Finding a roommate on craigslist?
November 7, 2005 8:24 AM   Subscribe

Have you ever rented a room off of craigslist?

To maintain my sanity, I need to move out of my house as soon as possible. I'd prefer to move in with friends, but that won't be able to happen until January, and I'm going to have a breakdown if I stay here. I have terrible credit so I can't rent a place on my own.

So I'm turning to craigslist, looking for roommates. I'm introverted and quiet, which makes me wonder if I'll be able to win the personality contest that I imagine the process turns into. Any tips for how to make this work? Warnings? Sneaky ways of getting people to think "yes! I would like this person to move in next week"?
posted by cmonkey to Home & Garden (23 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't rented a room from craigslist, but I have heard that it's a spectacular place to do so.

I wouldn't worry about trying to impress people with the personality process. Some folks will WANT a quiet introvert. A lot of people who are renting rooms - particularly single people living in a 2 bedroom - would rather be living alone, and an introverted guy who won't be bugging them all the time and having tons of friends over is the closest thing to that they'll get.

At the end of the day - BE HONEST. Getting a place fast is not as important as moving in to a place where you'll honestly get along with your roommate. If you haven't had a roommate before - believe me, you want to make sure that your real personality, not your "pretend for now so I can get the room" personality, will mesh well.

Your best bet, I'm thinking, will be a grad student who needs to save money on his/her apartment. They'll be thrilled that you're quiet/introverted because they want to get studying done.

Lastly: You mention you're quiet/introverted, and sort of pose it as having negative connotations in the context of this post. If you would prefer to be a little more social and need a bit of help/stimulus/motivation to get that way - consider finding a roommate that might help you with that. Not a party animal, but someone you can actually talk to.

Which brings me to the real "lastly": They NEED a roommate to save money -- you're interviewing them as much as they're interviewing you! You've got your pick of everything on craigslist - you don't like their apartment or the roommate(s)? You can just check out another ad! You've got some leverage here, too, so don't allow yourself to get pushed up against the wall, figuratively speaking, and give the other person the upper hand in all the interviewng all the time.
posted by twiggy at 8:31 AM on November 7, 2005

I put an ad on craigslist as someone searching for an apartment, with a detailed description of myself, what I was doing in the city (DC) and how long I was going to be there (the summer). I was contacted by someone with a fantastic arrangement. So it's possible to find really great stuff on craigslist.

Introverted and quiet are good things in a roommate - no one wants excitement from their roommates. The best thing you can be is: quiet, with your own life going on (so you won't be dependant on your roommates for a social life), tidy, and not obsessed with having those around you be quiet or tidy (i.e. easygoing). If you have interesting hobbies or occupations, do put those down - some people want to have interesting roommates, no one wants a roommate full of drama.

Don't reveal terrible credit or the horribleness of your current situation - nothing that makes people think you might be trouble, everything that makes them think it's going to be as though there's no roommate at all. Be clear that you don't have pets, and if you would be willing to have others' pets around, be clear on that one too.
posted by lorrer at 8:35 AM on November 7, 2005

Response by poster: Oh, I should mention that I've been living in places with 2-8 roommates for the last 5 or 6 years, so I'm completely accustomed to shared living arrangements.
posted by cmonkey at 8:36 AM on November 7, 2005

I've been on both sides of this-- the one looking for an apartment, and the one with an apartment looking for roommates. From the POV of the room-seeker, you can tell pretty easily on craigslist who are the extroverted/frat-guy/crazy types from either the ads or the inital meetings. If you don't want to live like that, there's no problem with saying, "Well, I think I'm going to keep looking." I think it's fairly safe to say that there are more available rooms then there are potential tenants at any given time, so really the room-seeker has the upper hand. If you like a place and the people, say so. Odds are, like twiggy says, people will want a quiet introvert over a loud obnoxious person any day. If you're really super-introverted, try finding a room with a private bathroom, so you can have even less social contact with people.

From the POV of the room-owner: You hope that you get somebody nice to rent your room. We searched for about a month, and saw about 5 potential people before we found someone who actually wanted to rent the room. So the problem was not that we were rejecting people left and right because of their personality, rather it was that these people always found someplace better/different/cheaper. Anyway, good luck.
posted by sarahnade at 8:47 AM on November 7, 2005

My friend found both of his current room-mates (or they found him) through Craigslist. He feels it worked great. They all get along and respect each other.

Like the others have said, just be honest. But like Twiggy said, you are also interviewing them.
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 8:48 AM on November 7, 2005

not everyone looking for someone to occupy one of the available rooms is looking for outgoing extraverts as roommates - try finding ones that is looking for someone quiet and you might be the best fit for them. each household has different culture attached to it - some act more like family doing chores and cooking together often, some maintain cleanliness and respect for each other and yet pretty much leave each other alone as far as daily lives go.

if they reject you due to your personality, it's not necessarily a bad thing - they're looking for someone more outgoing and social which you're not going to be, and i don't see why you should be stressed out about your personality and getting along with new roommates when all you need is make yourself at home.

i've had roommates/rooms found via craigslist before and here are my tips:
1. if you feel uncomfortable, don't move in. i do see that you're under pressure to move out ASAP but why move into another situation in which you'd want to move out again.
2. find something that is month-to-month. sounds like you're going to be moving in with friends in jan, so maybe subletting might work out better for you. make sure you tell them you're looking for temporary housing arrangement (which could, if turns out positively, might last longer).
3. bring a checkbook with you - if you find the household suitable enough, then be ready to give them the deposit right away.
4. be yourself. you're finding a new home - why try to be someone else when all you want to do is relax and do what you want to do.

good luck.
posted by grafholic at 8:49 AM on November 7, 2005

You have had a ton of roomates before, and you're quiet? You are my dream roommate! Spend some time looking for rooms in places where people who also like quiet living situations might be. I'd think law school/grad school/older people looking for a boarder. If you just want a place for a few months, let people know that. That way if they look at you and say "Hmmm, he's not quite PERFECT" they might be more inclined to let you move on knowing you'd likely be temporary.

When I've looked for roomates I've wanted people who seemed to be at ease in the space they were in when they were in my house, didn't have spazzy energy that seemed like it would start saying "we need to FIX this place UP" and understood how to live with other people, and obviously had enough cash to make rent and weren't very very broke. Having a job you like helps, because it makes you seem 1) sane 2) solvent 3) able to get on with others & maybe follow some rules.
posted by jessamyn at 8:52 AM on November 7, 2005

( Where do live? I just baught a flat, and I'm considering taking-in a short-term roommate. )
posted by silusGROK at 8:56 AM on November 7, 2005

Try as well. I know a couple of people it worked well for.
posted by callmejay at 9:01 AM on November 7, 2005

You can't couch-surf for 7 weeks?
posted by phearlez at 9:03 AM on November 7, 2005

After living with friends or friends-of-friends for years I had to put up an ad to fill an empty room in an apartment. To sort through the responses of potential roomies I asked questions like, What are your normal waking hours? Do you like to stay in, watch movies, cook, go out, have friends over, etc? What is the thing that has annoyed you the most about former roommates?* What habit or quirk of yours has annoyed former roommates? You should feel free to pry a little bit, you're going to be sharing a home/house with a stranger!

*(BTW I got some amazing insights into people with this question. If you really, really got furious at old roommates when they wouldn't turn off the light after leaving a room, then you're probably going to find some other bad habit of mine that will infuriate you just as much. OTOH if you got annoyed at former roommates who were too irresponsible to deal with little responsibilities, like, say, paying rent on time, then I'm feeling you man. So be ready to answer these honestly.)
posted by pants at 9:29 AM on November 7, 2005

Don't say anything even remotely negative when viewing the place, like "hmmm, shower only, no tub, huh?"

Don't go on about the elaborate gourmet meals you plan to cook.

Don't ask questions like "the upstairs neighbors, they don't walk around in cowboy boots do they?"

Do compliment what you like about the place.

Do be ready to give your deposit on the spot.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:33 AM on November 7, 2005

StickyCarpet, I agree with you except for the cowboy boots- that's a legit sort of question. If it turns out the upstairs neighbors work swing and listen to loud music from 1 am - 4 am, you should know it.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:39 AM on November 7, 2005

Someone in a very similar situation - bad living situation, can't move into his new place until January 1st - just moved into the house I rent after seeing our ad on craigslist. My guess is you'll be surprised at how many folks are interested in a quiet, short-term roommate to help with rent and bills. Be sure to also spread the word that you're looking to all - and I mean ALL - of your friends and casual acquaintances. In my experience, that works better than craigslist for finding someone likely to be compatible. Use both outlets and you'll be better off than either one alone.

In general, I got more nibbles than bites from craigslist, with one or two flakey folks who didn't respond/show up when they said they would, but the experience was a good one overall. I was surprised at how many decent-sounding folks at least emailed or called for more info.
posted by mediareport at 9:41 AM on November 7, 2005

Only bring that kind of stuff up after the renter has offered to take your deposit.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:43 AM on November 7, 2005

I've been on both sides of the Craigslist room-find, and I agree that you should totally be yourself. Being quiet isn't necessarily going to scare people away- it might attract them to you. To help them "pick" you, make sure to write an e-mail shortly after your visit saying you'd be interested in living there (if you would!). I know the last roommate we found did that, and it was a real relief knowing the girl we liked best wanted to live with us, too.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:46 AM on November 7, 2005 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, people looking for a subletter are often desperate — they need to move unexpectedly, they can't afford to cover their rent, they've just been through a bad breakup, etc. etc. etc. They aren't always in a position to worry about compatible personalities.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:35 AM on November 7, 2005

Personal experience :

I live in NYC, where I have basically three choices :

1) Get my own place, live in a cheap or boring neighborhood
2) Get my own place, live in a cool neighborhood, pay an obscene amount of money
3) Find a random roommate on Craigslist, live in a cool neighborhood, pay a "reasonable" amount of money

So, yeah, I've done the Craigslist thing about 5 times, with various mixed results.

It can be tough finding a room this way. I would approach it the same way I would approach an online dating profile - take any negative qualities that you find, multiply them by ten, and still see if it's attractive. Things that seem like they would be minor annoyances when you're checking out a situation can become MAJOR annoyances after you've been living there for a while and the "honeymoon" has ended.

There's a tendency on the part of the renter and subletter to try and "rush" through the process. The worst part is that nobody ever seriously looks for a roommate or room on CL more then a month in advance. Hell, most don't even look three weeks in advance. They'll have you come by for an "open house" where you don't really get a good impression of your potential roommates. If you're lucky enough to be "picked," you may meet with them a few more times before moving in. I would recommend that you stretch out this phase. Hang out with them. Have some good conversations. Try to see what day-to-day life in the apartment would be like. Remember, you're going to be LIVING with this person.

I don't want to scare you away. I've had some good experiences. The last place I rented, I stayed there a year and change before all went to shit. My current situation is far, far better, and may actually last longer then a year. However, there is a good chance that this will be my last CL experience. I'm just getting too old for this stuff.
posted by afroblanca at 11:03 AM on November 7, 2005

cmonkey: if you're mobile, you may consider getting a sublet until Jan. It'll let you move out in the shortest amount of time (there's usually not a lot of screening for sublets beyond "oh you're not entirely crazy), allow you to move again later with your friends, and most likely be cheaper than actually renting a place as a room-mate for that amount of time. The big downside of course is that you'd have to move twice.

I'm not familar with the sublet market in Portland, but I had a friend living in NYC who spent 4-6 months moving from sublet to sublet. Of course, at the time, everything he had would fit into two suitcases.
posted by fishfucker at 11:42 AM on November 7, 2005

I'm quiet and introverted, and I also found my current living situation through Craigslist. I searched the ads for a while, and then I decided to post my own. I made it of medium length so that people could get a brief idea of what I was like, and was very straight-forward about what I was looking for in a living situation. When I went to go look at places, I always had a copy of my tenant resume on hand. I followed the guidelines from a sample tenant resume on my undergrad university's housing website, and with a couple of brief reference letters from former roommates, I felt very confident that I could easily find a place to my satisfaction......and I did:-) Good luck!
posted by invisible ink at 3:56 PM on November 7, 2005

I had a great experience finding a room from craigslist in Atlanta. Start reading from about a week back and bookmark the likely ones. Look for someone about your own age.

Don't ask questions like "the upstairs neighbors, they don't walk around in cowboy boots do they?"

I disagree. That is exactly the type of question you should ask.
posted by mischief at 6:44 PM on November 7, 2005

Yeah, anyone who doesn't ask the tough questions deserves exactly what they get.

One more thing I forgot to mention -

Try to find an apartment without a common area. It takes a lot of the pressure off of your relationship with your roommate.

In my current apartment, the only common area is the kitchen, and it works out VERY well. My roommate and I are friends, but we don't HAVE to be. We can (and do) hang out sometimes, but we don't HAVE to.

Plus, there's a lot less to fight about (what to watch, who cleans up, who's always having their friends over, etc.)
posted by afroblanca at 7:06 PM on November 7, 2005

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