Finding a roommate is a good idea for all kinds of reasons. Maybe you just bought a home and you want to rent a room out to help pay the mortgage down. Or maybe you’re renting an apartment with college friends or co-workers to share expenses and save money.
People seek out new roommates for all kinds of different situations. It always seems like a good idea in the beginning, but many people might get discouraged with the challenge of finding that perfect roomie.
Over the years, I’ve rented out rooms in my home to help offset expenses and pay my mortgage down quicker.
Below, I’ve compiled an entire guide that shares all of my first-hand experiences when it comes to finding a roommate, screening a new roommate, writing up a roommate agreement, and how to fairly split expenses with them.
Step #1: The Best Roommate Finder Apps or Websites To Find a Potential Roommate
There are many roommate finder websites and apps to choose from; some cost money, and some are free.
Each big city like New York City (NYC), Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Jose, Oakland, San Francisco, Miami, Portland, etc. will have a popular roommate finder app that will have a good selection of people local to you.
If you find yourself browsing through a limited selection of people, you might be using an unpopular roommate finder app for your area. So always be open to trying a few options.
A good roommate finder website will have the following features and characteristics:
- Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other Social Media presence.
- Plenty of profiles with people in your local area.
- An iPhone or Droid Mobile app for you to use.
- A reputable looking website with high-quality photos, and not cheap looking stock photos. User photos should also be of quality.
- They should NOT use sneaky sign-up forms to get your email address or credit card!
If a roommate finder app does not have these characteristics you’ll be better off using Craigslist since it’s in every town, pretty popular, and is free to use.
Please Note: I’ve personally used Craigslist and RoomiApp for my roommate searches. So my comments for these platforms will be a bit more detailed than the others on this list.
1) Craigslist, Remember To Use It Safely!
Craigslist is a great option for just about every town; it’s the modern-day newspaper classifieds site that started in the mid-1990s. It’s still my go-to resource for finding a roommate asap (if an app falls short.) It has postings for major cities all around the world. PLUS, IT’S FREE.
A craigslist posting has information such as pictures and a description that a poster will write about.
The most important thing about Craigslist is to keep a sharp mind when using it, and do your due diligence. It can attract many flaky and scammy people.
Some quick tips to remember for using Craigslist to safely find a roommate are:
- Craigslist has an anonymous feature to hide your e-mail address. Make sure you use it and don’t initially release any personal contact information to anyone you chat with.
- If you are extra paranoid try using a fake e-mail address using ProtonMail, it’s free and a great way to ensure no one can get your real e-mail.
- If you are doing a phone chat with someone to interview them from Craigslist, try using a free Google Voice Number instead of your cell phone.
These safety tips apply for any of the below options as well!
I like the roommate finder site Roomi. It’s also known as Roomi App and it’s a great option for finding your next roommate; it’s very popular with millennials.
Roomi has a clean interface, great photo options, and a complete profile for each user. It also has a mobile app you can download for your Droid or iPhone device.
I found the setup process to be streamlined and easy to follow. You can also use your Facebook account or email address to register, unlike with Roomster.
I’ve downloaded the mobile app, and the listings are displayed beautifully. It has a bit of an Airbnb feel to it, but most importantly, it loads everything fast, no waiting for pictures to load.
There’s a free profile option and some extra services for a premium.
RentHoop came out in 2016 and is available on IOS and Android mobile devices. The layout of viewing potential roommates is set up with easy-to-find info like location, budget, roommate’s deal-breakers, and lifestyle questions.
One of RentHoop’s best features is that its search filters allow you to quickly find short or long-term leases (which is a big help when dealing with sublets.) You can also find people to go apartment hunting with, search by budget, and filter by college name.
Roomiematch lets you set up a free profile (with limited options) and does a good job of providing its user a roommate finder experience as a matchmaker using a curated feed.
It does this by having a clean, easy layout design and delivers potential roommate matches via email to your inbox.
To help cut down on spam and spam profiles, humans also review each and every account. It’s well moderated and serves Canada, and the U.S. If you want to enjoy full usage of the website, there is a cost.
I live close to SF and Diggz is pretty popular here. It’s got a smaller client base and focus of just serving a dozen or so cities across the U.S.
It has some search filters for details such as your party lifestyle or sleeping habits. It’s free to use and will normally start you off with a batch of 10 matches to get started.
If you have already lined up a roommate, or you want to find a new apartment, condo, or home to rent with your existing roommate, check out pad mapper. Either though, this website is not roommate specific, it’s a great tool for finding a new place to live when your existing place is forcing you out.
You’ll find new places in your favorite city in the U.S. or Canada. It’s free and has an awesome map interface too.
7) Circle for Roommates
I recently discovered the Circled for Roommates roommate finder app and it looks very much like Tinder. It’s a swipe app for matchmaking with a roommate. It’s most popular in New York City and Los Angeles, but it’s growing in other big cities as well.
Each profile has short bios and pictures which is nice. You can also see friends of friends. It’s free to use and downloadable in the app store (it’s for iPhone.)
8) Rainbow Roommates
I also found rainbow roommates while researching roommate finders for this article, it’s specific to serving the LGBTQ community and operates in NYC (New York City). It’s a bit more on the expensive side at 15 bucks for just a two-week subscription.
If you have a room to rent, you can make a free listing. It’s definitely a premium option for people.
Step #2: Alternative Options For Finding a Roommate
If a roommate finder app or website in the previous section does not work for you, try one of these options instead.
- Reddit is a great option to find a new roommate if you can get lucky and find a subreddit focused on finding a roommate with the keywords of your city name/area. It might be a bit unorganized, but it can be a very good resource of people to weed through and hunt down a good roommate.
- Facebook has many groups or pages set up in local communities all over the United States. There’s a good chance one might be set up that specializes in shared housing and finding roommates in your town.
- Alumni networks for college are very popular, and a safe bet most of the time because of the referral connection it has. Most colleges have a listserv for alumni living in a major city, just monitor the list and seek it out.
- Local Online Community Blog, Forum, or Website – Find a local popular blog, website, or online forum that has roommate listings. College towns will sometimes have a website like this.
- Ask your friends, family, and colleagues. This option makes a lot of sense because you trust them and they’ll help screen out creepy or crazy people for you. I would advise that you be extra picky and avoid referrals from friends, family, and co-workers who you don’t have good judgment with screening prospects, it’s just not worth the hassle of something going wrong.
- Another obvious place to find a new roommate is a good old bulletin board at your favorite coffee shop, college, clubhouse, bookstore, gym, church, library, or favorite hang-out spot downtown (it can be a hidden gem for finding great roommates!)
Step #3: Screen Out Your New Potential Roommate With Some Roommate-Agreement Questions
In the next step, we’ll cover an easy way to make a roommate agreement. But, before you can do that you’ll want to ask your new potential roommate some questions to make sure you agree on certain things while living together. Also, you’ll want to know if they are financially responsible too!
Some potential questions include:
- What would a previous landlord say about you if I asked or called them?
- Any recent financial difficulties paying the rent at your current place?
- Can you provide reliable references? (get references from friends, family, old landlords, and the current landlord.)
- How do you make money for paying the rent? (job, side hustle, freelance work.)
- Can you pass a background check?
- What’s your typical schedule? (stacked more in the morning, afternoon, or night.)
- Do you enjoy your job or career?
- What indoor temp do you like the best?
- Do you have pets?
- Do you smoke or are you offended by smoking?
- Any food restrictions or allergies?
- What’s your dating life like?
- Am I going to be your first roommate?
- Do you work from home?
- Do you have friends come over often?
- The daily schedule of being out vs. being home?
- How much do you cook vs. going out?
- What are your deal breakers?
- Do you travel often?
- What about having out-of-town guests?
- Do you have any bad habits I should know about?
- What are your biggest stressors in life?
- How do you prioritize cleanliness, play, work, or rest?
- What time do you generally go to work and get home?
- How often do you clean?
You don’t have to ask or answer every single question, just select the ones that are really important for you to know about.
Step #4: How To Write Up A Roommate and Living Agreement; Which Ideas Should You Include?
Whenever I need to write up a new roommate agreement when renting out a room in my house, I like to head over to Legal Zoom and follow this article as a template: Writing a Roommate Agreement
Then, start a new Google Doc or MS Word Document and copy/paste Legal Zoom’s template into it.
Then, start customizing it to your own needs based on what you agreed on from the roommate agreement questions in the previous section.
Also, make sure you follow the suggestions provided by the template you copied from Legal Zoom. One of the most important parts of the agreement is deciding how to divide the utilities, we’ll cover that in the next section.
Step #5: How To Fairly Divide Up The Bills With Your Roommates
If you’re like me, then you like to be organized. Collecting money from roommates can be a real mess if you’re not tracking it. If you only have one roommate it will be easy, and you may not even need to use anything more than a calculator and a spreadsheet. Then just collect the money when the bills are paid at the end of the month.
If you have multiple roommates, you’ll want to try using an app to see if it makes things easier. Check out the below list of apps and tools to track and transfer money to each other.
Apps/Tools For Tracking Expenses Or Transferring Money
Paypal – We all know about PayPal, it’s been around since 1998. Anybody with an e-mail address can sign-up and send or receive money directly from their checking account or credit card. The PayPal mobile app is pretty easy to use, and PayPal is a trusted company as far as security goes.
Venmo – Just like PayPal you can also send and receive money to anyone with Venmo. The best part is it’s free to use if you utilize your Venmo balance, bank account, or debit card to pay someone. Otherwise, the standard fee is 3%. Always review the fine print to find out how much is being charged in regards to merchant fees.
Splitwise – This is an interesting app that I recently discovered. It will track your expenses and IOUs (what everyone owes) with your friends and roommates. It allows you to fairly split costs with everyone. If you can convince everyone involved to install it and use it, it can be very beneficial. It’s 100% free too.
RentShare – This app will help track each roommate’s rental payments to your Landlord. You can even use your credit card to pay your share of the rent. While that might be a nice feature, I’d be a bit concerned if my roomy needed to pay their share of the rent with a credit card. One last thing about this app, you’re Landlord has to sign-up too for you to use it.
Keep All Big Purchases Separate, But Share
If you need to buy a couch for the living room, it’s best to have one person buy it, own it, then share it. That way at the end of the lease one person owns it, and there’s no fighting as to how to split it.
In return for you sharing your big item such as a couch, your other roommates should purchase other big items to share. Such as a love seat, BBQ, Dining Room Set, Television, etc.
Dividing Up Groceries And Other Food Costs
Sharing the food costs with roommates can be tricky because what if one of you eats more than the other?
You can solve this issue by being very selective to what types of food you share together. Don’t share your favorite cereal. But if you decide one night to cook an expensive dinner and it makes enough for more than one person, why not ask them to chip in and share it?
Chipping in money on Wine, Beer, and bulk items like toilet paper, steaks, chicken and other frozen food packs you buy from Costco is also a great idea.
Never wait until the end of the month to collect money owed to you for shared food. Roommates have a horrible time remembering these types of IOUs vs. the monthly utility bills which can be clearly pointed out.
Should all the roommates split the utilities and bills equally?
Usually yes if all things are created equal in the living space. But many times they are not.
What if one of you works from home? That person should be paying more of the electricity bill because they are consuming more.
If you own a house and are renting a spare bedroom out, you should not expect your roommate who rents just one bedroom to pay 50% of the overall utilities. They are taking up much less square footage in that house then you are. A fair estimate might be around 30% since they are most likely only using a third of the overall house.
The same attitude should be considered for all of the expenses relating to rent, utilities, and any other miscellaneous living expenses. Have a discussion with your roommates and figure out an arrangement that is fair for everyone.
What If Your Roommate Does Not Pay Their Share Of The Rent?
Having a roommate who does not pay their share of the rent is a terrible problem to deal with. It’s by far the worst type of roommate problem to have because their actions have a huge impact on you both.
The best thing to do in this situation is to exercise some patience and understanding! Try to help your roommate brainstorm some ways to get some quick cash with the following suggestions.
- Ask a family member for assistance. Mom, Dad, or a Sibling would be best.
- Sell some books or video games for extra cash. Or any other personal items that have value.
- Get a payday advance from work (I highly discourage this, but do what you gotta do).
- You might think about picking up the entire rent and collecting it from them at a later time. Especially if you’re both sharing a lease and you don’t want to ruin your credit. BE WARNED! You’ll have to collect it in court if they don’t pay you back! Or just kiss it off as a loss.
- Face the reality that your roommate can’t pay and you might need to speak with them and your landlord to get a new roommate who can. This might involve the old roommate breaking the lease or having someone new take it over.
Living with roommates is a great way to save money if you’re renting or you’re a homeowner who just wants to rent out a spare bedroom. Most of the time things work just fine, but sometimes they do not.
If you set up the right roommate agreement and ask the right questions, you’ll find someone who is financially responsible and not too bad to live with.
Thanks for reading and cheers! Scott