step 10: Do a Trial Period

Congratulations, you did it! This is when you break out the roommate agreement and make whatever alterations you both agree about. If you're still not entirely certain — but it looks like this could be the real thing — consider establishing a no-fault trial period of three-to-six months during which either of you can end the lease (with appropriate notice, of course). Write it into your rental agreement so there's no question about the terms. If you've done your due diligence, though, there's a good chance you'll never have to exercise that clause.

Moving to a new city and need to take up temporary digs in a furnished place? Take advantage of a personal storage unit to hold your belongings until you find your forever home. 

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