Is It Safe to Find Roommates On Craigslist or Other Online Sites? (Yes, If You Remember These Five Tips…)

Moving to a big city like Miami or New York can be a daunting experience if you don’t have friends there. Same thing with moving to a new neighborhood you’ve never been, or settling on a campus.

Whichever reason you may have in mind to look for a roommate, you are more likely to end up on Craigslist or similar roommate search sites.

The process of combing through the list of people on these sites isn’t the easiest thing you could try.

Chances are your anxiety will get the better of you. You certainly don’t want to end up in the same house with an obnoxious.

What if the person deals drugs?

Things can be a little easy in the summer because lots of people tend to move around this time of the year.

During the winter, fewer people are moving, meaning you need to look even harder on Craigslist to find a roommate.

But, Is It Safe To Find Roommates On Craigslist Or Other Online Sites?

Absolutely yes – you just need to be keen. If you just log on Craigslist and choose a random person without interrogating them on a few things of your interest, you are likely to end up with a roommate you will regret meeting. An average post on Craigslist receives between 10 to 30 responses overnight in the summer when everyone is moving. You will land a dozen nice people out of these responses, a few whom you can interrogate further to choose the “best” roommate.

Keep These Five Things In Mind When Searching For A Roommate

Here is how to make your roommate hunting journey safe and successful:

1. Pay Attention to Minor Details

They say the devil is in the details.

When writing your own post or reading the potential roommate’s post on Craigslist or anywhere else, pay attention to tiny bits of details like the state of the dishwasher and whether the residence was only renovated a decade ago.

Of course, first you will want to look at the basics: the distance to the closest subway, room dimensions, income requirements, cost, and even laundry services.

Chances are very high that, if the poster or ad is thorough and respectful in the write-up, the roommate will also be an organized and respectful person.

  • Is the grammar bad?
  • Are there all-caps phrases?
  • Does the poster come across as mildly rude to you?

Trust your instincts and move to the next one.

Also, if you are an animal lover, check if the roommate will be excited about your pet.

If they won’t, look for another person.

Whether it is sleeping habits or dealing with pets, be specific with what you are looking for.

When in doubt, consider asking your family or friends if there is anything extra, personality-wise, you should include.

They are more likely to be privy of your quirky side you are not aware of.

2. Beware of Scams

Roommate scams are common on Craigslist although pretty every other search site has the same problem to a varying degree.

The reason why Craigslist is the worst affected is the fact that the platform is unmoderated and free.

The posts on the platform as well as the responses your posts will receive can be from fraudulent elements, so it is important to have the skeptic hat on.

If a deal sounds too enticing, you are probably dealing with a scammer.

Be careful to never exchange funds or personal details with the possible roommate before meeting them in person and perhaps securing a lease (this still applies even if they are asking to wire money to you before you meet them).

Set up a separate email address specifically to search for a roommate on these sites.

Also, be wary of posts riddled with errors or those that seem incomplete.

If someone promptly responds to your posts ready to move in without even requesting some additional information about you, read it as a red flag.

3. Meet Up Before You Sign a Lease

One of the worst things you could do when hunting for a roommate on Craigslist and similar platforms is to enter into a legally binding agreement with someone to live with them before even meeting in person. It is hard to tell the character of a person solely by looking at their online personas.

Pick a convenient public location to meet up, such as a coffee shop or a diner. Consider bringing along a family member or friend.

If you are going to inspect a room in someone’s apartment or house, you may as well bring a friend or family member with you.

Use the first meeting to evaluate the possible roommate and see how compatible you are and how easily you could get along.

Go ahead and ask non-intrusive questions that might show whether they are a good fit – queries regarding their lifestyle, their cleanliness preferences, whether they dislike loud music (everyone hates that one, frankly), whether they are allergic to your dog’s fur, etc.

Also, check whether the person is the argumentative type – if you both are, then chances are you’ve just found a debating partner on matters to do with football and everything else.

Note that it is difficult to reverse a lease once you assent to it, so take your time to understand what you are getting yourself into.

Related: Is It a Bad Idea to Date Your Roommate?

4. Have a conversation about finances

While it may be hard to openly talk about money, more so with someone you have just met on the internet, you need to understand that living together means sharing the cost of some household bills.

Ask yourself – do you want to overlook the money topic and just take your chances?

Consider having a conversation about your financial abilities and what you are both comfortable spending.

Also, discuss the sharing aspect and get a solid assurance that they will shoulder the other half of the bills.

You can also come up with another arrangement besides the conventional 50/50 plan.

For example, does one of you want to be in charge of utility costs and exclude themselves from everything else?

Will you take care of all food costs instead? Do you want the cost of groceries to be split?

You are going to feel awkward asking money-related questions but they are worth it.

5. Location, location, location

If you are looking for a roommate to live with i.e. you are going to live with that person in their apartment, consider the location of their apartment or home even after verifying everything else about the person and reaching the conclusion they’d make a relatable roommate.

Are you familiar with the area or neighborhood?

If you can take your time to explore and understand the location, do it. Even better, look it up on Google Maps.

Oftentimes, cross-streets and similar markers are listed, so anyone can use them to know how the streets actually look like.

You won’t run out of online resources that can help you investigate the neighborhood to understand crime stats, noise complaints, rodent issues, and more.

Also, don’t take another person’s advice about a neighborhood way too seriously; people won’t tell you just how bad the situation is in the area.

The possible roommate will likely furnish you with all types of details just to make the place sound more desirable.

As such, make some efforts to confirm these details yourself.

If you are the one looking for a roommate to join you in your apartment, don’t exaggerate these particulars in your Craigslist posts—like saying you are in the heart of Williamsburg when you are actually in the outskirts of Bushwich—it will just cause more confusion in would-be roommates and even make non-viable individuals to contact you which can be a waste of your time.

However, if you are of opinion that your residential area is a safe neighborhood but might still not be a priority for most people (say, deep in the boroughs or way uptown), make sure you state this fact in your post.

If you have lived there long enough and never had problems, say it in your post.

This can help you avoid deterring someone just because they are hesitant or unfamiliar with your neighborhood.

Once you have agreed on the terms of everything, fill out your written roommate agreement.


Whichever reason you may have in mind to look for a roommate, you are more likely to end up on Craigslist or similar roommate search sites.

The process of combing through the list of people on these sites isn’t the easiest thing you could try.

Chances are your anxiety will get the better of you. You certainly don’t want to end up in the same house with an obnoxious.

Finding the perfect roommate without running into problems requires a keen eye.

There are lots of scammers on these platforms, and the good you are at detecting them the better.

You will be shocked with the troves of information you get from the possible roommate by asking them friendly non-intrusive questions.

It may seem too daunting for starters, but if you stay smart and practice awareness, you should not have trouble spotting the right person on the list.