Knowing how to meet up with a new potential roommate safely seems like common sense, but is it? It is for someone who has done online dating or sold something to a stranger on Craigslist.
But for many people, the idea of meeting a complete stranger is terrifying.
Before we get started, I want to share some quick tips with you. These tips will help you initiate a friendly meeting and conversation with any new potential roommate.
After all, it’s a conversation that will help you discover any one of the red flags we discuss below.
Tip#1: If you are hitting it off with a great e-mail conversation, it’s ok to exchange phone numbers. If you are feeling right about them after a phone or text conversation, go ahead and plan to meet them.
Tip#2: I always recommend you meet at the location of the residence you are going to share or meet in a public place nearby at a coffee shop or cafe. If you feel nervous about meeting this new person, you can bring a friend with you.
Tip #3: If this person turns out to be a deadbeat because they flake out, I would cancel them off my list and find someone else. Second chances are hard to come by.
Tip#4: When you meet, don’t make it feel like a job interview. You want the meeting to feel casual, that’s the best way to learn about them and their real personality. Asking questions is fine too, but sometimes the best way to ask a question is by indirectly asking it through a fun conversation.
When you initiate a conversation with a new potential roommate, your goal is to discover any behavior that would set off your radar for creeps, weirdos, or scammers.
Here are 6 red flags to look out for when meeting someone new online or in person. If any of these red flags come up with your situation, I’d skip the person and move onto someone new.
Red Flag #1: Their Personal Info Might Be Fake
If you sense the person you’re talking with online or in person is not using their real e-mail address or phone number to communicate with you, it’s understandable. For privacy protection online its actually a smart idea sometimes to be anonymous.
But as you get to know them they should be able to provide you with a real e-mail address, phone number, previous address, name of employer, Social Media account, etc.
After all, they’re going to have to put there real information on a rental application, and you’ll want to see some proof of employment.
Red Flag #2: Cannot Provide Reliable References
If they stumble on a request for providing a few personal or professional references, this is another big red flag. A landlord is going to make this request of them and so should you.
Even if the person has no previous rental history, they should be able to have someone like a manager at work or a former teacher from college provide a professional reference.
If after multiple requests they still show too much resistance providing what is asked, it’s probably worth it to pass on them.
Red Flag #3: Can’t Explain How They Make Money
There are many issues with being roommates with the type of person who can’t explain how they make money. How do you know they’re not breaking the law or selling drugs?
If you sense something very shady is going on with the way, your new potential roommate tells you how they make money. I’d skip on them for sure.
Red Flag #4: Nervous About a Background Check
Someone who is nervous about a background check could certainly raise a red flag or two. What you really need to know though is how open and honest they are about why they feel nervous. Is there credit not perfect?
Do they have a previous eviction? What about a DUI? There are a million reasons why and they should be open to explaining the reason for why a background check may turn up some negative marks for them.
When you apply for a rental a landlord is almost always going to run a background check. If you disclose a bad mark ahead of time, it always looks better. You can disclose it with a letter of explanation when the rental application is submitted.
Red Flag #5: Someone Offers You Money Via E-mail
If someone promises you money via an online roommate finder website or Craigslist you should run far far away from this person. Don’t even respond to the e-mail.
Just delete the message and move on. You can report the offending account and have it removed from the site. On Craigslist there’s a link in each e-mail to flag the message for being a scam.
Red Flag #6: Someone Asks For Your Personal Info Too Soon
During your online or in-person conversations its inappropriate to ask for someone’s personal information too soon. Wait until you two have had a casual conversation, found a place, and are ready to commit to being roommates.
If you being a bit more private in the beginning causes your new potential roommate to act too pushy or unprofessional, skip them, it’s that simple.
I’ve been using this red flag checklist for years with all of my new roommates and its saved me more than once from being scammed or taken for a ride.
Especially using the internet to find a new roommate.