After being served an eviction notice a month and a half ago I've been looking for a place to live. It's a stressful situation. There is scrambling together odd jobs to afford first and last month's rent. The countless hours spent on Kijiji and Facebook looking at perspective places. The ticking clock anxiety of knowing there is a time limit on my current home. While house hunting is terrible, looking for a roommate is even worse. I'm in my late 20s and the fact that I'm scouring for a shared apartment is a constant reminder that whatever dumb choices I've made in my life (follow your passions!) have excluded me from certain tenants of adulthood. Because of my freelance status signing a lease is more or less impossible, leaving me open to the wild world of shared spaces.
Searching for a roommate is a lot like online dating, except after each disappointing encounter there isn't even potential for a sad handjob. You meet up with people knowing that the fit doesn't seem quite right but you trick yourself into thinking that, hey, maybe the photos didn't do the place justice. Maybe the east end is a lot cooler than I gave it credit for. Maybe paying $850 a month to live in someone's walk-in closet is a totally reasonable thing to do. The vast majority of these encounters, of course, are a waste of everybody's time but it isn't like there are other options. During my househunt I've found a certain characteristics in people started to repeat themselves. Below I've compiled a list of all the people you meet while house hunting.
The sketchy realtor
In a market where people are earnestly trying to rent out their balcony a good realtor can be a lifesaver. Not all realtors, of course, are created equal. A realtor I found through Bunz home zone recently showed me a fixer upper space that looked like the architectural embodiment of hepatitis. When I walked by the week after there was a large condemned sign on the door. A friend's realtor, who approached her through Craigslist, showed her a place that had a very distinct smell. The realtor then explained that the former tenant had died the week before but had only been removed the day before. He went on to say that because of the death stink, he could probably get the owners to knock at least a hundred dollars off the rental price. Sketchy realtors can take on all sorts of different shapes and sizes, but the sure fire giveaway is a bluetooth earpiece. If someone who is trying to rent you a home is wearing a piece of technology that was 2006's version of the future, it's probably best to just go it alone.
These lovebirds are three years into their relationship and frantically trying to find a third person to inhabit their living space. The third person not only supplements the rent of their home but also acts as buffer between two people who are quickly forgetting why they got together in the first place. The third person temporarily puts the lid on their mutual resentment that's just bubbling under the surface. As the couple shows their place they make a big show of proving how affectionate they are with one another while simultaneously peppering the conversation with passive aggressive anecdotes about each other.
"This is the sink. You can see it's full of dishes because my partner hasn't been picking up their share, but I'm sure if we chose you as a roommate you'd take care of yourself like an adult."
"This is the bedroom. Nowadays it's used exclusively for sleeping, isn't that right David?"
The college students who haven't been beaten by life yet
These are three to four friends in shared living space. Their mattresses are on the floor. There is a Bob Marley/weed flag or a Trainspotting (still!) poster in each bedroom, a couch they found off the street, and hey those are things you used to have in your shared space a decade ago when you still thought a liberal arts degree was a worthwhile pursuit based on the pure fact that knowledge in and of itself was a worthwhile pursuit. As you exit the kitchen the faint smell of body odor in the air hits you and you flashback to a time where things were much simpler. Then you see a cockroach in the corner and sadly realize that there is no going home again.
The obvious scammers
The direct descendant of the 90s Nigerian Prince emailers, the rental scammer has posted pictures online of an amazing looking apartment in a desireable location. The price of the place seems like an incredible deal. Reading through the fine print of the ad, you realize that because of out of country work commitments the poster can't actually show you the place. And they can't have someone else show you the place. But if you paypal them half of the first months rent to a hotmail account they will for sure hold it for you. Also you better act fast because this place won't last long.
The older lady who'd just like you to take a chance
She knows that most of you kids out there are looking for someone a little closer to their own age, but damn it why won't any of you kids just take a shot with someone a little older? She'll let you know that older people are for sure more responsible than younger people, that's a given fact, and if any of you goddamn millennials would get off your phones long enough to even try and make eye contact with anyone you'd see how great living with a lady in their mid-50s can actually be. Also she tried LSD 20 years ago, and while now she's clean living—except for the occasional blush wine—she doesn't mind if you party within reason. Her posts are accompanied by a photo where she looks like one of your mom's friends and while cliches would dictate that she would have a cat, she doesn't (she has something fun like a lizard or bird). The male equivalent of the older lady who'd just like you to take a chance is a walking, talking, example of why Bukowski should never be one of your role models.
The person whose entire identity revolves around the fact they smoke weed
These people are not functional stoners. They're not the hippies who use pot to supplement their loose ideologies or even the meticulous connoisseurs who can tell you the minutiaes of each strain. These are the people who, when you ask them what they do, reply simply that they smoke weed. Smoking weed is the most identifiable part of their personality. In lieu of a hobby or friends they've committed their life to the consumption of a plant. These people will also want to blaze indoors but wouldn't dream of smoking cigarettes inside. Smoking cigarettes inside is gross, they say.
The Polyamorous guy
The polyamorous guy (and it's always a guy) lives in an amazing space with at least three other roommates who oddly are all out at the moment. Before asking about what you do, polyamorous guy goes on about wanting to make sure you know that this is a sex positive environment and any potential roommate should understand and respect the lifestyle created within the abode. This conversation takes at least 20 minutes and contains brief mentions of "house back rubs" and clothing optional zones.
The conversation is accented by winks.
The people with a work visa
Three quarters of all work visa people are here from Australia for an indefinite amount of time. They're looking for some people they can party with while they hustle for work. Their accents sound great and their chiseled bodies and undeniable sense of adventure makes you self conscious about your growing waistline and the fact that you don't even like to go on holiday for more than a week at a time.
The Earth Children
Crystals! Did you know about their healing power? Yoga! Did you know about it's healing power? Veganism! Did you know that eating animals is morally wrong and totally bad for your body/mind? The space that the earth children is communal, and if you'd like to be welcomed into the home than you had better be willing to conform to their hive mind. Rent can be supplemented with work in the communal garden.
The people living the life you'd like to be living
You enter into their apartment as one potential roommate explains their high paying job in some sort of creative marketing outlet and the other references their most recent trip to Europe. You look at the Crate and Barrel couch and marvel over the stacked in-house washer/dryer. As they walk you around the place you realize that this house looks like the type of thing you see in movies, and that the place is even within your budget because the two roommates have been in it for years. As the potential roommates ask you about yourself they're funny and they're charming. They smile with teeth and you realize that if you could just live in this apartment, if you could just be more like these people, all of your problems would be solved. You are overzealous in a way you hope isn't off putting and when you go to follow up two days later the roommates inform you that, sorry, they've ended up going with someone else.