Crib Notes: How to Find the Perfect Roommate

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It doesn’t matter how desperate you may be to minimize your living expenses–when looking for someone to live, it’s important to find out as much as you can about that person first.

Whether you’re looking for someone to move in to your place or are the one in need of a place to call home, there are certain steps you must take to make sure you find a safe–and sane–living situation.


We all know that Craigslist is responsible for many positive roommate situations, peppered with a few true horror stories. To make sure you don’t come across as one of the psychos–whether posting an ad or responding to one–put some effort into what you write.

Since people tend to glaze over long passages, it’s better to put the most important information first and in bullet points. Include vital info like the security deposit amount, whether pets are ok, and if references are needed. Similarly, when you respond to an ad, be sure to answer the most critical points first–and don’t be afraid to list what you’re looking for in a roommate too.

Craigslist isn’t the only place on the web serving up roommate connections. Check out the new start up RoomZoom, a free app that works much like a dating site, but for prospective roommates instead of soul mates. Other sites such as Roomster require a paid subscription to access all features, which can serve as a filter for serious applicants only.

A neat trick to make sure someone has read your listing thoroughly? End your post with a special call to action, such as: “To show you read this listing in its entirety, please include your favorite movie in your response.”


Even if you don’t alway keep an immaculate home, now is the time to make a good impression by posting pics of–and maintaining a clean casa for interviews. If people find empty pizza boxes in the bathroom when they visit for the first time, they’ll think it’s OK to keep the junky-vibe flowing once they live there.

Similarly, if you show up to look at an apartment, don’t wear sweatpants. Dress in a manner that says, “You can trust me not to leave dirty underwear on the bathroom floor.”


It’s tempting to just have a chat with the prospective roommate and try to suss out whether or not you could be friends. But here’s the hitch: it’s one thing to get along with a person for 15 minutes and a totally different thing to deal with them 24/7.

This is why it’s critical to prepare roommate interview questions that pertain to the day-to-day issues that crop up when sharing a living space.

When you talk to people about roommate situations gone wrong, there are some issues that consistently pop up: money, cleaning and guests. Be sure you ask your potential roommate about how she or he feels about each of these things. While it might feel awkward to ask so many questions, it’s much more awkward to ask a person to move out.

At a minimum you should ask:

  1. How often do you clean?
  2. How do you handle paying for things we all use, like toilet paper or utilities?
  3. What do you do on the weekends?
  4. How often do you have guests?


Many people don’t like talking about money. But you know what’s worse than talking about money? Getting screwed out of it. You may land the nicest roommate in the world, but if she or he can’t pay the rent on time, you’re going to have problems.

Any renter should put down at least one month’s rent as a deposit. Inquire as to what their job situation is, and if they are freelancing feel free to ask how long their current gig will last.


To help avoid bumps down the road, let people know your pet peeves before you agree to a lease. If burning incense in the apartment makes you choke, say so upfront. If you’re allergic to cats, ask if your roommate plans on getting a pet any time soon.

Don’t worry about coming across as bossy or persnickety. Living with someone can be a wonderful experience that can lead to lifelong friendships, but it can also be trying at times. By being up front in the beginning, you can avoid getting burned in the end.


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