How to Find A Roommate That’s Right for You

roommatesLast week we talked about where to find people who are in need of a roommate. But simply finding a few people who are interested in being your roommate doesn’t mean you’re done – the next step is choosing someone you really want to have around.  After all, the idea is not just to find someone to split the rent – you also want someone who will enhance your living experience.

But, before you start considering your choices, you need to look inward. Why? You need to think about exactly what type of roommate experience you’re looking for. Let me break it down into the three main styles of roommate-dom:

The Hang-Out: The Gregarious Scenario

  • Do you want to hit the bars with your roommate? Do you enjoy having people over? Are you planning on cooking a lot, sharing meals? Do you want to host parties? If you come home and your roommate is watching a movie with a friend, would you likely sit down and join them? Was one of your favorite aspects of dorm life that so many people you knew were always around, that a cool conversation could be had through no more effort than a simple stroll down the hall?

The Balanced Home Life: The Little-Bit-of-Everything Scenario

  • Are you looking for a medley? Some roommate hang-out time, some alone time, not too many people over, but not a chamber of silence either? Are you open to becoming genuine friends with your roommate … but if it doesn’t happen, that’s fine as long as everyone gets along. Are you interested in hosting a party or two, but only every once and a while?

The Temple of Solitude: The Re-charging Scenario

  • Are you looking for peace and tranquility? Are you hoping that your roommate will be friendly, but mostly absent? Do you view your apartment as a respite, as a place where you can read and relax? When your roommate is in the living room, do you beeline it to the bedroom and shut the door? Does the thought of an unexpected guest make you bristle?

Obviously, the above are stereotypes. But they reside along a spectrum and you need to identify where you are along this spectrum before you start interviewing potential roommates – if one person wants “The Hang-Out” and you want “The Temple of Solitude,” you both could be an excellent roommate within your category – and yet a horrible match with each other.

So, whether you know a potential roommate beforehand or not, you should make time to sit down with them and talk. Talk about your interests, about what your expectations are for the apartment and for each other, and what you want out of the situation. Be forthright. While it may seem awkward to ask someone if they’re planning on spending a lot of time in the living room, or whether they’re a light sleeper, these are questions that may need to be asked. After all, one conversation could save you a year of living with a mis-matched roommate. It’s worth the effort. What should you talk about? Here are some things to consider bringing up:

  • Roommate Expectations: As fleshed out above, really discuss what you expect from each other, and what type of living situation you’re looking for.
  • Money, Money, Money: Make sure they have enough to pay their share of the rent. If you’re unsure, make sure their name goes on the lease and that the management company vets them. If you’re still uncertain, choose someone else, or have a clause written into your lease that each of you is separately responsible for your share of the rent. (The default in the rental world is that if one of you doesn’t pay, the other is responsible for the balance. Which, if you think about it, could drain your bank account quite quickly.)
  • Alcohol and Drug Use: If you’re planning on drinking regularly in the apartment, or smoking marijuana at home, or dropping ecstasy every weekend, this is something you should tell a potential roommate – and something you should ask about, too.  You don’t need to get all after-school special about it, but it’s a lifestyle choice that affects everyone in the apartment.
  • Significant Others: Do either of you have a significant other? Is your potential roommate planning on having that special someone stay over? And how often? This needs to be clarified – no one likes being the single roommate who feels like a third wheel in their own apartment. Or, if you both have SOs, it could quickly become crowded if all four of you are there frequently.
  • What You Do For Fun: If one of you is a hunter and a hiker, and the other of you is a movie buff and boardgame player, you may get along (particularly if you want the place to be a temple of solitude), but more likely than not, you’ll not form a close connection. That could be perfectly fine – but you should go into it knowing what to expect.

So that’s our summary of the inexact science of roommate selection – because it’s an inherently social decision, a lot of it will have to do with instinct. In other words, does the selection feel right to both of you? If so (and you’ve talked about the criteria above), go for it!

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Author My First Apartment

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Alex has rented in Minneapolis, Queens, Brooklyn, and now Chicago. He can kill rodents and roaches when required, and loves picture-hanging projects. If you're ever in town, give him a shout.

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