How To Find A Shared Housing Situation On Craigslist

Or, So You Want To Have A Roommate and You’re Looking on Craigslist?

I’ve found my last four living situations on Craigslist. It took reading thousands of posts, visiting over a hundred houses, and lots and lots of cardboard boxes. Those are my credentials, here’s what I’ve learned:

Before you start, know what you’re looking for.
Make a list. Your list is, of course, going to be different from mine. We’re different people! At the bare minimum, come up with a price range you can afford (both with and without utilities) and an area of town you’re interested in. My list also includes things like wireless Internet, within four blocks of a Frequent Service bus stop, and ABSOLUTELY NO DRUGS. This makes it easy for me to rule out places where one of the advertised perks are “420 a-ok!”

Write an introductory email.
I suggest you do this before you start looking at listings. You’re a total stranger asking to move in with this person. Give them the basics of your life: work, school, what you do on weekends for fun, and that list of things that you are looking for. If you have a blog, add a link. Then, when you find a place you’re interested in, you can just copy and paste!

Come up with a method of keeping details straight.
Every email I sent off, I made an index card. I put the advertised rent and the neighborhood/address on the top line. As details coalesced, I added email, phone number, directions, housemate name(s), and appointment time on the front. I took the card with me to the appointment, and then as soon as I left, I made more notes on the back, about the house, the space, and whether I thought it was good or not, and when the decision would be made.

Do not schedule appointments to see houses too close together, and call immediately if you’re going to be late, you’re lost, or you’re not going to make it.
I used to ensure housing appointments were at least two hours apart. It’s rude to be late. It’s also rude to just no-show.

Do not lie.
I cannot state this enough. This will just cause problems, and the last thing you need in your life is housing drama. If you can’t stand other people smoking, don’t say “Oh, it doesn’t bother me”. Because you may have to live with people chainsmoking in the kitchen.

Trust your gut.
Do you get a weird vibe? Are you afraid to walk to your car in the dark in this neighborhood? Does the room in the basement creep you out? There’s a reason. Go with it.

Follow up, even if it’s to say “Thanks, but no thanks”.
Again, this is just part of not being rude and letting someone else have a chance.

Sign a lease before you hand over money, and ensure you have keys as soon as you hand over money.
Unless you have a signed lease, you are just a guest in the house and you can be kicked out at any time.

Get renter’s insurance
You will NOT be covered by your landlord’s policy.

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