At this point in my life, I have lived with more than 12 different people and ironically, the people who I found online were easier to live with than the people I met through friends. While looking for a roommate online, you can be specific and very critical of your potential roommate without hurting any one's feelings.
I have always used Craigslist, but if you don't want to go the Craigslist route, here are some roommate finding sites worth trying out, but be wary of sites that don't verify listings:
- Roomiematch.com is not an automated service, and its slogan is "We take out the trash for you."
- EasyRoommate.com offers pictures of potential roommates and apartments.
- Roommates4you.com offers advice to customers like tips on how to live with strangers.
- RoommateClick.com. Even though some parts of the site are free, it does ask for credit card information, helping to weed out unsavory characters
- RoommateFinders.net, the oldest and respected roommate finding service, around since 1977.
- Roommates.com claims to be the most popular with 50,000 hits a day and lots of positive reviews.
Not everyone is happy with Roommates.com, however. Nicole, who didn't want her last name used, is from New Jersey also tried Roommates.com, with less than positive results.
"Most of the people I was 'matched' with had not paid the fee, so they could not read the messages I sent them," she wrote in an e-mail to Money College. "Thus they were impossible to contact. I thought it would be easy to find a roommate, but it was not," she said. "The only people who did send me messages were either 40-year-old men looking for a roommate or people with apartments in Queens and New Jersey (and I specifically said that I was looking for Manhattan). After a month, I canceled my membership and I am still commuting from Jersey to the city, hoping I'll find a roommate but I would not recommend Roommates.com."
Once you've found your "dream roommate" and settled in, you might find things aren't going as smoothly as planned. Sometimes you won't agree on how to decorate the living room, or you feel like you are doing all the cleaning.
Even Stuart Schultz, founder of Gradspot.com and co-author of "Gradspot.com's Guide to Life after College," had tough experiences with some his roommates. Schultz explained in a telephone interview with Money College that he didn't "confront the problems as they were occurring" ... and it is very important to say "Hey, I am uncomfortable with something." You don't want to turn into that passive aggressive roommate who leaves nasty notes on the fridge, do you?
Many of my problems with roommates stemmed from cleanliness, and in hindsight, I should have hired a cleaning lady when I lived with two messy males. Chris Schonberger, co-author of "Gradspot.com's Guide to Life After College," lived with three other men and found that splitting the cost of a monthly cleaning lady was well worth it considering the peace it brought. Now if only there is was an app to get your roommates to do the dishes...
If you happen to find yourself living with a person you cannot get along with, one of the most difficult things to do is to ask that roommate for their share of the bills. Luckily, websites have sprung up that allow you to pay your rent and your share of utilities online. This minimizes your interaction with the troublesome roommate, and hopefully minimizes conflict.
Schultz mentions Wepay.com, and I recommend Williampaid.com, as it builds good credit. Fresh out of college, you don't really have a credit history, so being able to build good credit just by paying your rent is a great idea. The new start-up MyHomie.com is also worth mentioning as it sends text message reminders and "roommates can reimburse each other for beer, paper towels, or their portion of rent with the click of a button," says founder Michael Davis.
Sometimes, try as you might, roommates just don't work out. Staying with troublesome roommates can lead to quarrels, constant stress, and even damage to property.
An extreme example: I happened to have a roommate with anger management issues and I had to leave immediately (I did not find this person on the internet). Schultz seconds my suggestion: "Sometimes you have to step back and recognize your roommate's personality or characteristics won't change right away." If there is something "that is really bugging you, like a character trait, it's time to move out, and get out of that relationship," he says.
Why live in a hostile environment when you are trying to finish your degree or go to work in the morning, or both? Here, the monetary benefits of having a roommate disappear if they cost you in other ways. In this case, getting a roommate is a risk, but a risk I took gladly.