8 Things You Should Discuss Before Moving In With A Roommate, According To An Expert
So, you've decided to move in with someone — congratulations! You're in good company. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, between 1970 and 2012, the percentage of Americans between the ages of 18 to 44 in non-family households rose from 1.7 to 6.1, and more recent studies put the number at 7.4 percent. But whether it's a romantic partner, a classmate, a friend, a friend of a friend's cousin twice-removed, or a total stranger, there are some things you should probably discuss with your roommate before move-in day.
Regardless of whether you're tidy, messy, quiet, or party animals, the key to a successful roommate relationship is knowing what is expected of you, and what you expect from a roommate. In order for this to work, open and honest communication is key, and you need to be clear about what you want from a living situation.
"Non-negotiables can go beyond choosing an apartment," Ashley Feinstein Gerstley, founder of the Fiscal Femme, told Bustle. "If hiring a cleaning person is a nonnegotiable to you, that's something to discuss. If you can't live without premium channels, that's helpful to bring up in advance."
What's more, it's a good idea to have a plan for how to communicate going forward, especially when it comes to sensitive topics like money.
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"Once you discuss your what, who, and how you will be in great shape right now but you want to also have a plan for bringing up money conversations in the future," says Gerstley. "I recommend having monthly or quarterly money check-ins with your roomie(s) to see how everything is going. Was everything paid on time? Is there a more efficient way to do it? Any concerns you'd like to discuss? This keeps an open dialog and prevents resentment from popping up over time."
So, with that in mind, here are some specific topics to discuss before moving in with someone.
For many people, money can be a difficult topic to discuss, which is all the more reason it should be talked about openly, and everyone's expectations should be made clear. The first, and largest expense is rent, and while an even split is easiest, it's not a given depending on the different sizes and amenities of each room.
"The best way to split rent with a roommate is really any way where you both are happy and feel the split is fair," says Gerstley. "There is no right or wrong way to do it. If you've lived with roommates before, don't assume how you split the rent and bills before is going to work in this new situation. Have a conversation to brainstorm win-win creative ways for you to split the rent."
Gerstley also encourages discussing non-rent expenses, like whether to hire a cleaning person, how you'll split utilities, and even other, smaller expenses, like streaming subscriptions.
"If you are a die-hard HBO fan, will premium channels be something you pay for exclusively? Or will everything other than rent be a 50/50 split?" she asks.
Decorating is one of the most exciting parts of moving into a new place, but if not discussed properly, it could also be a source of tension.
"How will you furnish your common areas?" Gerstley asks. "If you plan on using what you have and your roommate has an elaborate decor plan in mind, that might create some conflict later."
And if, like many young people, you don't own much and end up taking a roommate trip to IKEA together, make sure everyone is clear and comfortable with who is buying what.
Cleaning is often a source of conflict between roommates. Are you super tidy? Or a bit messy? Or just a filthy pig? Well, if you're the last one, you should probably reexamine your choices, but for everyone else, once again, communication and expectations are key. As Gerstley says:
"Do you plan to hire a cleaning person or do you prefer to clean your own apartment? If you decide to clean your own apartment, what's your definition of clean and who will do what?"
For some people, chore schedules are helpful, and others prefer to play it by ear.
Like cleaning, groceries can be a somewhat complicated topic because people often have different ideas of how they should be treated.
"Some people love sharing everything they purchase and others want to know what they bought is there for them when they go to grab it," Gerstley explains.
You can keep all groceries separate, or share everything, or, identify what items you all use a lot of (like olive oil, salt, pepper, Sriracha, etc.) and split the cost of only those. Again, you have to discuss what will work best for you and your roommates based on your lifestyles and preferences.
While it may feel slightly juvenile, it's important to discuss with your roommate what your bedtimes are, and what you feel quiet hours should be. Maybe one or all of you go to work early, and you prefer things to quiet down around 9 p.m., or maybe you work late and don't get home until after midnight, and you like to watch TV then. Regardless, talk to each other about expectations.
"One of my dear friends and I lived together and she was a trader and I was an investment banker," says Gerstley. "We worked opposite schedules so sometimes when I got home in the night she was getting up for work. We woke each other up all the time!"
You should also communicate if you shower in the morning or in the evening, and how long it takes for you to get ready, so that you don't end up making each other late for work.
Do you have a dog, or are you planning on adopting one soon? Are you deathly allergic to cats? Is your roommate morally opposed to fish being held in tiny bowls with tacky decorations?
Make sure you and your roommate(s) are all on the same page about what animals, if any, you plan on bringing into your home.
Having a party at your house can be great! Unless, that is, it's your roommate's party, and people are being super loud, and you have work in the morning, and this is the fourth party they've had in two weeks.
Be clear with each other how often you plan to entertain at home, how raucous your events tend to be, and whether you or they have a tendency to bring the party home.
And always, always tell your roommate before you plan an event in your home.
Visitors (Romantic or Otherwise)
Look, we're all happy for our roommates when they get theirs, but it can be jarring to wander bleary-eyed into your kitchen in the morning to make coffee only to find a shirtless stranger reading the paper.
If you bring people home a lot, first of all, congrats, but second of all, that's something your roommate should know about before moving in with you. Maybe they're not terribly comfortable with having lots of strangers in their homes.
If your roommate is OK with guests, always let them know when your friends are coming and double-check that it's OK that they stay. And, if your guest was a last-minute find, shoot your roommate a quick text so they're not surprised in the morning.
Psst! Download CNBC Make It x Bustle's roommate contract and never fight over things like whose turn it is to buy toilet paper ever again.