It’s a new year, and do you know what that means? Resolutions, for sure, but for many of us it also spells new roommates. Leases are up, semesters are changing, and the great housing shuffle of 2018 is kicking into gear. It’s a scary time, but we will get through it together.
For most people, finding a roommate post-college (or in college) is a necessity. Rent ain’t cheap and splitting it can be a truly glorious thing. But what most people don’t realize before settling on that first roommate (or second, or third), is that having a roommate can become a full disaster zone faster than you can say, “stop drinking my soy milk.” Imagine walking into your own apartment — your home — and not feeling comfortable with the person sprawled on the couch. Who wants that?
To prevent unnecessary stress (because, let’s be honest, a roommate-gone-south is one big ball of stress), it’s important to be strategic about the process. We’re not necessarily talking background checks and references here, but if we’re so picky about the people we date, shouldn’t we be just as choosy about the people we co-habitate with? A roommate relationship is intimate, and there are some mighty important questions to ask yourself as you select your next (or your first) living-sitch partner. Let’s talk through them.
Do they have a stable source of income?
We hate to make it all about money, but paying rent really is all about money. It’s GREAT to choose the person with the “really fun personality!” but make sure they also have a monthly rent check guarantee. As much as someone might try and convince you that they’re this close to getting the job they’ve been after for months, an almost-job is actually no job at all, and it won’t pay the bills. If your potential roomie is a freelancer, it’s wise to get a guarantor to sign the lease on their behalf in the chance work suddenly gets slow one month. Make sure that whatever the circumstance, you have some kind of safety net to protect you from suddenly losing your apartment.
What was your first meeting like?
Whether you’re looking for someone to fill a spot in your apartment or you need a roommate for this perfect two bedroom you found on Craigslist, it’s important to actually meet your potential roomie face to face. You can tell a lot by a single meeting be it at your place or a neighborhood coffee shop. Did you find things to chat about or was the conversation a little awkward? I once met a girl who, in the first five minutes of entering my apartment, took off her shoes and rummaged through my fridge for a snack before sitting down to chat. Some might have loved how immediately comfortable she felt, but I knew we weren’t going to be a good fit. It’s completely personal how you feel during that first meeting but having one is important, if only just to gauge how comfortable you are around one and other.
Do they have experience living with roommates?
If someone lived with roommates in college or grew up sharing a bedroom with a sibling, chances are they’ll probably be a better roommate than someone who didn’t have those experiences. A sense of common courtesy and respect for shared spaces will just come more naturally to someone who’s been a roommate before. Make sure to ask about their experience; what did they like or not like about living with others? Their answers will help you know whether or not their living habits align with your own, which is extremely important when looking for the right fit.
Are they in sync with your top “must-haves”?
Once you start having a conversation with a potential roomie, be upfront about the things you expect when living together. If you go to bed every night at 10 p.m. and are a light sleeper, it’s important to bring that up. Otherwise you may end up with a night owl for a roommate who likes to invite her fellow night owl friends to hang out in your living room. Make sure to communicate your top three “must-have’s” to any potential roommate. Their reaction to your basic needs is good indication of whether or not you prioritize things similarly. Of course, being a roommate is also about being flexible, so be prepared to make some compromises in return.
What are they like on social media?
So this may sound kind of creepy, but just think about it for a second: how “you” are you on social media? Wouldn’t you say you are 100% yourself, and stand by the things you “like” or comment on or post 100% of the time? Knowing how a potential roommate behaves on social media is amazing insight into their personality. You might not be as obsessed with polar bears as she clearly is, but you may find you have a very similar sense of humor. A quick glimpse at a potential roomie’s Instagram or Twitter account will help you determine compatibility, and the more you know, the more you’ll be able to tell if it’s a good match. Please don’t scare these potential roommates away by adding them on every social network all at once, but if you’re down to a couple of candidates, this approach can really help. It might even shed light on something you didn’t pick up on earlier.
Do you have any (but not too many) mutual friends?
Having friends in common with a potential roomie is a luxury many people don’t have. It’s kind of like getting references from someone you’re thinking of hiring, only the references are people you know well, whose opinions you trust. If these friends give you their seal of approval, or can at the very least assure you you’re not about to sign a lease with a kleptomaniac, great! As important as having mutual friends can be, it’s just as important to make sure you also have different friends. Too many friendships go sour on account of assuming that being bffs means being perfect roomies. This isn’t always the case, which is why it’s also a good idea to live with someone who has their own social life, separate and apart from yours. It’s important to have space from one and other, away from the space you share.
Bottom line, the more information you have, the better a decision you’ll make about who you end up living with. Just because there is someone else out there who also happens to be searching for a roommate around the same time as you, does not make them THE one. There are more things to consider when sharing your personal space, and that amazing roommate experience is totally worth a little strategic planning.