Do roommate-finding services work for people who are middle-aged?
July 13, 2015 4:08 PM   Subscribe

My current roommate is taking a job across the country. For twenty-odd years, I've roomed with a friend or friends, so the last time I had to actually look for a roommate, I placed an ad in the paper. Ha ha ha. How does a single forty-something woman find a compatible roommate in Chicago nowadays? Note: Please do not suggest that I move out and find a studio or one-bedroom on my own. That is not on the table at the moment.

My roommate for the last seven years has gotten a job in California, and they want her out there some time in August, which really doesn't leave me much wiggle room. I can afford the place on my own out of savings until maybe October, and then I'm screwed.

I've looked at,,, etc., but they all seem (understandably) geared towards college kids and twenty-somethings. I don't have a problem with a younger person as such, but they'd have to pass a credit check and show proof of ability to pay the rent for at least nine months (either savings or a steady job).

There must be other older, single people looking to share space, but I have no idea how to go about finding them. If you've had any experience with these services once you were out of your twenties, I'd love to hear about it.

(Is craigslist still trustworthy for roommates, and if so, is it useful for anyone who isn't twenty?)
posted by tzikeh to Grab Bag (24 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
You might want to look under the term "intentional communities" for your area.
posted by effluvia at 4:14 PM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: First, put the word out to your friends - Facebook, email, coworkers. You might luck out on a friend-of-a-friend and not have to do the big stranger search, and they might offer to spread the word among their social/business/church/activity circle.

Second, Craigslist is still a thing and probably one of your better options, but I'd suggest planning to use a background check service geared to landlords if you go that route. I have used (as both a tenant and a landlord) SmartMove. And say in your listing that you will be doing one, which should keep the scariest/scammiest applicants away.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:15 PM on July 13, 2015 [8 favorites]

I think Craig's List is actually your best bet. I don't know of anyone who has found a roommate through the other sites; everyyone I know went through craig's list and that's how I have found all of my roommates. (I'm 36)

In my experience there are people of all ages on craig's list; creeps, too, but they are pretty easy to weed out.
posted by bearette at 4:17 PM on July 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

This was exactly my living situation when I, my nerdy, studious, also working self was in college. If you want someone a little older, I also enjoyed living with grad students (they were clean, quiet, and I rarely saw them).
posted by jrobin276 at 4:25 PM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

During my search for a roommate for graduate school (I was only 26, but still I was looking for something different than your typical college student) I found basically zero success with the roommate sites but I had a lot more success with craiglist - though of course it comes with the usual warnings about such things (I found people to be flaky as hell, or to avoid conflict they wouldn't tell me they had chosen to room with someone else, stuff like that).
posted by Aranquis at 4:27 PM on July 13, 2015

Response by poster: jrobin276: This was exactly my living situation when I, my nerdy, studious, also working self was in college.

That would be totally fine by me -- it's a matter of the background/credit check and compatibility more than age -- I just figured most college kids wouldn't want to room with a 46-yo woman, for various and sundry reasons. I'd be fine with it.
posted by tzikeh at 4:28 PM on July 13, 2015

I was looking for a thirty-something roommate until recently (I decided to get my own place). There are definitely postings for people seeking roommates in your age range. My coworker is about your age and he found roommates by replying to a few dozen ads on Craigslist. So I would definitely advise you put the place up there. People absolutely still use CL for finding roommates and I believe it's entirely free.

A few years back, I went to a roommate meetup group in Chicago. This was a big social event where everyone put on a nametag and walked around meeting potential roommates, which is a great idea. I met a roommate at one of those events. It was, as you would expect, mostly 20-somethings but there were definitely some forty-something folks in attendance. I looked it up recently and it seems to have dissolved, but maybe there is a similar group somewhere?

I would also try asking around in different social circles to see if you find someone looking to move. People in Chicago move a lot.

Finally, I would not be so picky as to only consider people your own age as a roommate. You might be unfairly limiting your selection. 20-somethings have a reputation for drunken revelry but I've found grads/law school students are pretty quiet. You could also try to find someone who spends all their time at an S.O.'s apartment. Basically, I would not consider age necessarily a determining factor for behavior.
posted by deathpanels at 4:30 PM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've seen and known plenty of older people on Craigslist, especially in large cities where rents are high.

I (27) have really never even heard of anyone using a 'roommate matching site,' and for some reason that sounds much sketchier to me than just throwing an ad up on Craigslist.
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:31 PM on July 13, 2015 [9 favorites]

There are plenty of young people who aren't in college and have roommates. Offhand I know of at least two friends who, as young professionals, have roomed with middle-aged people when they were in their 20s. You're a bit uncommon as a roommate, demographically speaking, but I don't see why the search would be significantly different than for anybody else looking for a responsible person to share a place with, regardless of age.
posted by Tomorrowful at 4:31 PM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also, if you're looking for other options, I would avoid I signed up for an account there when I was looking for a roommate and it seems really spammy, with very little actual content available without paying their monthly fee. CL is ugly and there's plenty of spam, but it's easy enough to sort through, and it's FREE.
posted by deathpanels at 4:33 PM on July 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

Just like with online dating, being super aggressive on spelling and grammar in responses has always worked well when looking for a good Craigslist roommate.
posted by rockindata at 4:40 PM on July 13, 2015 [7 favorites]

Here in San Francisco, Craigslist is the standard for people of all ages (probably older people more so than younger people, actually?). Some people post on Facebook first to try to find a friend-of-a-friend.
posted by amaire at 5:09 PM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I did pretty well finding roommates by sticking a flyer up in my favorite couple of neighborhood coffee shops a while ago.
posted by charmedimsure at 5:16 PM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

If it's a desirable living situation and the price is right, young people will certainly live with older people. I had a colleague in his 20s who answered a Craigslist ad and ended up living with a middle aged woman and her mother. It was the right apartment for him.
posted by telegraph at 5:22 PM on July 13, 2015

I don't see why the search would be significantly different than for anybody else looking for a responsible person to share a place with, regardless of age.

Really? When I was looking for a place and thinking about maybe sharing, I'd say 90% of the people advertising set early 30s as an upper limit. (I think there are various biases and judgements that go into it - not worth discussing as far as solutions, though.) The potential market is smaller. Newly single people, older students, and people new to the city would be up for it, though. As well as younger people, if you have a nice place in a great location. Use Craigslist, for sure.

(Data point: I [a thirty-something] did see some ads posted by 30/40-somethings. The thing that put me off contacting most of them was the impression that they'd very much settled into very particular lifestyles, and had strong preferences, and needed person X to fit exactly into their mold. I saw a lot of veggie, cat-owning yoginis who wanted roommates to participate in weekly meetings and movie nights (and wouldn't tolerate omnivores); also, high-earning professional home-owners who seemed to want absolute silence/neatness, i.e. just a chunk of the mortgage taken out with no other evidence of personhood surrounding that. Which is all fair enough, I guess. But their ads were out the longest.)

So, if a particular way of living or a particular type of roommate really matters to your comfort, by all means mention it, but it might mean you'll wait a bit longer. If you're more easygoing than the kinds of people I described, & are up for negotiating some, and are willing to fully accept another person (presence; personality; 30/40/20-something with their own preferences) into your place (and really share it), try to get that across in your ad. A friendly, conversational tone will go a long way.
posted by cotton dress sock at 5:29 PM on July 13, 2015 [6 favorites]

Depending on your neighborhood, if there's a spot like a favorite coffee shop or Whole Foods with a bulletin board, consider putting something up in there. I remember seeing one a little while ago on the board at the Peet's on Clark that had the headline "Grown-Ass Woman Seeking Roommate" and had a picture of the space and a few bullet points. All the little paper thingies were torn off, so it must work?
posted by juniperesque at 5:35 PM on July 13, 2015 [9 favorites]

Data point 2: I stayed away from ads with pics showing decorating preferences that were highly idiosyncratic or personal - e.g. lots of black wrought iron, florals, walls covered in stuff - that stuff isn't mine, right, it was hard to imagine myself in that space. Also off-putting - places that looked bland, soulless, or just not welcoming-looking. Or ones that were too perfect (intimidating, also, no room for me, again). Neutral colours, a clean, decent, cozy-looking sofa (that looked like I could kick back in it), just a few accents - that is what I would have liked to see (along with a daytime shot, to get a sense of natural lighting). (Mind you, you may not want someone like me as a roommate - also fair enough.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 5:49 PM on July 13, 2015

You might try
posted by pheide at 6:13 PM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was going to suggest next as well. I see people advertise roommate situations almost daily.

My experience with using Craigslist to get a roommate was very positive. I had a room available with low rent but did not want someone around all the time or anybody with rodents as pets. A twenty something student lived with me for 18 months with her big hairy husky. She was a wonderful roommate and I rented to her sight unseen. She moved to my town from the Midwest.

When I was looking for housing myself I noticed the age thing on Craigslist. I would have jumped at middle ager looking for a roommate but then I am in my 60's.

So if you know what you are looking for in a roommate you should put that in your ad or check the people looking for a place section. I think you would have better luck placing an ad though. There are creepy people on CL but the majority of people are not. They are just people looking for a place to live.
posted by cairnoflore at 6:53 PM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

If this is an option for you, I would leave yourself as the only name on the lease and sublet to your new roommate on a month-to-month lease so you can get rid of them if they are terrible.
posted by Anonymous at 7:19 PM on July 13, 2015

Padmapper/padlister is the hot (sort of) new thing. Everyone I know in roommate situations has been using that and Craigslist the last few years. Padmapper used to pull from Craigslist and has a way nicer interface, but I think Craigslist nixed that arrangement.
posted by congen at 8:56 PM on July 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I used craigslist 5 years ago (mid-fifties at the time) in Chicago and was able to find something suitable, but it took much longer than I expected for what I assume were age-related reasons. My assurances that I was "420 friendly", noise tolerate (I have good headphones and keep late hours myself), wouldn't interfere with their lives - in fact, would probably spend most of my at-home time in my room (not anti-social, just busy), didn't seem to mean much to most young folks.

Finally found a place with a man who was young enough to be my son, but open minded. Also turned out to be an all-round stand-up guy.
posted by she's not there at 10:39 PM on July 13, 2015

Another option - check out the colleges near you and see of they have "off-campus student housing" kind of listings. Especially if you are within a decent commute to a particular campus - I've usually used Craigslist to find roommates, but the last time I needed someone I posted on both Craigslist and on the student-housing bulletin board for NYU, stating that I was within a half-hour from NYU's campus by subway. My current roommate is a PhD candidate at NYU, and THAT was the ad he saw; it's worked out fantastically.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:45 AM on July 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

assurances that I was "420 friendly", noise tolerate

A note on using foo-friendly language:

Some of the language indicates things you're OK with, but it's often used to tell potential renters about yourself in a roundabout way. This can be a great way to attract more people to your ad, but it can also chase people away. Whether or not you're queer, for example, you may not want to live with someone who balks at "queer-friendly" in your ad. But if you don't have a bong collection, I wouldn't put 420 friendly in the ad. In my experience, only serious stoners put that in their ads, so you can chase off people who don't like that much smoking. I usually save the drugs talk for when I meet people.
posted by congen at 2:48 PM on July 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

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