How to find a good roommate in 4 steps

Written by the Square One team

Updated June 18, 2024 | Published February 16, 2017

So, you want to live in downtown Vancouver, or downtown Toronto, two of the most expensive places to live in Canada. In fact, in almost every large city in Canada, you may find yourself with the same couple of problems: very few vacant rental accommodations available and two, high rent.

You may be able to find a solution to both of these problems by looking for someone who wants to share living space. In other words, maybe it’s time to start looking for a roommate.


Thumbnail of the How to Find a Good Roommate video

Step 1: Decide to move in with strangers or friends?

If you’re lucky, your best friend will have an extra bedroom and will want you to move in. But this is highly unlikely for most of us. And, friends may not always be the best roommates. Lots of friendships have ended after becoming roommates. You need to seriously evaluate your friend regarding lifestyle compatibility, just like you would a stranger, before deciding to live together.

Is it possible to find a total stranger that you’d actually be comfortable living with? You may be surprised to discover that there are a number of websites set up for just that very thing. Similar to a dating website, these sites require you to complete a profile, and can then help to find someone with similar traits. You have several options. You can first look for a good roommate match, and then you can start looking for a place to live together. Or, maybe you have an apartment already. and you’re just looking for someone to move in with you. Or, you may be looking for someone who already has a place.

Step 2: Use online roommate application sites

A few examples of websites to look at when you’re searching for a roommate are Roomiematch, Easy Roommate, and Roomster.

  • Current situation: Whether you’re looking for someone to move in with you where you’re living now, or a new place to move AND a new roommate.

  • Location: The city and area in which you want to live. Whether you currently live in the vicinity now, and your availability on short notice to inspect a property.

  • Rent: The maximum rent you can pay.

  • Term: Long term or short term situation.

  • Gender: Your gender and the gender you prefer your roommate to be.

  • Sexual orientation: Yours, and your “tolerance” to people of a different orientation.

  • Age: Your age (within certain ranges), and whether you want someone in your same range.

  • Pets: Do you have one, and can you live with someone who has a pet?

  • Smoking: Do you smoke? Inside or outside? Can you tolerate living with a smoker?

  • General tidiness: How often do you do your dishes, how long will any leftovers sit in the fridge, will you leave personal items in common areas, do you recycle? Would you prefer to contribute to a cleaning service, or would you expect that you and your roommate will clean?

  • Entertaining: Do you expect to have wild parties, a few friends over in a month, never invite anyone over?

  • Noise: What is your tolerance for household noise?

  • Sleepovers: How often should “significant others” stay over? What about friends staying over, or family stopping by?

  • Promiscuity: Will you be bringing strangers into the home regularly?

  • Sharing: What household consumables would you like to share?

  • Security: Whether you should be looking out for each other.

  • Home furnishings: How do you like to decorate your place?

  • Dress: How will you dress around the house?

  • Alcohol/Drugs: What is your consumption of alcohol or drugs, like marijuana?

  • Dietary habits: Vegan/Vegetarian or Omnivore. If you’re a vegan, can you live with the smell of bacon frying?

  • Hygiene: How is your personal hygiene (how often do you shower, etc.)? If you’re a clean freak, you may want to know that your roommate showers often enough for your liking.

  • TV viewing habits: He/she wants to watch reality shows, while you’re into PBS.

This is pretty thorough. Once you’ve completed and submitted your application, there are a couple of different options for you. As with most roommate search websites, there is a free option, and one with a charge, which gives you more benefits and access. Check out their sites for all the details.

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Step 3: Important questions to ask potential roommates

Need help to determine what you need to consider when choosing a roommate? Here are over 21 questions and scenarios you should think about when considering a roommate.

  • Why are they looking to move? Maybe they were evicted from their last place for making too much noise.

  • What do they do for a living? If they work from home and are always underfoot, it may not be ideal for you. Especially if you work from home, as well. But having someone at home every day might be a bonus: they could accept deliveries, meet the cable guy or any other service technician. If you’re lucky, you may find someone who works the opposite shift from you; they sleep during the day and are gone all evening. This would give you both plenty of opportunity to have the place to yourselves. If you both work the same shifts, you may need to talk about setting up a bathroom schedule so you’re not fighting over the shower every morning.

  • What kind of sleeping habits do they have? Are they a morning person or do they tend to stay up all night? You don’t want your sleep disrupted by someone who’s up watching TV until all hours when you’ve got an early morning meeting.

  • Will they feel safe in the type of apartment you have to offer? Some people are not comfortable with ground floor units or basement suites.

  • What about bills? Will you split any bills, such as utilities, the internet, tenant insurance, and cable, evenly? Maybe you’re the only one who watches tv, so your roommate won’t want to chip in on the cable bill. These things need to be decided in advance.

  • Will they be coming and going at odd hours, or will they be staying away for long periods? You may like to know at what point you should call the police if you think they’ve gone missing.

  • Will you be sharing kitchen items and food, or will everything be kept totally separate? You might discuss how often they like to cook. If you both have the same work schedules, are you both going to be in the kitchen trying to make dinner at the same time? Or, if one of you likes to cook and the other likes to eat, it could be a perfect arrangement.

  • Can they give you a deposit? If you select a roommate, and he/she skips out on you after a few months, leaving you with the full rent to pay, it’s wise to have a deposit on hand.

  • What is their renting history? If they regale you with stories about their horrible ex-roommates, this could be an indicator that there is an issue with them. Maybe they had bedbugs in their last apartment. Or if they’re reluctant to tell you anything, maybe you should look a little closer.

Ask for a reference or two, from a former roommate or landlord, or maybe a work colleague. Be sure to follow up on the references, preferably by phone, just like you would with a job applicant. You might even want to do a credit or criminal record check. If the potential roommate balks, it might indicate a problem.

Step 4: Finalize it in writing

Once you’ve found the perfect roommate, it’s a good idea to put things in writing. Like Sheldon in “The Big Bang Theory,” create a roommate agreement, and get it signed on the dotted line. Include all the things you’ve discussed and agreed upon, so there are no questions should a situation arise.

Sharing your home with a roommate isn’t always what you’ve dreamed of, but if funds are tight, or accommodations are in short supply, a good roommate could turn out to be just the right solution.

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