When it comes to finding someone to live with, you can never have too much information. Whether you met online or through friends, and even if you’ve known one another forever, it’s important to talk about your expectations.
Be honest with yourself about who you are and what you want. Remember that you can’t be all things to all people. Everyone is a little bit nuts in their own special way. The key to finding the right roommate is to determine if your unique kinds of crazy are compatible. In our experience, opposites do not often attract.
Below are key topics to work into a conversation with potential roommates. For a more direct approach, check out our roommate questionnaire.
First, take time to decide what you want out of your relationship with your new roommate. If you’re new to the city maybe you’d like to find a friend who will join you for dinner and introduce you to their social circle. Or maybe you’re already established and looking for someone to split the bills with while living parallel lives. Whatever you’re looking for, be upfront early in your search to make sure you’re on the same page.
There’s more to having compatible lifestyles than working out whether you’re an early bird or a night owl. Although sleeping habits matter, so do work schedules, food preferences, allergies, smoking and drug use, pets, entertainment and hobbies. You don’t have to have the same tastes but you do need to know what you’re getting yourself into.
Most people will say they’re ‘clean’, but few people mean exactly the same thing by it. Some think sweeping every single day is normal. Others are satisfied with a quick vacuum every couple of months. Some tolerate piles of dirty dishes in the kitchen while simultaneously maintaining a spotless bathroom. Before agreeing to anything, make sure you’re speaking the same language on this one.
Protect yourself against unpleasant surprises by asking tough but tactful questions about finances. Watch their body language to get a sense of whether they might be uncomfortable talking about money or unsure about their financial future. You need to establish that they’re in a position to make a financial commitment and make good on your shared responsibilities.
This one is often overlooked at the interview stage but is a common cause of tension once you’re living together. Make sure to ask about their entertaining preferences, house guests, and significant others. If you like to bring the party home, make sure they do too. If either of you plan to have guests, discuss how long they’re welcome to stay. Establish how many nights of the week it’s reasonable for significant others to sleep over. Even if neither of you are in a relationship at the moment, you might be in the future. You’ll thank yourself later.
It is natural and inevitable that you will face both interpersonal and practical challenges while living together. Whether it’s dealing with obnoxious house guests (see above), rodent infestations or just generally getting on each other’s nerves, someone’s approach to conflict resolution in the past is pretty predictive of how they will behave in future. Ask a few questions about past experiences rather than hypothetical future scenarios to get a sense of how they behave under pressure.
Once you’ve narrowed down your options to a few potential roommates, ask if you can check out their Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn (etc…) accounts to get a better idea of your compatibility. Approach this as a mutual reference check by suggesting that they do the same for you. Not only will you get a better idea of who they hang out with and what they get up to, but you’ll also be able to cross-check information you’ve been given about their school or work life. Another good way to test a potential match is to invite them to hang out with you and your friends for an evening. Hopefully, they’ll return the favour and you’ll get to meet theirs. Their pals will be spending time in your space; make sure you like theirs and they like yours.
Last but not least, do you find yourself attracted this person in a way that might not be purely platonic? If so, you’re probably better to ask them out on a date than ask when you can sign the lease.
If you have any suggestions for this list, let us know! We’d love to hear from you.