There’s nothing more frustrating than a bait and switch, like when an apartment is billed as “steps from Central Park” when it’s actually three blocks away. This rarely happens on SpareRoom because the site filters entries for red flags, quarantining them until a staffer investigates further. It’s free to surf ads more than a week old; to get newer listings, upgrades start at $10.
If you want to move out—just not right away—or you have a roommate leaving in six months and need to find a replacement, this service (it’s free to browse if you refer five people to the site, and free to post; otherwise it’s $20 a year) connects roomies seeking future matchups. You can refine results by date of availability, rent, number of bedrooms, Zip Code, and keywords.
Get to know your potential new roommates first, Facebook style, before you see the space. Users’ profiles cover party habits (“rarely” to “daily”), favorite TV shows, zodiac signs, and more. Posting ads and contacting people is free, but a paid account—$5.95 for three days—gets you a private mailbox and access to the social-networking features.
Say you’re dead-set on living in a cat-friendly apartment in Boerum Hill for $850 a month. This free online aggregator plots relevant rental ads from sites like Postlets, Airbnb, and Craigslist on a map, culling them whichever way you prefer: by cost, pet-friendliness, commute time, and so forth. Regular updates on what’s newly available can be sent via e-mail or to your phone.
The One Question You Should Always Ask A Potential Roommate
From Jon Ronson, author of The Psychopath Test.
In his 2011 book, British journalist Ronson attempts to parse what separates the eccentric from the insane. The question he recommends asking: “Would you rather be a lion or an antelope?” The creatures you pair don’t matter (shark versus minnow works fine, too). The point is to get a person talking about how they see the world and their place in it, says Ronson, adding that psychopaths tend to “view everything in terms of predator and prey.” Look for answers that point to a taste for blood. “I’d be a lion so I could destroy things,” for example. Yep, big red flag.