Roommate Hunting? The Expert’s Guide.

Sarah Wong 17, December 2018
expert guide to find roommate

The search for good roommates is vital, as the consequences of having a bad roommate can screw so much more than having a bad boyfriend or girlfriend. Think about it, you can escape from a disastrous relationship by simply not making contact ever again right after the moment of breaking up, but you are legally bound to your roommates by the leasing contract that you guys have signed.

A bad fight among roommates can easily turn into years long of hostile and tensed living situation that you cannot get out of instantly.

Hence, in order to prevent yourself from having to deal with a grueling living condition like that, it is wise to take extra steps to make sure that you filter out potentially bad roommates right from the start. The process to look for a good roommate is divided into 3 stages: (1) Acquisition (2) Interview and (3) Precautionary Measures as stated below.

Finding roommates guide

First stage: Acquisition

In this stage of the process, you are actively gathering a pool of candidate to be your future roommate. Yes, one candidate is not enough. It is imprudent to cease your searching effort after your first candidate reaches out to you. Trust me, a little more effort at this stage can guarantee you a peaceful daily life the rest of your lease. The following are tips and steps you should execute in the acquisition step.

1. Ask around people that you know for potential roommates

Your friends, family members, and colleagues are people that interact with you often and so, of course, they know you and get you to a certain degree. When they introduce somebody they know to you a roommate, they probably will comment on something about that person, hence that friend/family member/colleague of yours are a reliable first reference that this potential roommate automatically acquired.

People that know you will have better sense than a roommate search engine on knowing whether you can click with a potential roommate or not.

A personal reference is always more auspicious for a successful roommate match as both parties feel more comfortable knowing that their friend knows the person they going to live together for a while before moving in together.

2. Go online to find potential roommates

There are many online roommates searching websites out there that could help you get potential candidates. They are often free of cost, you just have to complete your profile, list out your preferences and that’s all. You can also search people by filters such as gender, age, occupation and more.

online roommate search

The online roommate search engine serves as a good preliminary tool to get you a pool of candidates that encompass a vast area. They could be people from out of state or foreigner, hence give you more options to pick from and potentially meet people of diverse culture.
List your Room/Space and find new roommates online.

3. Provide detailed information about yourself and/or the house you are renting

When posting roommate search advertisement online, it is best to provide detailed information about yourself. Describe your lifestyle and habits in order to attract potential roommates with similar lifestyle and habits. You can also include your hobby, such as ‘I like to go hiking at the weekend’. By doing so, not only potential roommates will find you warm and amiable from the start, a buddy with similar interest might reach out to you and therefore earn you one like-minded friend.

Read about 10 Deadly Mistakes You Should Avoid Before Renting A Room.

If you are renting a space in your current or future home to a new roommate, then it is important to list out every detail of the house in order to avoid misunderstanding, including point out clearly which room will be his/her to rent.

4. Start the acquisition process as early as you can

Do not fall into the situation where you find yourself are in the rush of finding someone fast to cover the share of the empty room in your house last minute. This could be extremely stressful and forces you to overlook many red flags in potential roommates for the sake of just wanting somebody to move in fast. So the key here is to take your time, gather a pool of good potential candidates then only proceed to the next stage (interview).

Second stage: Interview

Do interview for new roommates

The interview stage is where you start communicating with potential roommates. I strongly suggest you meet up with them in person to get a better sense of them and to see whether they are unfriendly or unsafe. For safety reason, you can ask a friend to accompany you or pick a venue under surveillance of the public eye, like a rather busy coffee shop. If you are going to show them your house, you should first meet them at a neutral location with a friend, observe whether this person is safe then only proceed by taking them to the house. If your potential roommates are out of town or unable to make it on site to meet up with you, I would suggest you to video call them. Even though this is not as good as meeting up in person, video chatting is the second best option for an interview as you get reaction closest to real-time response.

You should keep the interview friendly and light while taking mental notes regarding all the question checklists you have in mind.

Asking the right questions is crucial in this stage, the following are some indisputable questions and information that you must remember to inquire and deliver to your potential roommate in order to fulfill each other expectation.

roommates interview in a info graphics


First, ask about their lifestyle. Are they inclined to throw a party, have friends over, have boyfriend/girlfriend over etc. If you generally like to keep to yourself when you are at home, having an extra-extrovert roommate could be problematic. Or if you are an extra-extrovert yourself that love you host parties of all kinds, you will like to avoid taking in a roommate that hates the presence of excessive human beings.

bathroom conflicts among roommates

Your potential roommates’ school/work schedule would also provide you information regarding whether or not bathroom conflict would arise with having multiple people in the house fighting to use the bathroom to get ready in the morning. Ask them about their cooking habit/ food preference too in order to gauge whether any issues will arise in the future.


You need to be very upfront about all cost and fees if you are the one that is renting out space. Provide accurate figures regarding water, electricity and other bills to give your potential roommates a real-time expectation about the cost that they would need to fork out. This would provide them sufficient information to judge whether they can afford the rent realistically and also help you to avoid potential rent money issue.

3.Financial ability

Ask your potential roommates how are they going to pay for rent by questioning about their occupations. By knowing that they have a reliable source of income can help you prevent future rent money issues as well.

financial ability of roommate to pay rent

You should ask them for a copy of their last two paychecks to prove that they have a stable income. If they are students that rely on parents to pay the bill, ask for a copy of their parents’ paychecks instead. You do not want to be caught up in a situation, which your roommates always late for rent and causes late fees to accumulate over time.

4.Cleaning habit


Ask about your potential roommates’ cleaning habit and whether they are willing to split chore with everybody in the house.

Often time, cleaning habit is the breaking point of all roommates’ relationship.

Hence, you should tell them about your cleaning habits as well and try to accommodate a cleaning schedule that is agreed by everybody.

5.Reason to look for a new place

Ask your potential roommates why are them looking for a new place can gain you insight into potential problems they might have. The usual reason to move could be they want to live closer to work/school/train station, old lease ending or want to save cost. However, reason like roommate drama or being kicked out last minute could indicate that this person is difficult to live with and that you should avoid at all cost.

6.Your limit

The last question is more of a question to ask yourself: what is your pet peeve? At the end of the interview stage, you need to be honest with yourself about what you think you can and cannot put up with your future roommates. What are the most important qualities you seek in your future roommates and also which criteria are more important than the other?


'Roommate A' confessed to having the smoking habit but he seems to have the most stable income proof among all candidate, do you think you could stand the cigarette stench? 'Roommate B' is planning to move in with a cat and you are mildly allergic to cat, do you think you would be fine? 'Roommate C' likes to throw a party but he promised he would only have people over when you have your weekend shift off knowing you have to work early weekend shift sometimes, do you think he is trustworthy enough to keep his promise?

Take into consideration the pros and the cons of all candidates you have already talk to, measure them up to your tolerance level. Think about whether you can tolerate certain habits for a long period of time. Remember, roommates are people that you are legally bonded with from a few months to years to come.

Third stage: Precautionary Measures

After meeting with all candidates, it is time to sit down and consolidate all the information you have gathered so far. There are a few precautionary measures that seem to be trivial or unnecessary but are actually crucial in the final stage to secure you good roommates for the year ahead.

1. Check references provided by potential roommates

Ask your roommates to provide information about their previous landlords or roommates. Observe the response of your potential roommates when you ask for references. If they refuse or seem reluctant to provide references, it might be that they had bad records or landlord-tenant/roommate relationships problems and this would be a big red flag itself. On the other hand, a reference can tell you how trustworthy your potential roommates are as a tenant or roommate.

2. Ask potential roommates for a credit check and do a criminal check

background check for potential roommate

It is absolutely appropriate to ask your potential roommates for a credit check as you are putting yourself out there to trust your roommates to contribute rent money every month in order to not violate leasing regulation. In order to guarantee the safety of all tenants living in the household or even other tenants that live in the building or close proximity, it is important to run a criminal check on your potential roommates to get a sense of who you are welcoming to your home. Just like what we stated above at the references section, if somebody shows sign of unwillingness in providing credit check or consent to run a criminal check, then something fishy is most likely up there in the air.

3. Prepare a written roommate agreement

It is utterly important to have every detail that all roommates agreed on recorded in black and white form.

Never rely on oral contract; promises that are not written down have zero value in reality. Even though it is important to trust your roommate in order to foster a strong roommate bond, it is still necessary to have a legal backup in case anything goes wrong.

Be careful to write down everything including rent amount, lease duration, responsibility, penalty etc. Each of every tenant has to sign the agreement and keep an identical copy for future reference.


It is not unusual for people to spend months to look for roommates. After all, it is a big commitment to live under a roof with somebody else. A general rule of thumb in choosing roommate is to pick somebody that is most similar to you among all candidates you have if you have too many or all candidates seem great to live with.

happy roommates

Roommates with a similar lifestyle, cleaning habits, and characteristics often find each other more pleasant to live with and are able to get along better than those that have great dissimilarities. Besides that, follow every step and tips stated above can almost guarantee you a pleasant roommate, or at least avoid an utterly terrible one. Best of luck!

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