How to Screen Roommates | Couple Wealth
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Housing costs are the biggest fixed expenses that make up your monthly budget. Finding a roommate to share your rent or mortgage payment can be a great way to reduce your expenses.

It can also turn out to be a terrible experience if you don’t find the right roommate. Personal differences and habits can make your living situation a disaster if you are not compatible.

By choosing the best roommate you can find, you’ll be able to reduce your housing expenses while avoiding awkward living situations. Here is how you can find and screen potential roommates to split rent.

Why Split Rent with a Roommate

If you have a multiple rooms in your house or apartment that you aren’t using, you can probably rent it out to a roommate. Especially if you are living alone, you could be saving money each month by splitting your housing payment.

If you are renting an apartment or house, find out from your landlord first if you are allowed to have roommates. In most cases, it is not a problem to have one or two other roommates.

When you own a property, you can decide yourself if you want to save money by taking on a roommate or two. In both situations, you can cut your housing expenses at least in half, if not more.

Let’s say your rent is $1,000 per month and you have a two bedroom apartment. If you don’t need the extra space, consider finding someone to split the cost with you.

Adding a roommate could cut your rent to $500, if you were to split it evenly. In some situations, you may be able to have your roommate pay even more than half.

Get our roommate expense tracker to make it even easier to fairly split the bills.

Take the Time to Find the Right Roommate

Now, you’re probably excited to jump in to renting our your extra space to help reduce your rent. Before you do so, take enough time to find the right roommate. They can either make or break your personal life – something that is priceless.

When I was a freshman in college, I was randomly assigned a roommate. He turned out to be a nice guy but completely opposite of me. Think pothead, stay up until 4AM, lots of guitar playing. While I survived two semesters with him, that type of roommate is definitely not someone I’d want long term.

One limitation to having roommates is the space you have available. Besides bedrooms, take into account bathrooms, kitchen space, and schedules. For example, it can be difficult if you only have one bathroom and you both leave for work at the same time.

If you are married, have kids, or have pets, there may also be other things to consider with adding a roommate. Do you and your wife really want to have someone else in your house all the time?

As you are looking for a roommate, there are a few things you can do to make sure it is a good experience for both of you.

Set a Fair Rent and Determine the Space

The first two questions that any prospective roommate will ask is the monthly cost and how big is it. Before you start trying to find someone, you’ll want to be clear on what you are able to offer them.

Do you have a spare bedroom or is it a finished basement? Does it have a separate or shared entrance? Separate or shared bathroom? Access to a kitchen?

More private accommodations will be able to get higher prices. Smaller sizes and less desirable features will reduce the amount you can charge.

When you are setting a price for rent, do some research in your local area to see what other people are charging. This will help to make it fair instead of just splitting your rent in half.

If your roommate is only taking up a third of the overall space, a fair rent price is probably close to one third of the total rent. This also works the other way if they are using premium features, like the master bedroom or a personal suite.

Write it Down

Once you find a roommate, be sure to draw up a written agreement that states the terms of your roommate. This will help to avoid any issues in the future, such as your roommate not paying on time or the full amount.

It can be awkward to do this if your roommate is a friend or family member, but is just as important. Lawyers can’t protect you if it was just a verbal agreement, so always write it down. It doesn’t have to be a true legal document and just writing it down will be sufficient in most cases.

When you are drawing up your rental agreement, be sure to include the space that the roommate is allowed to use along with the monthly rent due. Specify the date that rent is due by and any penalties if they are late. If there are any special stipulations, be sure to include it in the agreement.

Have you and your roommate sign the agreement to make it official. Give both of you a copy to store in a safe place so there are no questions about what was agreed to.

Finding Roommates

Now that you have the preparation out of the way, it is time to start looking for potential roommates. The best place to start is usually your friends, family, and acquaintances. You know these people the best and it is often easy to ask them if they would like to share housing. Plus, you know them well and don’t have to worry about if they will be a good fit.

Of course, rooming with friends and family can create extra strain on your relationships. It may not be worth the money if you end up creating problems or resentment with them.

Outside of family members, you can start by putting an ad out on Craigslist or Facebook. Specify what you have to offer and who you are looking for in that ad.

Other apps like RoomieMatch, Diggz, and Roomster can help make it easier to find good roommates.

Screening Potential Roommates

As you start to get responses, you’ll want to interview them to get to know them better. Try to do this in person so that you can get a better sense of their personality. Think about if they would be compatible with you and your lifestyle.

Some questions to ask a potential roommate can include:

  • What type of job and hours do you work?
  • When do you tend to wake up and go to sleep?
  • What are your hobbies?
  • Do you have any pets?
  • Do you smoke? Like to party?
  • Can you provide references from previous landlords and roommates?

As you get the answers to these questions, make sure you are willing to live with that type of person. There may be a few of these that are deal breakers, so don’t feel bad walking away if it doesn’t feel right.

A good way to to screen people is to ask a specific question in your roommate ad and ask for them to respond to it. If they don’t comply in their response to you, they probably aren’t the type of roommate you will want, so you can rule out their application.

Doing a Background Check

Before you accept them as your roommate, it is a good idea to do a background check on them to make sure there’s no major issues. It’s hard to know who you can trust from a quick interview, so be sure to look for any red flags.

Start by checking out their social media pages to see what they are commenting on and if their profiles match what they told you. You can learn a lot about their personality to seeing how they interact with their friends.

You can also Google their name to see if there are any articles that pop up that might be red flags. A little digging should show if they have been involved in any lawsuits, accidents, or police reports. You can also check out the National Sex Offender Registry to make sure they aren’t on it.

To give you some extra piece of mind, you can run a full background check for around $30 from sites like They will do all of the research for you and make sure nothing is missed.

The last step is to talk to their references to make sure that people who have interacted personally with them have not had a problem. Ask specifically about late payments, trustworthiness, and their overall feeling about your potential roommate.

Selecting a Safe Roommate

From all of this information, you should be able to make an informed decision about if they will be a good roommate for you. You will want to make sure that they are a good fit for your current lifestyle and that they will pay rent on time. Your safety and privacy is a priority, so do enough research to make sure you can trust them

When you do find the right roommate, they will be able to help cut your housing expenses and increase your savings.

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