A few months ago, I realized I was going to need new housemates to replace my current ones and that these new roommates were not going to materialize out of the blue. So, I, the intrepid protagonist, put an ad on the university's off-campus housing listing site. This, I assumed, was likely to attract a random sampling of graduate students, who may be irresponsible in their own absent-minded ways, but whose situation I can relate to and who I would, therefore, trust to pay the rent. The alternative was craigslist, which, in the stories of one of my current roommates, attracted several normal people, one recently paroled, extremely jittery, homeless person with $500 who was hoping to move in immediately, and one other guy who seemed ok and was permitted to move in, but had to be kicked out again when it became apparent that he was a verbally abusive, asocial, kleptomaniac. Right. So. University listing for me.
The responses to my ad came from mostly grad students, which I consider a success. However, for future roommate-hunting purposes, I have learned that ads aimed at reasonable grad students will not produce potential roommates who are all a) grad students, b) observant, or c) obviously capable of taking care of themselves.
For example, I received phone calls from the fathers (and it was always the fathers) of several undergrads who were looking for housing for their incoming freshman children. The questions I asked myself before failing to return their phone calls included: What parent, who has raised children I want to deal with, calls potential roommates themselves instead of making their 18 year old kid do it? As a >21 year-old, what <21 year-old would I want to assume the legal liability of living with (assuming I will neither hide, nor constantly monitor my inventory of judgment-impairing beverages)?
There were also a few incoming grad students (all of them for non-PhD programs, though) who came to visit with their parents. This did not inspire my confidence. When I moved to a new city, I managed to find accommodations for myself. I realize I'm unusually independent, but my grad student friends also found housing for themselves. If you want me to believe that you're old enough to feed and dress yourself and be a grad student and live without a babysitter, you probably should too.
Finally, there are my favorites - the women with cats. Necessary background information: the listings allow you to specify pet policies as "No pets", "Cats only", or "Pets negotiable" and then has a text box to explain the negotiability. My listing has "Pets negotiable" and the explanation says, "No cats. Dogs negotiable." So I've gotten a number of emails from people (always women) looking for someplace they can live with their cat(s). The first one said, "I know your listing says 'No cats' and I have a cat. However she's a very cute and well-behaved cat, does that make a difference?" I replied, "Unfortunately, that won't work. The prohibition on cats is not only because I dislike them, but because I'm allergic." The second one came today and said, "I know your listing says 'No cats' but I'm looking for a place to live in Madison with my two cats, is the room still available?" I haven't replied, because I have been unable to convince myself that the correct reply is "No, sorry the room has been taken." What I want to write would have the same effect, but would require lying: "Yes! The room is still available, and how fortunate! You have two cats. I hadn't previously noticed the typo in my listing, which I intended to read 'No cat' - singular. I would be allergic to one cat, but of course, everyone knows that if you have a pair of cats the dander from cat 1 will counteract the dander from cat 2, leaving me and my respiratory system happy and functional. Hooray!"
So anyway, I did successfully find new roommates. I don't think any of them will require extensive looking-after. They don't seem to have overbearing parents. They're all of legal drinking age. And when everyone is moved in, we will be able to bond over our shared hatred of cats.