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How to Find the Right Roommate

Television is crammed with thirty-minute sitcoms that paint a distorted picture of life with roommates. Few, if any, relationships will match Joey and Chandler’s bromance in Friends. We accepted that a long time ago. Now it’s your turn.

But fear not! Finding the right roommate doesn’t have to mean sacrificing your lifestyle or privacy.

There are great places to look, and even better questions to ask. Here’s our rundown of what we think you should do when searching for a new roommate.

Whether to move in with a friend or a stranger.

Strangers are scary, and we’ve been conditioned to be more and more fearful of them. That’s reasonable for the most part, but finding the right roommate is going to require weighing risks. Is the standup comedian you call your best friend going to be difficult to collect rent from? You may be better off with someone who can show more stability.

Further to the point, when you move in with a friend, they may be more likely to take advantage of your relationship.

​ It’s much easier to tell a stranger “no" – saying that to a friend comes with baggage.

If you are fortunate enough to have a great friend who doubles as a super responsible adult, then lucky you, they're great roommate material. Otherwise, be sure to vet your candidates.

You are going to want to know:

- If they have a stable source of income
- What their typical day looks like
- Whether they meet the lease guidelines
- How often they enjoy having friends over
- How often they clean on average

Now that sounds a lot like an application form. To truly understand who you may be living with, you should go the extra mile and build some rapport. You know, dig in a bit. Try to make nice and move a bit past small talk.

If you just ask yes or no questions the first time you meet someone, you are going to end up in the “high-risk” roommate category.

Find the right roommate

Fear not. Here is how to find the right roommate.

Unlike finding a decent restaurant, Google isn’t going to be of too much use in your search.

Instead, you’ll likely want to search local forums, Facebook, university-endorsed services, and, of course, good ol’ Craigslist. You can always go the traditional route and ask your friends to see if they know of a renter in need of a roommate. Our only advice is to get on it early – otherwise, you’ll be stuck with whoever you can get.

​ Remember picking teams in gym class? Be sure you get the first pick of the pack.

Now may be a good time to consider a background and criminal check. Naborly can help you out with this – sign up as a landlord and you will be able to send off a credit check in no time. We make it easy to ensure you are well protected.

Understanding the legalities of having a roommate.

There are horror stories abound of bad roommates and how they can end up costing good people a load of money. If you do your due diligence, you’ll see that protecting yourself is pretty easy.

Start off by planning your agreement. Odds are you will end up cosigning the lease (co-tenants) – that means you are both liable for… everything. Rent, damages, and proper notice are now everyone’s problem.

​ If you do go the co-tenancy route, knowing your roommate is accountable will be your saving grace.

The alternative to a co-tenancy is renting individual rooms, though this is ultimately the landlord’s decision.

Let’s say you have a co-tenancy and one of the co-tenants wants to move out. Well, they can give proper notice (generally 60 days) and the other co-tenants will either have to A: move out, or B: sign a new agreement (and find another roommate).

So yes, having roommates can be a bit messy. Often it’s better to just find an individual room to rent rather than starting a co-tenancy. If nothing else, get yourself a good renter’s insurance plan to make sure that any major problems do not end up being a collective cost.

Should I even get a roommate?

Rent in cities is a growing expense. Getting ahead can be hard when rent is eating up more than thirty percent of your income. Roommates typically are not a choice, but a compromise.

But perhaps those sitcoms have a bit of truth to them. For all the annoyances and challenges of having a roommate, having the right roommate can truly be something special.

Most people have roommates when they are young. That is the best time to build friendships that will last a lifetime. So take as much time as you can to make sure that this choice ends in a "happily ever after".

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