Let's face it; life is expensive. Between high rents and flat wages, you may be facing the reality of living with roommates well into your 30s. While that might make you groan, it doesn't have to suck. Roommates can be great! But, in order to assure you get a good one (or two, or three), there are a few important questions to ask potential roommates that can help you weed out the candidates you're not compatible with so you end up with someone you actually like.
I have lived with — hang on, I'm counting. OK, I have lived with 15 roommates (two were actually relationships) since I was 21, so I consider myself somewhat of an expert on the subject. While I prefer to live alone, in a city like Los Angeles, that's not really a realistic option unless I want to spend all of my money on rent. I don't. So, how can you make sure you end up with a Monica and Rachel roomie situation instead of a Chandler and Eddie (the dude with the goldfish who sucked) one?
"Given the perils of personality conflicts, make sure to scrutinize any prospects to weigh whether their values and lifestyle will mesh with your own," Realtor.com author Jamie Wiebe advised in an article about roommates.
Compatible lifestyles and values are the foundation of any successful relationship, and roommates are no different. Here are few questions to ask yourself before moving in with someone.
Are You Compatible?
Sharing a living space with someone can be a wonderful experience, or it can be a complete nightmare. While it's true that you never really know someone until you live with them, you can do some work up front to set yourself up for success. Whether it's your best friend, or someone who answers your ad on Craigslist, write out a list of things that matter to you in order of importance, and discuss them with potential candidates to avoid future roommate warfare.
For example, are you messy or neat? How important is a clean apartment to you? For me, it's very important, though I didn't really realize this until I lived with some people who were complete slobs, and who did things like throw food on the floor. I'm not kidding. This doesn't mean I expect my roommate to clean every day, but I do expect her to not turn our house into a disaster zone of clutter, dirty dishes, and clothes strewn everywhere. Luckily, my roomie and I see pretty eye to eye on cleanliness, so it works out well.
We also both tend to be specific about odd things. For example she needs to have the living room rug spaced a certain way so the floor frames it like a picture, and she is very particular about how and where art is hung. These things don't matter to me, so I was happy to let her have it how she wanted. I, on the other hand, can't stand white kitchen floors, and of course we have one. We have two dogs, and the floor is always filthy. I need to have a runner-rug in the kitchen so I don't need to feel like I am always mopping. My roomie hates this rug, but she knows how important it is to me so she let's it slide.
While these things might seem inconsequential, only you know what's going to drive you nuts, and being open about it up front can help save you from hoarding resentment and unleashing drama later.
Are You Willing To Sign A Lease?
Things you'll want to consider in order to ensure your best chance at a copacetic coexistence with your roomie are details like who will pay what bill, and whether or not you'll both be on the lease.
If you're friends — or even strangers — looking for an apartment or house together, ideally you should both be on the lease. This protects both of you if anything goes awry. If you're a month-to-month renter, or a lease-holder, or homeowner looking to rent a room in your pad, consider drawing up roommate agreement form. You can even download one online and have it notarized, and trust me — you'll be glad you did this.
I once let someone rent a room in my house with whom I had no legal agreement with. He ended up not paying rent for three months. Don't be like me. If someone is not willing to make a legal agreement, this is a red flag.
Next, if you're both moving into the new space together you'll need to decide which of you will turn on the utilities in their name, and how the other person will pay for them. There are tons of apps out there that are perfect for splitting bills with friends and roommates that can make this process easier.
What Are The House Rules?
Deciding on house rules up front can spare you a lot of drama later. Is either of you in a relationship? If so, are partners allowed to spend the night? Luckily, despite having lived with so many people this has never been a huge problem for me. Basically you don't want someone who is not paying any bills squatting at your apartment because they're dating your roomie. And, you might not want random people coming in and out of your place if your roomie is casually dating people.
For instance, in my house our policy is ask first before bringing anyone home. You'll also want to agree on policies for things like smoking, drugs, drinking, and pets.
If you're not sure where to find a roommate, you can even use a roommate matching site like Room Ring. Sites like that will help you answer questions and outline your preferences before ever even meeting anyone, and then match you with people whose preferences are similar to yours. Above all, the most important thing is to take your time, and make sure you're choosing the right person, or people.