Looking for a new roommate is uncomfortably similar to dating. Without free dinner or movies.
Recently, a certain Clearwater Beacon editor (who shall go unnamed) decided to ruin our peacefully shared arrangement by moving in with her girlfriend. I say recently, but the decision was made over the summer amidst less than tolerable indoor temperatures. The woefully inefficient air conditioning that failed to cool the apartment until the entire unit was replaced wasn’t even the deciding factor in her commitment to leave the complex.
Still, I held out hope that she might delay the move away from me a few months later, maybe until after Christmas. Instead, she ended up leaving a week before our lease ended.
I discovered early in my search that most of my friends and acquaintances are either living with a significant other or living in their own space. As moving in with my boyfriend is not an option, mine was the latter choice, up until my favorite Clearwater editor convinced me to save some money by splitting a two-bedroom.
My decision to stay in the apartment came in part from sheer laziness, born from moving every year since 2009. But primarily, I feel like it’s taken me those three tries to find my ideal living space in Pinellas – roomy, quiet, cheap and a perfect distance from everywhere I want to be. So far, my car hasn’t been burglarized in the complex, the packages on my doorstep haven’t been opened by neighborhood kids and, best yet, I don’t have to twist and shimmy around strategically placed furniture designed for only one. My 1,240-square-foot apartment is comfortable and homey, and I’ve spent the last year decorating it with perfect thrift-store finds.
Yet, had I known how difficult it would be to find a roommate, I might have just sold all that furniture and moved back to some tiny and more expensive one-bedroom setup. Because I can safely say that I’ve been blindly rejected more times in a two-month period than all my dating experiences combined (though, full disclosure, those are not extensive).
In my search for someone merely able to pay the relatively cheap rent for the master bedroom and private bath left behind, I have emailed or texted or called dozens of people supposedly looking for a room. I was stood up six times by women who said they would come check out the place and never did. Most never contacted me again, after I had rearranged my day to accommodate their schedule. One did offer a lame explanation, but only after the second time she didn’t bother to show.
Several women excitedly promised me, “yes, the apartment looks great; when can I move in?” only to abruptly back out, usually after I had told other inquiring potentials that the space was filled. Some provided a valid explanation. Most didn’t.
At least four “people” I was emailing proved to be scam artists from some non-English speaking country. Due to oddly similar characteristics, I believe those emails all originated from the same scam sweatshop. I know that many completely innocent people struggle with grammar, but the combination of “How many bath?” “Will the house cleaning arrangement be made by me?” and “send me your full name, home address and phone number where the deposit will be mailed to” [sic] tipped me off nefarious nature of these would-be identity thieves.
The scam emails, which came relatively early in my hunt, coupled with the rude, one-sided and labored exchanges with potential roommates made me wonder if I was talking to real humans at all. As an early-generation Facebook addict well versed in online markets, I find it odd to be questioning the state of humanity in the plagued age of Internet anonymity. Yet here I am, wondering what new rule granted everyone the license to be discourteous and dismissive of strangers while searching for someone they hope they can tolerably live with.
By week seven of my search, I had paid the rent for the empty room myself. I was jaded and cynical, asking everyone I emailed if they wanted to come see the apartment, having learned that only the most sincere searchers would respond to this inquiry. Lots of people conveyed their urgency to find a suitable home, but seemingly never had the time to email me back with anything useful to make this happen.
Perhaps people looking for rooms to rent in the price range I offered are characteristically plagued with financial difficulties. But only four people total ever made it through my relatively simple screening process and to my door. I have a future roommate committed for Jan. 1, but given my awful luck, I fully expect her to win the lottery next week and never need a roommate again.
My conclusions are these: Only scammers seem willing to pay for subscription-based roommate matching sites. About 95 percent of those on Craigslist are not reliable. Most people don’t read, because though my ads clearly specified a female roommate, I still heard from dozens of guys hoping I would make an exception.
Finally, though I admit to not being an advocate for classified ads within my own industry before this belabored search, the process of speaking with the very real people who responded to my first attempt at it was refreshing and validating. The quality of humanity does matter over sheer quantity of responses.
So save yourself hours of rejection from the uncommitted Internet masses. Go buy a classified ad.