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Now that you have a goal set on what to do with the rental income, it’s now time to generate the income by finding a roommate.  This is the part that makes people feel a bit weary of the whole renting out room scheme.  I was in the boat when I started out on this venture 5 years ago.

The whole weariness stems from the fact you’re taking on a roommate who is a total stranger. So you have thought such as:  How do you trust them? How do you know they are going to pay on time? How do you know that you’ll get along with them? These are all valid concerns and questions that always do not have definitive answers.  I’m going to try and shed some light on how to go about ways to finding answers to alleviate these concerns.

The First Time

Remember the first day at your very first job?  You were probably feeling a little overwhelmed with all the information your boss was relaying to you to.  Combine this with the nervous factor of being your first job, you were probably feeling a little uneasy.  After you first job, you felt more comfortable at your subsequent jobs because you’ve gained some work experience.

Renting out a room is somewhat similar – the first roommate can make you feel uneasy, but after the first roommate, it gets easier to screen for roommates.

As I mentioned before, I was a bit uncomfortable when I rented out my spare bedroom for the first time, but now that I’m on my 8th different roommate, I’m somewhat in a “groove” or routine in finding roommates and more comfortable with the whole process.

In fact, the first time I advertised my spare bedroom, I didn’t even use craigslist.  I used roommates.com.  I knew craigslist offered a higher network value by having more traffic, thus having a greater possibility of finding a roommate.  However that’s what I was trying to avoid – the influx of roommate inquiries in which I didn’t know what to screen for.

Roommates.com on the other has less traffic and has a profile where I can view of potential roommates.  This is a huge benefit because it allows you, the homeowner to prescreen a roommate to determine if they are a fit or not.  This was a leading reason why I choose roommates.com over craigslist for the firs time when I was renting out a room.

The Common Denominator

After a week or so of having my advertisement go live on roommates.com, I received a short non-descriptive e-mail stating that he was interested and to call him at such and such number. I was skeptical of the e-mail because of the brevity, but nonetheless, I called the number.

After conversing with about the specific details of the spare room, ie rent price, size and rent term, I inquired more about his employment and that eventually ended up in a conversation about about school and hobbies.   It turned out that he went to the same school as I did so I felt like that was the icebreaker to engage in a more friendly conversation.

From this experience, I’ve I learned to try and find a common subject we both share an interest in.  This is how I can gauge how their personality is going to be and whether they are going to be a fit.  Now, everyone’s personality is different so you’ll have to make the choice on whether the person you just met is someone you can get along with.

On Time

In terms of a person’s ability to pay rent, based on my experience, I believe it solely lies on their income level.  I’ve had never had a problem with a roommate who held a professional job and was unwilling to pay rent(trying to free load off me) or struggle to pay rent.  So this is an appropriate question to ask to determine their creditability in paying rent is their line of work.

So as long as they are a working professional and can afford the rent, I don’t see them paying on time being an issue.

Over Time

When things between you and your roommates are working well, you start to feel more comfortable and start to develop some trust.  This trust is important because it allows you to do things you may not normally do when you have a roommate.  For instance, I’ve developed enough trust in my roommates that I went on a six-week vacation to Europe in 2008.

I knew the rent would be paid on time and I could automate my finances to, leaving me to enjoy my trip.  This trip to Europe was the longest period of time I’ve left my roommates home by themselves.  As long as I feel I can trust my roommates, I have no problems going on vacation or on travel for work.

Trust is something that is built over time, I’m not going to suggest that you have a roommate move in and think that in a few weeks you can start to trust your roommate.  You have to feel comfortable about leaving your roommate alone for several days or weeks.  This feeling can be daunting because everyone likes to think of the worst case scenario and that is your roommates could throw an all night rager and piss off your neighbors.  So you have to develop trust before you go out of town.

On a side note, I have had a roommate to take it upon himself to do some maintenance work while I was out of town, which impressed me.  I’ve

Take Away

Based on my experience, these are my thoughts on how to go about dealing with the uncertainty of:

  • How to trust roommates?
  • How do you know if they are going to pay on time?
  • How do you know that you’ll get along with them?

A lot of these questions are open ended and don’t have definitive answers.  I’ve put my experience to let my readers know what kind of answers generate the best results in roommates.

Are you ready to take the plunge and find a roommate?

Creative Commons License photo credit: two stout monks


I’m now in the process of finding a new roommate because one of my current roommates is taking a new job elsewhere at the end of this month.  I’ll be posting updates on my roommate search results.


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