Roommate interviews with surprisingly few success-- Did I miss something?
August 25, 2010 1:01 PM   Subscribe

Little success in roommate search-- did I miss something?

I have just moved to a new major city and I answered a bunch of "room for rent" ads and saw a ton of places.

Most of them even I could tell 1. the apartment was not a good match for me or 2. the roommates are not a good match for me.

But there were a few where I thought the roommates and I really struck a chord and would get along great, might even become friends. To all of them I immediate expressed interest, but eventually all but one turned me down.

One of them said the person living there now had a change of mind and was staying on, the other said they went with someone who's a better fit, the last one said they liked me a lot but had an indecisive moment so they just drew out of a hat.

I ended up going with the first person who was willing to rent to me/ be my roommate, and cancelling other appointments that, from the emails, sounded promising.

But I was wondering, does this happen to everyone? Or did I miss something? I was very pleasant and friendly in all of the interviews. The only thing I could think of was that for some of them I wasn't as a well groomed as I usually am because I had been running around all day at that point.

I guess I am just wondering if everyone experience the same situations where they don't seem to win the roommate contest?
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, absolutely. It isn't just you. At the height of the dot com boom in the Bay Area my housemates and I were trying to fill the last room in the house. We got 102 responses. Which means that we had to turn 101 people away, many of whom were lovely people. And before I found that group of housemates I had gone on easily 50-75 interviews, none of which worked out.

Seriously, you're not doing anything wrong.
posted by corey flood at 1:08 PM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Living with people is hard. Choosing out good roommates from bad ones is harder, especially when based on brief interviews. I've lived places where when we picked out roommates, we did almost hour-long interviews and chose people, and we were still wrong in our analyses of who would be good in the house or not.

So it's possible you would have been the most awesome roommate ever, but for whatever reason people didn't realize it.
posted by beerbajay at 1:11 PM on August 25, 2010

Yeah, it's really hard to get roommate shares. Harder than finding your own place because roommates tend to be much pickier. If your current situation doesn't work out, next time rent your own place and find the roommate yourself.
posted by yarly at 1:12 PM on August 25, 2010

I just went through this. I'm kind of a special case right now because I'm unemployed (the kind of roommate EVERYONE wants!), but I'm pretty sure this is just how it goes. You yourself turned down people, too, for your own reasons. Everyone has different reasons for not wanting to live with someone.

If I were in the situation to be picky, I would turn down otherwise great roommate candidates for seemingly ridiculous reasons (e.g. a vegetarian might get upset at me for having veal or a to-be-butchered lamb haunch in the fridge, a person who wears lots of makeup might take up counter space in my bathroom, they use my bathroom while they're over to visit and don't wash their hands, etc), or legitimate ones (when I was apartment/roommate shopping a month ago, the potential roommate at one place I visited had obvious cut marks on her arms. Though the apartment was fine, I knew I didn't want to live with someone who was potentially emotionally unstable), so who knows why people turned you down.

I'm moving in on Friday with the one person I met (out of probably 12) that it worked out with. Seems like it'll be a good fit. Just be glad you have a place, and don't dwell on the ones that turned you down. It happens to everyone.
posted by phunniemee at 1:13 PM on August 25, 2010

I had someone tell me to come back with cash for the deposit. I showed up at the appointed time and rang the bell. No answer. I called. No answer. I kept calling/ringing bell every 15 minutes. After 90 minutes I gave up and left a note.

I ran into one of the roommates like six weeks later in a store in the neighborhood and he told me that after they told me that I could have the room, a woman showed up in hysterics, she'd been thrown out, she had to find a place to stay, and one of the roommates felt that they HAD to give the room to her, even though they had already all told me I was in. The person who felt strongly about it was tasked with calling me to tell me. She just copped out and didn't.

There are so many things that can happen. that's just one story out of many.
posted by micawber at 1:17 PM on August 25, 2010

When we went through roommates, we always had 1-4 people coming in to check the place out. We already had our personal "qualifications" laid out as we were both picky people. I'm sure there's a lot of people like us out there.

An example - we wanted a male roommate but if the right female came around, we would consider that. We also wanted someone who wasn't so serious. And we wanted someone with a stable job. And not someone who talked so much and took over conversations.

We were usually able to weed people out via emails beforehand but sometimes people would show up and they seemed like fine people - but they weren't exactly ideal.

One was a younger guy who mentioned that he had a child that he had partial custody with- which is something we didn't want to deal with. Another was a female who was very loud, smelled like she dumped a gallon of perfume on herself and had a valley girl voice - and we agreed we wouldn't be able to deal with that.
posted by KogeLiz at 1:24 PM on August 25, 2010

I and every friend of mine in D.C. has gone through exactly this. It's typical to spend a whole month looking at 3-4 places a day, and maybe, just maybe, end up getting the "we chose you!" call. To an extent, people are picky; but each opening probably sees at least 10 people, so there's that too.

Anecdotes: Couple years ago, I went to an "open house" for a room opening in Mt. Pleasant (the lazy way to interview potential roommates). There were seriously 30-40 people there looking at the room/house. My current roommate had a situation a few years ago where his old house had an opening. Their craigslist ad got over 50 responses the first hour it was up.
posted by General Malaise at 1:46 PM on August 25, 2010

I was very pleasant and friendly in all of the interviews.

It probably had nothing to do with you or your actions, but as someone who has done the roommate search millions of times at this point, I'd say that it is possible that you came across as a bit stuffy or lacking in personality only because you were trying to be "pleasant" and "friendly." When choosing roommates, I was always seeking a kind of spark, or a even a sign of relaxed intimacy. Plenty of people have acted a bit more formally and politely, and I can see how that may have seemed like a reasonable way to proceed, since it is essentially an interview. However, I was never as interested in those folks because I wanted a casual, vibrant, self-sufficient energy in the house (something like that, anyway). I am probably way off base, but thought I'd throw the possibility out there on the rare chance it applies.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 1:54 PM on August 25, 2010

Same thing happened to me. It took me 2.5 months of driving to NYC every. single. day. from CT to find a place 5 years ago. Then I ended up getting a place! That was swept out from under me at the last second because the departing roommate decided to stay. I decided that it was a numbers game. I answered EVERY ad in Brooklyn & Queens with a friendly "hi, here's what I do, and I'm looking to move, would love to come meet and see the room" type of email. I wrote even if the place sounded super crappy. I took EVERY appointment that was offered to me (roughly 15% of the emails that I wrote received an invite to come meet), and I just figured that after a while, someone would have to take me in. Yes, I saw a lot of crappy places, but that also helped me to revise my expectations, and after a few weeks, I centered in on the neighborhood I felt most at home in.

To build on what thegreatfleecircus just said, after a while, I just went in and chatted with the people. The place I ended up getting (and still live in, a few roommates later), I walked into and said, "hey! how's it going!" and after the standard "here's the room, here's the closets, what do you do?" stuff, we ended up chatting about crappy pop music and reality tv.
posted by AlisonM at 6:50 PM on August 25, 2010

I've conducted so many roommate searches. I've also tried to fill a lot of job openings. (Coincidentally, they always seem to happen at the same time, which is very stressful for me.) But it seems like the same principles apply.

You should absolutely believe the person who said they drew out of a hat. Living with someone is so complicated. Having someone show up and be nice for 30 minutes doesn't get nearly close to helping you a great fit. I once chose a roommate based on the outcome of the NCAA basketball tournament. She was the second worst roommate I've ever had, but she made it to the final cut and beyond.

Could I have made better choices? Perhaps. I could have done credit checks and background checks and called references and made them submit paystubs. But as soon as they move in, I want them to be kind of friendly with me and on equal footing with me, and it's so much better for me to go with luck/gut feeling than to invade people like that.

I'm pretty sure that's what these people have done to you. But if by chance, you are a person who has tried to live with me, I can assure that's what happened.
posted by oreofuchi at 6:59 PM on August 25, 2010

This is totally normal. Until about a month ago, I was living in a house with two other girls, and I was looking for someone to sublet my room. I had about 50 Craigslist responses within an hour of posting my ad. Most of the people sounded really nice, and I totally blew them off and didn't even respond. Of the 10 or so people my roommates and I interviewed, we liked all of them just fine and probably would have been ok with any of them. It mostly came down to timing, chance, and the teeniest of personality quirks when we made our final decision. And frankly, we were horrible about it and strung people along and made reversals at the last second (partly because someone did the same thing to us and put us in a tight spot).

Since you've found a spot now you don't need advice, but for other apartment-hunters who may reading this thread, the only thing that even slightly affected anyone's chances with getting my room was enthusiasm. Act like that house is the best house you've ever seen and it meets your needs perfectly and you can't wait to live there. Don't say anything that could remotely be construed as a complaint about the place (we ditched someone because she said, "Sorry I'm late; the walk from the subway was longer than I expected." Seriously). It's a tough market and there's not a whole lot else you can do.
posted by naoko at 7:43 PM on August 25, 2010

Keep in mind that every place you see probably had 10 or more people to choose from, but they could only choose one person. The odds just aren't in your favour, and it's no bad reflection on you.

I will also add that grooming can really make a difference, though- I've definitely decided against potential housemates because I didn't like the way they smelled (sour sweat in one case, overwhelming cologne in another, very strong cigarette smoke in another). My thinking is that if someone smells bad for an interview, I bet they smell worse after a lazy weekend around the house. Not saying you stunk up the place or anything, just something to keep in mind.

But I've also turned down several really nice, pleasant-smelling people who I liked a lot and would have been happy to live with... it's just that they lost out because there was one other person who I liked even more, or they were a friend of a friend, or we shared some weird random interest that led to a particularly great conversation, or whatever.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:01 PM on August 25, 2010

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