Ah, Craigslist. The eternal 90s place to find missed connections, used VCRs, and roommates.
It might seem kind of crazy to find a place to live and people to live with on a website that doesn’t even have a modern design, but people do it all the time. Craigslist is by far one of the most popular places to find a roommate.
When you need to save money, a roommate can be ideal. You’ll feel the immediate impact on your wallet from splitting rent and utilities.
Roommate Horror Stories
If you’re able to find the perfect roommate, or at least a tolerable one, your bank account will thank you.
How can you preserve your sanity while fattening your wallet? Here are some examples of real-life scenarios, and how you can avoid them.
My friend B. had a roommate in New York City who would lock the living room. They shared the apartment, but my friend wasn’t “allowed” in the living room because she might mess it up.
Eventually my friend moved out, but I told her to rearrange a few key things in the living room before she did, if she could. This would likely drive the living room locking roommate insane.
The Financial Benefit: B. was only paying for half the living room she couldn’t use, at least!
How to avoid this situation: Check to see if there’s a lock on the living room door and a strange gleam in your roommate’s eyes.
The Insomniac Killer Can’t Sleep – and Won’t Let You Either
T. was teaching high school and living with an insomniac who would often still be awake when he was leaving for work. “I made a thermos of coffee to take to work each morning, and one day I got into my car without grabbing my coffee.
I went back into the kitchen, grabbed the coffee, and headed back to my car. Then I heard a primal scream and felt an arm and neck around my chest. I screamed and assumed I was about dead.
My roommate then got out of the back seat and like a disappointed father said ‘That’s why you always check the back seat.’ He then walked out of the open garage and away from our house. I have no idea where he was going. He is still one of my best friends.”
T.’s friend may have been using all his time not spent sleeping watching Arrested Development. The Bluth family may have taken over his easily suggestible brain, because this seems like a plot point lifted directly from the show and applied to this roommate situation.
The Financial Benefit: With all the adrenaline pumping through his system after encounters like these, T. probably didn’t need to join a gym. Also, even roommates who don’t sleep have to pay rent for their bedroom anyway.
How to avoid this situation: Ask probing questions about sleep habits and how concerned with safety tips your potential roommate is. Always check your back seat. Sleep with one eye open.
Quiet Wino, the Future Monk and Wannabe Chef
My friend W. got a Craigslist roommate to take on the last 8 months of rent before he moved to a new city. “She seemed stable, quiet, and had a good job.
After week one, she would get wine black out drunk then walk into my room in nothing but panties and bra (gross) asking if I wanted coffee. Turns out she would black out drink and cook all night, leaving the stove top on for hours and food everywhere.
I would eventually turn the gas off every night before I went to sleep. She lasted 3 weeks before telling me she was leaving to Tibet to become a monk.”
The Financial Benefit: At least W. got a few weeks of rent here, but in this situation, the cost could have been his life or his sanity given the precarious drunk cooking situations. It’s probably one time when it’s better to not have a roommate for a while.
How to avoid this situation: Test your roommate’s interest in the monastery by playing recordings of chants, or asking them how they feel about vows of silence. Ask for their opinions about night snacks.
The Old Woman Who Demands Witchcraft
R. thought he’d be living with a sweet old lady. Instead, she turned out to be a chain smoking racist. “She yelled at me no matter what I did, everything I did was wrong, and right before I left, 2 weeks after moving in and paying a full month’s rent, she got really mad at me for not watching Shirley Temple movies with her at 2 a.m.
So, she screamed like a banshee at me … and she called the police while I was packing my things while she screamed, apparently upset that I was unable to float above the bed.”
The Financial Benefit: None. Yikes! R. was out half a month’s rent and probably a few nights’ sleep.
How to avoid this scenario: Ask potential roommates if they’re cool with you not being a witch or having any super powers whatsoever. If they hesitate, run (at a normal, non-heroic pace).
This Roommate is Stone Cold Logical
J.’s roommate, Alex, was a stoner who didn’t do any chores. “One day, my other roommate and I came home to find her running the vacuum, lying flat on her back, waving the wand attachment in the air.
When asked what she was doing, she answered, ‘I’m catching the dirt BEFORE it lands. Much more efficient.’
The Financial Benefit: Nothing about this indicates that Alex didn’t pay rent on time, so the benefit here is 100% financial. Not doing chores is annoying, but it’s a cakewalk compared to some of these other problems.
How to avoid this situation: Not sure why you would. Alex sounds hilarious and also practical. She’s not WRONG about catching dirt before it lands, you know?
Real Tips for Avoiding Real Weirdos
While these are all unique and special nightmare stories, it wasn’t fun to live through them. Do your best to avoid them with these real tips:
- Ask your network: The world is small. It’s worth a shot to see if anyone knows this person personally. You might find out some reassuring information, or you might find out that you need to keep looking.
- Get references: If you feel comfortable, ask to talk to a former roommate or landlord, to see if what they say matches with reality.
- Meet in person, for a significant length of time: Don’t just go and do a cursory walk through the space. Try to get into an in-depth conversation with your potential new roommate. Maybe ask them for coffee or a quick lunch. Use the Potential Roommate Questionnaire at the end of this article if you’re stuck on what to discuss.
Only answer ads with pictures: Seriously, are you new? Everyone knows that only the spookiest ads on Craigslist don’t have pictures.
Google them: The first line of defense against weirdos, Google can be invaluable in situations like this.
Potential Roommate Questionnaire
There are ways to have effective conversations in a short amount of time. Consider asking some of the following questions of potential new roommates in order to weed out the bad seeds:
- What are the terms of the lease? (if you’re moving in with them)
- What’s a typical day in your life?
- What are some things about past roommates that have really bothered you?
- What are some of your own shortcomings as a roommate that may have been pointed out to you?
- What is your relationship status? How often does your significant other come over?
- Do you have kids or a pet?
- How clean do you like your living area to be?
- What are you interested in?
- What is your preferred communication style?
- Why do you want to live here/need a roommate?
Hopefully, these questions will help avoid the worst situations. If you do end up with a crazy roommate, take tons of notes and lock up your valuables while you focus on getting out of there.
Although it might be terrible, at least you’ll have a fun story to tell. Then when you collect enough junk together, you can sell on Craigslist for free.