Classic Advice on Roommates

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It’s always exciting to move to a new city for a job, graduate school or another opportunity that takes you miles away from where you went to school or your hometown.  It can also be pretty intimidating, especially when you may not know a lot of people (if any) in your new location. As someone who has lived with strangers to coworkers to childhood friends, I can help you navigate the waters of finding a comfortable living situation.

First, it’s important to determine if you want to have a roommate.  Some people are better at living alone or prefer to.  If you are one of these people and can afford to do so, then hooray!  You can just skip this article all together.  However, if you like having a roommate or due to finances need to have one, then let me help you out as best as I can.

If you are moving to a new city and are fortunate to know people already there, use them as a resource.  Let them know when you are moving to town and ask if they know of anyone looking for a roommate—who knows, they may be looking for a roommate themselves! Living with a friend or an acquaintance is one of the easiest ways to find a roommate.

Sometimes, though, you will ask your friends and they won’t need a roommate or their friends don’t need one either.  Or you may not know anyone at all in your new city and also have to start from scratch.  What do you do then?  Here are a few options

Use your Alpha Phi network.

Once you know where you are moving, you can reach out to several Alpha Phis in your new area.  Check alphaphi.org for Alumnae Chapters in the area and contact the president. Let her know that you are moving and ask if she can send out information to the alumnae chapter members about your roommate search.

You can also reach out to the collegiate chapter presidents in the area (and also in the state) and let them know the same thing.  They might know of someone in their chapter who is also moving to the same location, or maybe who moved one or two years before.

You can also post a personal announcement in the Chapter News section of the Alpha Phi website.  This will allow every collegiate and alumna member of your specific chapter see your post.  Someone may see it and know someone in your new city or they may live there themselves.

Reach out on the Alpha Phi International LinkedIn page to not only help you look for job and internship opportunities, but for potential roommates, city/neighborhood advice, and subletting options—all posted by members.

Ask your employer.

Your company may have someone in HR or another department that connects you to other coworkers who are also looking for a roommate or housing.  Your company may also have temporary housing you can live in until you get situated in a place.  If you are going to graduate school, ask your graduate student services office or your academic department about this. Future coworkers and classmates are also great to ask about specific areas of town to live in.

Check out Craigslist (http://www.craigslist.org).

This is a great site to find anything from a roommate, a couch and possibly a job.  Craigslist provides you the option to find a roommate by looking at ads people post.  They can already have a place and be looking for a roommate (“Rooms/Shared” section), or they might be moving to town as well and would like to find a person or two to live with and then you can do a housing search together (“Housing Wanted” section).  Anytime you use the internet to find anything you need to be cautious. I have actually lived with strangers I met off of Craigslist in DC, NYC and Chicago and are still friends with them to this day, but I also met potential roommates that raised red flags that I passed on. It’s also important to meet the person and see the place before agreeing to live with someone.  You’ll be able to get a gut feeling by doing this and knowing what you will and won’t be comfortable with.  Don’t hesitate to ask a friend or a coworker to go with you to check out these places.

Try sites like Roommates.com (http://www.roommates.com/), Roomster (http://www.roomster.com), or Easy Roommate (http://www.easyroommate.com).

Sites like these combine the roommate search with some social networking aspects.  Remember the same online safety rules apply when meeting or corresponding.

After you connect to someone via a mutual friend or through a website, how can you determine if this person (or people if you decide to live with more than one person) will be a good fit for you as a roommate?  Here are some ways you can start the screening process:

  • Once you get a person’s name or email address, Google it.  What comes up?  Not only do a web search but an image and video search too.  Is there anything there that raises a red flag?
  • Look them up on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.  This is a great way to learn more about this person and possibly the kind of life they live.  Again, check for anything that is a red flag.  This is also a good way to determine if the person who posted the ad is a scammer.  If nothing comes up in an internet search, time to move on.
  • When you meet with them to look at the place or to see if you two want to start a search together, be sure to ask them (and maybe yourself) questions that can test roommate compatibility. Consider these ten questions to start:
  1. How will rent, bills, and shared household expenses be divided?
  2. Ask them about their job.  What do they currently do? How long have they worked there?  If they constantly quit jobs, will they back out on you?
  3. Are they a morning person or a night owl?
  4. What is their social life like? Will they bring the party home after the bars close or are they a homebody?
  5. How do they feel about guests/having friends over? How about overnight visitors or out of town guests staying with you?
  6. Are they in a serious relationship? Are you?
  7. Do you share the same ideas about cleanliness? Are you a slob? Is your potential roommate a neat freak?
  8. What are their hobbies? For example, if they are in a band and will practice in your apartment is this okay with you?
  9. Do you or your potential roommate have or want pets? And if so, what kind are they? Will they get along?  Will the lease allow for more than one pet? Do they even like animals?
  10. Ask them about past roommate experiences.  If every person they lived with was “awful” you might realize that the issues are with them.

Finding a roommate in a new city can be tough, but take a deep breath, realize that you do have options, and ultimately, go with your gut.

stefaniaSpecial thanks to our Transitions contributor Stefania Rudd –

Stefania is the Program Manager of Member Development at the Alpha Phi Executive Office.  She currently lives with three friends (Samantha, Brad, and Kara) and two dogs (Asta and Zero) in a lovely 3 bedroom/ 2 bathroom apartment in Chicago.