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How to Research a Potential Roommate

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The following is for informational purposes only

How to Research a Potential Roommate: A Comprehensive Guide to Finding Your Perfect Match

Whether you're moving into a new place or filling a vacancy, the right roommate will make or break your home environment. In your roommate search, there are various factors to consider, including their cleanliness, trustworthiness, financial state, and any problematic habits they may have.

However, most people aren't used to vetting applicants. They choose people based on first impressions and end up with a less-than-ideal living companion. Luckily, there are tools that allow you to get a more complete image of potential roomies before handing over the keys.

How to Find Roommates

You might be at a phase in life where your friends have set roots, forcing you to find a qualified stranger to split the rent with. Unfortunately, you can't avoid the long roommate search altogether, but there are ways to improve the process.

Utilizing Networking and Referrals

While not a surefire way to find a roommate, take the time to ask friends, family, and some acquaintances for recommendations. Even if nobody's interested in your direct social circle, your future roommate might be the "friend of a friend".

You'd be surprised at how interconnected social networks can be. There's a theory that all people are at most six social connections apart.

The caveat is that you must be selective about who you ask. Only involve people whose judgment you trust and who will connect you with suitable candidates. Be clear about your criteria for things like economic means and temperament.

Leveraging Online Platforms

Sometimes, asking around fails, or you're in a new city and don't know many people. In these desperate times, we recommend turning to dedicated roommate-hunting platforms.

These services allow you to customize your preferences and find a matching candidate. However, the available filters vary between platforms; some are comparably limited.

For example, Roomster only filters by budget, gender, age, distance, and pet ownership. On the other hand, Roomie Match asks about smoking preferences, sexuality, cleanliness, and other relevant details.

It's up to you whether you think these filters are necessary, and the less involved services are typically quicker to "shop around" on. They also all permit some method of communication, although the degree of access varies.

We recommend exploring the following sites:

  • Roomie Match
  • Roomi
  • Roomster
  • RoomEasy

Searching Social Media

Roommate matching sites are similar to dating services, which can be off-putting for some people. Social media is a decent alternative since it connects you to a substantially larger network than you experience offline.

An easy place to start is posting your situation. Include the area and price range you're looking for and post it publicly and to local groups. Most cities have some variation of housing-specific groups on Facebook, and Twitter/X is an excellent place for getting the word out.

We cannot recommend Craigslist as a viable place to search for a roommate. The lack of moderation and filtering features makes you more likely to find ill-intentioned people. There are many safe, more accurate options to choose from.

Questions to Ask a Potential Roommate

Once you've found a roommate candidate, you must get to know them. Predicting what living with them will be like is impossible, but the right questions can act as a compass.

Lifestyle and Habits

Exploring a stranger's lifestyle and habits can be uncomfortable, but it's a required part of the process. You may have different values or conflicting routines that make life miserable for one of you.

Here are some questions to ask a potential roommate to gauge if you share compatible routines:

  • Can you walk me through your typical day?
  • Are you an early riser or a night owl?
  • Do you prefer quiet hours during the day or night?
  • How often do you have family or friends visit?
  • Do you cook frequently? If so, what kind of meals do you make?

Questioning someone's habits is subjective, as people have differing tolerance levels for their pet peeves. If you have immediately disqualifying factors such as partying, drinking, or drug use, you should start from there.

A few all-purpose questions for learning about someone's habits include:

  • When do you do your dishes?
  • Can you list some chores you feel should be shared responsibilities?
  • How much fridge space do you use?
  • Do you prefer socializing at home or going out and about?
  • What are your main hobbies and interests?
  • How much notice would you give to an overnight guest?
  • Do you have any pets? If so, what kind?

Understand that some people are in poor situations and lie to make an excellent first impression. Other people don't have the self-awareness to answer objectively. It's up to you to figure out when this is the case.

Financial Responsibilities

One key consideration for people looking for roommates is to split living costs. So, you must clarify each person's financial responsibilities before moving in together. This entails discussing each party's income sources, payment schedules, and utility bill splitting.

Also, when only one roommate incurs costs, whether those are shared among the household members must be clear. An example of this is monthly pet fees.

Here are crucial things to ask before making your decision:

  • What is your income, and can you provide proof of its consistency?
  • How many months of rent are you capable of paying upfront?
  • Are you comfortable with the lease duration?
  • How do you envision splitting utility bills such as electricity, water, and internet?
  • Are there any utilities or services you want to exclude from shared expenses?
  • How do you suggest handling potential security deposit deductions upon move-out?

Vetting Potential Roommates: The Importance of Exploring Their Past

Actions speak louder than words, and many past actions can be easily uncovered, thanks to the internet. Your roommate search should emphasize anything relating to their financial stability, cleanliness standards, and lifestyle habits.

Background Check for Safety

Background checks should be standard practice when moving in with someone. Most leasing offices run these as part of their approval process but don't share the results with other tenants.

Rooming with a stranger isn't like living with friends or family. You don't know them from an atom and could get swept into unfortunate circumstances by associating with them. Prioritize your safety by conducting your own background checks.

You should focus on criminal and arrest records. However, a thorough background check should reveal factors like handgun licenses, court records, and inclusions on the sex offender registry. Check your state's privacy laws beforehand and ensure you stay within legal boundaries.

Checking References for Reliability

Contacting previous landlords or roommates can confirm or deny a potential roommate's claims. They may have lied about their cleaning habits or financial reliability. Request references early on and reach out immediately. The faster you act, the less time they have to prepare a response.

We recommend calling at least two sources. Some roommates and landlords part on sour terms and may not provide an honest depiction of your candidate. If your potential roommate can't provide phone numbers, ask for names and use a people search service to pin down contact information.

Using Social Media to Gauge Personality Fit

Some light social media stalking provides insights into a potential roommate's interests and social compatibility. You may learn they play the drums or host weekly raves in their living space. Don't weaponize the information if you find something strange in their profile. Remain respectful and tell them you've already found another roommate.

You don't need to hunt down all their social media handles. A people search will reveal all their active accounts. You can also run a username search with any of their online IDs and find accounts under the same username.

Understanding their Financial Standing

Checking for proof of income is only the first step in confirming someone's financial situation. Several other indicators point toward a positive or negative standing. Consider the following tools for a definitive assurance of their ability to pay rent and other living costs.

One person's inability to pay can cause significant legal trouble for all tenants. In the worst-case scenario, you may be forced to sue them in a justice court to reclaim rental losses.

Finalizing the Roommate Agreement

Roommate rental agreements are contracts between you and your roommate. They cement house rules like chore division, cleaning schedules, and communication guidelines. Roommate contracts are a great way to settle disagreements and foster communication channels in the relationship quickly.

These agreements can be legally binding but are minimally enforced by courts. Additionally, inclusions in these contracts cannot contradict the tenant's responsibilities to their landlord.


Even if someone seems perfect on paper, digging deeper is a requirement when dealing with a stranger. Background and asset checks may seem overkill, but they can save you from damaging your rental history and incurring punitive costs.

Finding the perfect roommate requires search tools, extensive communication, and robust follow-up research. Utilizing online platforms and asking the right questions dramatically increases the likelihood of reaching a harmonious living arrangement.