How to Find a Roommate on Craigslist & How to Avoid a Scam

In order to find a roommate on Craigslist — the host of online classifieds that helps connect people to furniture, jobs, items wanted, housing, and more — you’ll have to create an account and write a post that describes what you’re looking for and a little about yourself. We will walk you through the steps to create a post to find a roommate on Craigslist, as well as tips for spotting and avoiding online scams. When it comes to scams, a good rule of thumb is to use your common sense and intuition.

How to Find a Roommate on Craigslist

To post an ad, you’ll need to create a Craigslist account and select your city. Once you’re on the city page, click “post to classifieds” in the top left corner and choose either “housing wanted” or “housing offered,” followed by the type of housing you’re looking for (this will likely be “rooms & shares” if you’re in search of a roommate). Once you’ve done all of that, a big, empty posting will be staring you in the face. Here are some tips to get your ad started:

  1. Write a direct and descriptive title.
    • A good rule of thumb is to say what you’re seeking (a roommate, a room to rent, a short-term lease, etc.), followed by where you’re seeking it (the name of the neighborhood or a description like “within a 30-minute drive from downtown”). You can also add a concise description of the apartment or house, as well as a move-in date, if you’d like.
    • Avoid using extra symbols, abbreviations, or slang. The title of your post does not need to convince people to contact you — the body of your post will do that.
    • Good examples: “Seeking third roommate for 3 bed/2 bath loft in Wicker Park”; “Sunny room for rent in Burnside Suburbs”; “Seeking Sublet for Sept 1 in Southeast Denver”
    • Bad examples: “<3**CoMe LiVe W/mE!!!** <3”;  ~WOW~CHEAP~STUNNING~AVAILABLE~CALL~NOW~
  2. Be detailed in your post.
    • If you’re looking for a roommate to move into your place, try to think of everything you would want to know about a place before you make it your home. If you’re posting an ad looking for a room in someone else’s home, try to think of everything that will really matter to you.
    • Things you should include are the average cost of utilities; the type of lease and any opportunities for renewal; room dimensions; amenities like a dishwasher, laundry machines, and air conditioning; whether or not there is storage; how far the residence is from public transit; the age of appliances; the furniture you’ll bring with you; stylish touches like crown molding, hardwood floors, or exposed brick; whether parking is included; and, of course, the most obvious detail: the cost of rent.
  3. Be honest.
    • Trying to hide negative aspects of an apartment or quirky aspects of your personality will only hurt you in the long run. Being honest about the good and bad of both the place you’re renting and about yourself lets people know what they are getting into. It will also save you a lot of time. If you’re allergic to cats and don’t include it in your listing, you may end up interviewing potential roommates who are planning to bring their cat.
    • If you’re looking for a roommate to join you in your current place, try to think of things that may not bother you but might bother someone else, such as street noise at night, not having an elevator, a friend who spends the night once a month when she comes through for work, etc.
  4. Include high-quality photos.
    • Let’s be honest: no matter how direct, detailed, and honest the text of your Craigslist post is, everyone jumps right to the pictures. If the pictures are blurry, sideways, or dark, it makes you look less serious about your search. Take pictures of every room of the apartment in good lighting, paying extra attention to the room that’s for rent. Also, make sure you include photos of common areas like a parking lot, shared laundry room, a backyard, etc.
  5. Get personal.
    • Include a little description of yourself in your post. This is especially important if you are posting an ad for housing wanted. You don’t need to share your deepest, darkest secrets, but giving people a good idea of what you’re like (especially what you’re like at home) will help them sort out if they might like living with you. Good things to include would be hobbies, the industry you work in (with the days/hours you work, since that could affect roommates), how much time you spend at home on the couch versus out with friends, and whether you are a night owl or morning person.

How to Spot (and Avoid) Craigslist Rental Scams

Although Craigslist can be a great resource for finding housing and meeting roommates, unfortunately, not everyone on Craigslist uses the site for honest reasons. Keep an eye out for housing scams. With something as expensive and important as housing, you want to know you’re getting a good deal and that the person you’re dealing with is genuine. The most important thing to remember is that not everyone is trying to scam you, but those who are will be insistent upon doing business their way.

  1. Someone would like you to send money for an apartment you haven’t seen in person.
    • If you haven’t seen an apartment in person, it might not actually be vacant or might be very different than what the photos indicate. Craigslist scammers have been known to ask for deposits sight unseen. By the time you realize the apartment isn’t what you thought, they’ve disappeared with your money.
    • Avoid this scam: Insist on seeing the space in person before you pay anything.
  2. The person tells you they can’t meet face-to-face or offers to send someone to meet you on their behalf.
    • This is a common Craigslist scam. Be on the lookout for anyone who says they’re out of the country, helping with sick family members, traveling for work, etc. The Craigslist website advises users to always deal locally and meet face-to-face. They say doing so will help avoid 99% of scams.
    • Avoid this scam: Insist on meeting the person you’ll be living with in person.
  3. Your potential roommate seems unconcerned with getting to know you, confirming you have a steady job and can pay rent, etc.
    • If the person you’d be living with doesn’t seem to care very much about what you’re like or how responsible you are, ask yourself why. Anyone doing legitimate business should want to establish rapport before moving forward. You don’t have to become best friends, but you should have some baseline communication.
    • Avoid this scam: Refuse to live with anyone who won’t spend a little bit of time getting to know you and helping you get to know them.
  4. The person wants to make arrangements without a lease or written agreement.
    • This can be tricky because there might be a good reason someone might want to proceed without a lease. More often than not, though, it’s a red flag. Remember that a lease not only locks you into an agreement, it also locks in the other person. A lease protects you by putting a verbal agreement in writing. Even if your agreement is for a month-to-month rental arrangement, it’s smart to get that in writing.
    • Avoid this scam: Insist on signing a written agreement detailing what you’re each agreeing to.
  5. The person asks you for personal information, such as your bank account number, PayPal details, or Social Security number.
    • There is no good reason someone from Craigslist would need identifying information or private financial details. If they’re asking for this, especially upfront or without having met you, it’s almost certainly a scam.
    • Avoid this scam: Be protective of your financial privacy. If someone is insisting the only way they can work with you is if you provide them with sensitive personal information, run.
  6. The person wants to pay with a cashier’s check, certified check, money order, or bank transfer OR they want you to pay with a wire transfer.
    • This is the oldest Craigslist scam in the book. Scammers will create fake money orders and cashiers/certified checks, and you’ll be on the hook when a bank refuses to cash them. If you pay with a wire transfer, there is no way to get that money back. Scammers will also often offer to pay with a bank transfer that will never come through.
    • Avoid this scam: Only accept a money order or cashier’s check if you went to get it with the person and saw it issued. Otherwise, insist on cash transactions. A personal check is sometimes acceptable, although you should know the risks of accepting one, such as the check bouncing.
  7. You receive an email or in-person promise that your transaction will be covered by the Craigslist Purchase Protection Program.
    • Craigslist does not offer buyer protection of any kind. If someone is advertising a third party guarantee, it’s a scam.
    • Avoid this scam: If a potential roommate or landlord says you’ll be covered by purchase protection, run.
  8. It seems too good to be true.
    • If you find housing that seems too good to be true, it probably is. Compare prices and amenities with other similar units in the area. If you’ve found a luxury apartment for $500 per month and similar units cost $1,500 per month, something’s fishy.
    • Avoid this scam: Trust your instincts. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. If you’re not sure, explain the situation to close friends or family members to see what they think.
  9. You can’t find your future roommate on social media, or their email looks strange.
    • There’s nothing wrong with doing a little internet search to check that someone’s story lines up. If you can’t find any social media profiles under their name or if there is no internet history of the person, that’s reason to proceed with caution. Some people shy away from social media, so this isn’t always a red flag.
    • Avoid this scam: If you think someone might be using a fake identity, ask for a couple forms of ID or ask to connect with them on social media. Be cautious if an email address has a domain name you haven’t seen before or is an odd string of illegible letters. Most people’s email addresses involve their name or recognizable words.
  10. The Craigslist post seems overly sales-oriented/positive OR the person you’re communicating with is pushy or insistent.
    • If the person you’re working with is putting pressure on you for a quick decision or seems unreasonably eager to make a deal, there may be a reason to be suspicious.
    • Avoid this scam: It’s important that you feel good about your roommate. If anything makes you feel uncertain, keep looking until you find a living situation that feels right. Don’t let anyone pressure you into something that you’re uncomfortable with.

In Summary

Craigslist is one of the world’s biggest marketplaces for finding roommates. Living with a roommate can help you save money and can also lead to a lot of fun if you and your roommate hit it off. By writing a clear and detailed Craigslist listing, you’ll be able to find exactly what you’re looking for. No matter what you’re searching for, make sure you’re smart about using Craigslist. Keep an eye out for scams, and don’t be afraid to insist on terms that feel safe to you.

If finding a roommate on Craigslist is more of a hassle than you were thinking, maybe you’d rather increase your income. Here are some side hustle ideas to get you going.

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  • What an awesome deal! I have a dog, so I think it might be a little more difficult to find a roommate match. I’m sure those deals are out there too, though. Great job!

    • William Lipovsky says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Yes, those deals are out there! I’ve share houses with dogs before and it’s great. Me, the tenant, gets to have a fun pet that ultimately I’m not responsible for. The landlord gets someone to help care for the pet when they are away. It’s a complete win-win! Sure, not everyone enjoys pets but we are out there! I actually prefer to rent a home with a nice dog rather than one without. I even included that in the ad up top lol.

  • Christine says:

    Great post. Housing costs are pretty crazy in New Zealand so sharing a home is a must-do when you’re young here. I have lived in a few flats and they’re a good way to keep costs down and you wind up with a bigger house too. At the moment I’m sharing a small apartment with my boyfriend and while it’s nice not to have to deal with other people (or wear pants) I do miss some of the benefits of sharing a home. Such a great way to save money – I’d love to spend so little on accommodation each month!

    • William Lipovsky says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Getting more house for your money is so true. The house I’m living in would cost be an easy $1500 per month if it was just me. $1,225 more each month to invest. 🙂

  • Great job! That’s definitely a great way to save on housing costs. I wrote a post about the other side of this. When I was a teenager, my mother rented out a room in our house to help make ends meet. It worked out pretty well and is a great consideration for those with some extra space in their house (like your landlord!).

    • William Lipovsky says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Oh, I’ll head over to your blog and check it out!

      In the future I’m going to make more room share posts. It’s so fantastic!!!

  • It’s obvious in the ad that you are human and honest. Those would be two things I would look for first and foremost in Craiglist. With so many fakes, spams and wishy washy deals, something that could actually happen would be the first thing I’d look for. That said, I don’t know if I could ever try to rent out or find a place to stay on Craigslist. I have enough horror stories of trying to sell things on there.

    • William Lipovsky says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Yeah, some people can be super weird. One guy acted like he wanted to adopt me as a son. At the end of the day though that stuff is amusing.

      When I decided to start looking for a place to live though Craigs, I was iffy about it. Then I realized that there are potentially tons of cool people in this world I could live with. If only I could find them. Craigs is the easiest place to find them..

      I’d say give it a shot if even part of you wants to do it.

  • Man…where was this when I was renting rooms? I never thought about placing my own ad….then again, I never rented a room for under $600 a month, I had no idea rooms in nice houses were available for under $300. Great post, I’m sure it’s going to help tons of people!

    • William Lipovsky says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Thanks, man!

      Hopefully it does help a ton of people! Have you considered renting out rooms in your own house? Maybe you could present the other side of this housing equation..

  • That’s the way to do it, Will!! I like that in your ad you laid out your personality/expectations clearly. If we had a room to rent out, this ad definitely would’ve caught my eye. And you got a heck of a deal!

    • William Lipovsky says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Thanks for the kind words, Laurie!

      I did get a great deal but I also believe these results are repeatable for next time I (or anyone else) move. I keep watching the ads for fun and there are deals to be had if one looks hard/long enough.

      I considered one place priced at $250 if I helped take care of her horses! Not a bad deal but it was pretty far from my work.