If you’re like most people, you’d probably prefer not to live with a roommate. There are times, however, when finances can make having a roommate a necessity.

If you need to share expenses with someone in your current city, but don’t know of anyone who’s looking for a roommate—or if you’re moving to a new city where you don’t know anyone at all—conducting an online search for a roommate is your best bet.

While Padmapper (https://www.padmapper.com/), Roomie Match (https://www.roomiematch.com/), and Roommates.com (http://www.roommates.com/) all do a decent job of connecting potential roommates, they all pale in comparison to the connecting power of Craigslist (http://www.craigslist.org).

Not only does the world’s biggest online classifieds section have the biggest selection of prospective roommate listings, but sifting through—and connecting with—potential candidates on Craigslist is fast and easy. And you never have to pay a dime, either.

Are there weirdos and scammers on Craigslist? Sure. But if you do a little advanced planning and exercise a little caution, not only can you find a roommate, but you might also find a new friend.

Follow these tips for the best way to find roommates using Craigslist:

  • Start by posting an ad under housing > rooms/shared on your city’s Craigslist page. Be sure to include high-level information, including your employment status, age, gender, the number of pets you have (if any), and any other information/considerations—like what part of the city you prefer or if you want to share a place with someone of the same gender. For safety purposes, Do NOT share your name, the name of your employer, email address, phone number, photo, or any other personal information. Also, consider setting up a temporary email address that you only use to answer your Craigslist emails.
  • Search ads placed by people looking for roommates. Make a list of those who might be good matches due to their personalities, lifestyles, or (preferably) both. Only select candidates who’ve shared the same high-level information that you’ve shared.
  • If you already have a place and are looking for a roommate, share as much information about your place as possible, including room dimensions, appliances, laundry facilities, and distance to the parking lot and/or subway, as well as income requirements, rent, utility costs, and other monthly expenses. Be sure to share pictures of the place, too. If you are considering moving in with someone who already has a place, make sure to ask for all of the aforementioned information, as well as any other info you might need. (They must share pictures, as well.) If you are planning to look for a new place with your new roommate, find out exactly the type of place they are looking for, what they can afford, and how they propose to search for one.
  • Screen the candidates. Meeting all of your potential roommates in person can be both time consuming and a waste of time. Instead, whittle down the list beforehand. Start by emailing them some direct and personal questions in order to better determine if they’ll be a good fit. Ask about what hours they typically keep, their job schedules, and what their general comfort level is regarding significant others and overnight guests. Ask about their prior roommate experiences, too. If they’ve had a lot of prior roommates and/or complain a lot about them, that could be a red flag. If you have trouble communicating with—or are otherwise put off or weirded out by—a candidate at this stage, it’s best to just scratch him or her from your list. You can also Google them or peruse their social media sites in order to see if anything questionable pops up.
  • Once you’ve narrowed your list, meet with the leading candidates in person. By this point, you probably have a good feeling about each one of them. These meetings will help to cement your final decision. Meet in a public place like a restaurant or coffee shop, and ask them any logistical questions that may not have come up before this point. Try to get to know them a little better on a personal level, too. Strike up a casual conversation and ask them about their lives, hobbies, favorite activities, etc. While you might not have any real concerns about them at this point, you might find that you don’t really gel with them, either. If you are having trouble choosing a candidate, ask for some help from a family member or friend. Lay out the pros and cons of each candidate, and ask them to tell you which one they’d choose.

After you’ve settled on a roommate, make sure that you are in mutual agreement regarding the living arrangements. At this point, there should be no surprises. Come to an agreement as to who will pay which household bills, as well as how and when the money will be collected for them. Also be sure that your lease is thorough, and that you both understand it and agree to it.
Happy searching!

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