It’s the $64,000-dollar question. You’re convinced that having a home-mate is a good idea and you’d like to try it. But how do you find a good home-mate? How do you find that one (or two) person (persons) with whom you can live?
Lots of parts have to come together.
Not only does that person have to be compatible with how you live in your home, that person has to want to live where you want to live, and they have to be ready to make such a transition. 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.)
For many years I recommended craigslist. 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 I’ve written about in the book. I’ve also shared tips on using craigslist here and here. But it isn’t optimal.
The best home-mate relationships result from finding people through one’s own networks and communities. When I interview people for the series, Real People Sharing Housing, I 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 my 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, I call it 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 have your contact information. Email and telephone gives 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, I 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.
Interviewing and Selecting
The most important part of the whole process is talking to the potential home-mate and making sure before you live together that you are in fact compatible. That’s why we have an Interviewing Guide to help you focus on the important questions.
Other resources for Finding a Good Home-Mate
There are some companies that offer online matching services. Each have a different flavor. You might get lucky and find a match through one of them. We list them here.
There are also social service programs that offer matching services. You can check if there is one in your area in the national directory which can be found at the National Shared Housing Resource Center.
We have a closed Facebook group called Hello Home-Mate designed for discussion and to help folks find each other. It’s a great place to get feedback on your announcement, to ask questions about your process, to discuss potential home-mates you’re considering, and/or to talk about how it’s going.
Trust the Universe
It is my belief and faith that there is a good home-mate 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 home-mate (or two).
Do you have a story about looking for and finding a home-mate? Do you have a networking option that isn’t listed here? Do you have advice for others reading this post?