Help me with finding a housemate.
March 9, 2012 10:10 AM   Subscribe

Older MeFites: how did you find a housemate or shared house, and how did it work? Details within.

My current housemate is moving. I own the house. I want to find another housemate for economic reasons, but also because I find living alone to be way overrated and would like to share occasional meals and such. How do I find a housemate (and with just one interview, yeesh!)? This is new to me, as I knew my housemate for years before she moved in, and the only other people I've lived with have been romantic partners. I'm in my 50s, an age where house shares are outside the norm. Is Craigslist my best bet? How do I screen people for 1) non-sketchiness and 2) compatibility? My space is comfy but non-luxurious (for example, no dishwasher) and the rent will be correspondingly low. I worry that the low rent may attract non-compatible people in marginal circumstances -- for example, I would personally prefer to share my house with someone who is educated. I live in Denver, should location-specific advice be available. (Please note: I'm not asking for legal advice about how to structure a lease or whatever; will deal with that separately.)
posted by Wordwoman to Human Relations (20 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Another thing: I am a Facebook refusenik so that network is not available to me.
posted by Wordwoman at 10:14 AM on March 9, 2012

I've been screening people for roommates for years, and I always go with Craigslist. The population may skew a bit young, but if you add your age to your profile that may weed out a few people. I'm in my early 40's, and my roommates for the past 40 years have ranged in age from 30's to 40's as well.

As for how to "screen people" -- I've always had them at least come by and look the place over, and then attempt to have a conversation with them; nothing fancy, just "so tell me about yourself." If we're having a hard time finding things to talk about for ten minutes, that's a warning flag; conversely, if we end up talking for a solid two hours and greatly enjoying each other's company, that's a good sign. (I picked one guy as my roommate based on the fact that he looked the place over, then immediately sat down at my kitchen table and said "so let me tell you about me..." and we both got into such a great conversation that he ended up late for a dinner date three hours later.)

You'll get a few weirdos because of the low rent, but you'll be able to spot them pretty damn fast. Trust your instincts on this as well; I always go with my gut, and have never had a bum Craigslist roommate.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:17 AM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

You have a social network, even if it's not on a Social Networking Site. Put out the word that you are looking for a new housemate. There may be some friend of yours who thinks that your arrangement is awesome but didn't want to say so.
posted by madcaptenor at 10:22 AM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Four. My roommates for the past FOUR years. (I had no choice in who my housemates were from age 0 to 18, and Craigslist also didn't exist yet anyway.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:23 AM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do they have to be your age? My mother now has a university student living with her. Other than the age gap, she enjoys the companionship, cooking together sometimes etc. She advertises online but also at university campuses.
posted by wingless_angel at 10:27 AM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

My last roommate was a friend of a friend of a friend. We were roommates for four years, and we are still friends. I haven't talked to the friend (that my roommate was friend of the friend of) for 10 years, and my roommate is no longer friends with his friend, so it all worked out, I guess.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:28 AM on March 9, 2012

While I may not be an older mefite, friends of mine who are older, who own their homes have asked me about this before, since I've spent many a year house-sharing and using CL to find roommates.

You can always post around at work, ask friends and neighbors, but I've found craigslist to be the best way to do it. Yes you get trolls, yes you get unsavory people, yes you will even get responses from bots, but you can also be selective in who you allow to move in.

A) Don't let someone move in site-unseen.
B) Automatically delete any replies to your add you don't like (I delete do to poor grammar, all caps, XXX or sketchy looking email addresses, people who write a singular sentence, couples, etc.). You should be able to get a grasp on the person from their intro and email.
C) In your ad, ask the person to describe themself, and make sure you describe a little about yourself too. I find the places that don't advertise who you're going to be living with don't tend to get anywhere near the number of responses, they also get sketchier responses.
D) If it helps, get someone there (a friend, neighbor, etc) that you trust to help you vet potential house-mates, especially if you don't trust yourself. Two heads and opinions of people can be better than one.
E) Since it's your place, set up the rules right off the bat, and consider a 3-4 month "trial" lease period, if it makes you more comfortable. I've been in situations where I wish I'd had a trial lease with someone, and some situations where a year-long lease works out just fine.
F) Be selective. I can't stress this enough. Don't allow the first person you meet and kind of like to move. Make sure that you actually like this person as you'll be living with them for possibly an extended period of time.

Trust your gut.
posted by bleachandink at 10:29 AM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

*ad and *due. Ugh, mid-day and I can't spell.
posted by bleachandink at 10:31 AM on March 9, 2012

I'm currently living in my second house that I found on craigslist. I've lived in the random situations for over three years now. The most important thing is that you be honest about what you are looking for. The physical place is definitely secondary to how you get along with the people who are in your house.

Look for people's ads. Read through them. There will be some items that they put in their ad that will definitely look sketchy. Anyone who isn't being clear in their ad usually winds up being crappy as they often are hiding something. Meet the person in neutral territory first. As a person looking for a home, I have always offered to meet at a nearby bar and to buy the first round. This is effective for me as I do drink and would like to live with people who are accepting of this. I then would proceed to get to know them. Some people definitely wouldn't work out, and that's fine. After figuring out it would probably work out personality-wise, then move on to the house.

When you post ads, make things clear. Rent, bills, work schedules, eating preferences (specifcally meat eater vs. vegetarian/vegan), animals, guests, all should be clarified up front. Upon meeting, you will want to find out if the person is going to be able to cough up rent one way or another. Do they work? Do they leave the house if they don't work? Alcohol/smoking/marijuana/other drug use? Significant others? Kids? These need to come up in that initial meeting.

Lastly, trust your gut. If the person won't work out don't force it. If the person seems sketchy at any point, bail.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 10:57 AM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've always used Craiglist, and I've found it pretty easy to screen people. When I've been the prospective renter looking for a house share, I'd sebd a quick email with my age, gender, interests, the fact that I have a job and work a lot, and that I'm pretty clean. I've found that being a woman, clean, and employed has made me a pretty desirable prospective roommate, and when I've been turned down, it's usually for compatibility reasons. For example, I met with a woman who's a teacher, and she decided that she wanted to live with another teacher. I ended up moving in with some folks who work in my industry/have similar interests, and it all worked out for the best.

When one of my roommates and I had to screen prospective roommates recently, we had some obvious no's and a bunch of yes's. Obvious no's: people we didn't like. People without jobs. One girl would not stop talking. Another made several sexist joke and his friend hit on me. Weird emails were deleted. We settled on one guy who seemed super cool, but then he started acted strange, and we told him that we didn't feel comfortable with him moving in. Coming down to the wire, we had three great choices. A woman who was very nice and very cool, but seemed a little young; a woman who was awesome, but would have a heinous commute and we were afraid she'd move after a few months; and a woman who's in grad school close by and was also awesome. After some angsting, we went with option three. And she's awesome!

Don't talk yourself into letting someone move in if you don't like them or something seems off.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 11:05 AM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've been the interviewer and interviewee for lots of apartments on craigslist. First,

1.Make sure you post your age and the age range you are looking to live with. This will weed out a bunch of people

2. Describe yourself and what your life is like. Do you prefer a quiet, clean, home? Do you like indie flicks, playing sports, whatever...

3. Include pics of the place! I would never even look at an apartment that didn't have pics posted.

4. If you are worried about attracting people in marginal circumstances, it's fine to state that you'd like someone who is educated, etc.

5. In the last paragraph ask the person to write you if interested and have them tell you what their lifestyle is like, what they seek in a living situation, what type of job they have, etc.

6. Weed out the answers that seem bogus - (i.e. I will send you a check from Nigeria type mail), and weed out anyone who can't send a thoughtful response.

7. When they come to look at the place just see how well you can have a conversation with this person and cover whatever house rules/etc. you have.

FWIW, I'm 38, educated, and in the past when I've looked for ads on craigslist, I would MUCH prefer to live with someone in their mid-fifties than someone in their twenties. The pool may be more limited, but I'm betting there are others who are specifically looking to live with someone in your age range.
posted by Sal and Richard at 11:25 AM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

See if local grad schools have housing offices or boards, a lot of people are going back to school in their 40s and 50s. You can cite your preferences in a craigslist ad, like mature, over 40, non-smoker, whatever.
posted by mareli at 11:45 AM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

I am 42, my husband is 50 and our current housemate is 34--we found him on Craigslist too. Our needs were VERY particular and I was pretty much told by mefites that I would never find someone who fits our needs. But the very first person who responded to our Craigslist ad is our current roommate and he is perfect.

We interviewed about 5 people who responded in our home and we trusted our instincts when choosing him. One thing that we did right, IMO, is not becoming invested in having to choose someone from Craigslist. Before we place the ad, we decided that if we did not feel right about anyone, we would keep looking until we did.
posted by murrey at 11:51 AM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

The last time I needed a roommate, I found one through work. It was a coworker who was going through divorce. He needed a place to live for a year or so, until he could transition into a place of his own.

I found him because we worked in the same department, I knew of his situation, and I approached him to ask if he would be interested in being roomies. Depending on your work situation, you could maybe post a sign in a common area, break room, something like that?
posted by ErikaB at 12:00 PM on March 9, 2012

I think post doc students might be a good fit for you. They are poor but educated and older!! I was talking to someone who was working on her second post doc and I said, "my god is that common and do you ever get to have grown up things likes spouses and houses and such." Apparently there is a contingent of researchers who spend decades getting post docs. Make a targeted advertisement for graduate students at the local university.
posted by bananafish at 12:32 PM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Sal and Richard has it, more or less. Take your time. If you rush into it, you'll nearly always overlook something that makes the person an obvious mismatch. In a lot of ways it really is like dating.

I've discovered the hard way that a lot of my lifestyle that I take for granted really isn't everyone's cup of tea. It's everyone's in MY circle, so I don't think much about it. For instance, I don't like room spray, potpourri, or heavy perfume or cologne. More than one friend is fragrance sensitive, too. Hardly anyone I know likes artificial scents, and yet it turns out that everyone interviewing for roommates apparently adores it. Who knew?

I don't like having a TV on. I prefer not to even have one in the living room.

I also put my politics in there. I'm politically to the left and very LGBT friendly. Fundamentalists will NOT be comfortable in my house. Where I live, you'd think that would be the norm, but it still screens people out, surprisingly enough.

It turns out that a bunch of people don't consider smoking marijuana to be smoking, but I do, and I don't want it in my house.

The more things you add in like that, the better. Then you'll only end up with the people you really might be able to live with.

I have only had one bad roommate, and it was the one person I rented to without meeting first.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:53 PM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, if they really demur on something that you know you do regularly, it's not going to work out. For instance, I eat meat. If I mention that and they say something like, "Well, I guess I could put up with the smell of meat cooking once in a while..."? Yup. It's not going to work out.

If you're in a metropolitan area, you can afford to wait to find someone you're compatible with.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:23 PM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Your house, your rules. Stick to your guns. Nothing slides.

You'll both be much happier in the long run. No surprises.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 2:37 PM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Good advice above. Also, be sure to show your own personality in the ad. If you write a generic ad, you are going to get a large amount of people who don't suit you. If you write something personal ('I love gardening and have a great area for growing fresh tomatoes', 'I do enjoy sharing some meals together.' etc.), you are more likely to find someone who thinks that is wonderful and has the same values as you do.
posted by Vaike at 3:26 PM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

When you post your ad be as honest as possible. It will help weed out anyone who is trying to line themselves up and that way you're not in a position where you need to explain too too much.

If you like someone or a few people who are interested. Ask them to come by again to ask more questions or have a drink. It helps to see people in a second light. You might notice something about the person you didn't before.

Looking for a housemate is kinda like dating. Make sure you take your time and don't rush.
posted by melizabeth at 6:35 PM on March 9, 2012

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