It’s the $64,000-dollar question. You’re convinced that having a housemate is a good idea and you’d like to try it. You know what the process is for finding a good housemate. But how do you even know how/where to begin to look?
There are three parts that have to come together.
This is true if you are a householder (person looking to have someone move into your home) or a home seeker (looking for a place to call home.)
There are lots of resources on this site to help you figure out compatibility. You can take our online course, read our book, use the interview guide, and use our workbook. The essential element is figuring out if your potential home-mate is compatible enough that you can live together.
Where is the home share going to be? If you are a householder, most likely you’ll want to stay in your home and have a housemate move in. However, if you are looking to share you have more options. Over the years we’ve heard people talk about how they’ve talked with far-flung friends about sharing. The idea ends when no one wants to give up their own community.
When is the home share going to happen? Everyone has to be in agreement about the timing of the home share arrangement.
Once upon a time, craigslist was the best source for do-it-yourself homeshare arrangements . It meets two of our criteria—when someone posts in craigslist that person is actively looking and is ready for a housing transition and it is location-specific. It has also been the “go to” place for house sharing notices so that there were enough listings to make it possible to find a good match.
Unfortunately, craiglist has become inundated with spammers, con artists, and other less-than-desirable folks. For this reason, many people look for other options. It is still possible to use craigslist safely, as we’ve written about in the book. We also have tips on using Craigslist. But it isn’t optimal.
Other Online Matching Services
There are other online services that offer matching. Some people have success using them. Each has a different flavor. You might get lucky and find a match through one of them. We list them here.
Networking is the Best
The best home-mate relationships result from finding people through one’s own networks and communities. When we interview people for the series, Real People Sharing Housing, we always ask how they got together. “We knew each other through a book group.” “We were friends who had traveled together.” “We were colleagues who shared a hotel room for conferences.” “We met at church.” “A friend of a friend introduced us.” “We became friends years ago when he did yard work for me.” “We knew each other casually through town activities.” These are real examples.
One of our friends rented a room in her house through craigslist. Then, when a very dear college friend needed a place to stay for a temporary job, he called her up to ask about staying with her. She was delighted, and they lived together for three years. He never would have asked her if he didn’t know she was already open to the idea!
Keep At It
Home-mates find each other by telling people they are looking. And telling people they are looking. And telling people they are looking. Seriously, you have to do it over and over again. It might take some time. You just have to keep at it.
This is one very good reason for not waiting to do it “some day” or thinking “I’m not ready yet.” You should start when you have energy for it and are not desperate. Desperation leads to making bad mistakes.
You should have a description of what you are looking for in a home-mate and shared living situation. In the book, it is called an “ad,” following the craigslist model. A better term is “announcement.” When you write down what you are offering and looking for, it is easier for someone else to share it with others. This announcement should have six parts: a physical description of the space offered/looking for, something about who you are, something about who would be a good fit for you, your must-haves and can’t-live-withs, the financial arrangement, and “references required.” I’ve written about this here and in the book. You can download worksheets to figure out your must-haves and can’t-live-withs.
Obviously, the announcement has to include your contact information. Email and telephone give people two ways to reach you. If you are uncomfortable about giving out your email address publicly, you can create a Gmail address to use only for your home-mate search.
Where to Network to Find a Good Home-Mate
Everywhere. Start with your friends and family. Give them copies of your announcement and ask them to pass it on. Think about your community and where you are involved, for instance: church/temple/mosque, music groups, visiting nurses, dancing, classes, and volunteer activities. Make a list of these and then as you hand out your announcement, check them off.
Post your announcement on bulletin boards in your community. These can be found in stores, hospitals, senior centers, libraries, club houses, front halls, and coffee shops. What is available to you in your area?
Recently, we had a phone call from a woman in a gated, over-55 community. She hadn’t thought about putting up a notice within the community. But it might be that someone else living in the community has a family member or friend who wants to live there but can’t afford it.
Ask people in your community where you should put your announcement. For instance, you may not go to church but your neighbor may and can take your announcement to her church.
Many teaching hospitals, universities, and research centers maintain housing listings for the people who come to the area temporarily. This is one way to find someone who would not be a long-term home-mate.
Trust the Universe
It is our belief and faith that there is a good housemate for everyone who is sincere in welcoming a new person in their home life. Do the work to get the word out there. Continue to do the work in interviewing and selecting a compatible home-mate. Trust the universe that you will find your good housemate (or two).
Do you have a story about looking for and finding a housemate? What about a networking option that isn’t listed here? Do you have advice for others reading this post?
Read more about finding a housemate situation that works for you: Asking the Right Questions in Your Housemate Interview , Shared Housing for Seniors