How to Choose a Roommate

Whether you’ve just moved out of mom and dad’s house and can’t afford to rent on your own, or you’re an experienced renter who lives in a high-priced market like New York City, a roommate is often unavoidable. In fact, having someone to split the rent with is a necessity for many people.

The decision to look for a roommate might be one borne of necessity, but finding the right person can be a challenge. Here are some tips on finding the right roommate:

1.      Ask Your Friends – Asking a friend to move in with you is often the easiest option when looking for a roommate. You obviously get along with one another, and you’ve probably seen the other person’s living habits, so you should have a good idea of what you’re getting yourself into.

Be careful, though. Just because you get along well during your twice weekly visits to the coffee shop doesn’t mean you won’t have trouble living together. You’ve probably heard at least one horror story about roommates who were best friends when they moved in together, but who no longer speak to one another.

Even though you’re friends, it’s still a good idea to interview your potential roommate to make sure you both have similar expectations about chores, houseguests, and paying the rent.

2.      Ask Your Siblings – Do you have a brother or sister who is also looking for a roommate? If friends aren’t available, living with a sibling may be the next best thing. You grew up together, and you’ve lived together in the past, so chances are you’ll know what to expect from each other.

Just make sure that the sibling rivalry doesn’t get out of hand. Remember, mom and dad aren’t around to moderate your arguments anymore.

3.      Put an Ad in the Newspaper – If you’re new in town and don’t know anyone yet, or if you just can’t find anyone else, running an ad in the local newspaper may be your only option. The good thing about running an ad is that you can specify what type of roommate you’re looking for. If you’re a non-smoker, and you prefer to avoid second-hand smoke, you can mention that in your ad.

By running an advertisement, you’ve already pre-screened your applicants. If you’ve specified certain traits that you’re looking for in a roommate, most of the people who apply will have those attributes. If you mention that you have a cat, for example, someone who is allergic, or who hates animals probably won’t call asking to be your roommate. This will make the interview process a little bit easier.

It’s important to note that your ad doesn’t necessarily need to be in the newspaper. While a local paper will reach a large number of potential roommates, it usually costs money to place a classified ad. There are a number of free online options that you can use instead, such as Craigslist or Roommates.com.

After you’ve figured out how you’re going to find a roommate, you’ve got to make sure that you choose the right person. To do that, you’ll need to interview anyone who wants to be your roommate—that includes friends and family.

When you’re interviewing a potential roommate, you should look for a few key things. First of all, do you get along with this person? If you’re starting to dislike the person even before the interview is over, it’s probably best to look for someone else.

Beyond the issue of compatibility, you’ll need to talk about what responsibilities each of you will have in the household. Who will do what chores? What percentage of the rent will each person be responsible for? Splitting it evenly will be most common but, for example, you might decide that one person will pay a larger percent of the rent, but not have to do as many household chores. Make sure you decide these issues in advance.

Another issue that you’ll need to discuss is houseguests. It’s probably unreasonable to assume that your roommate won’t be allowed to have guests over, but you will need to agree on what time guests should be gone by. You’ll also have to decide if guests will be allowed over during the week, or only on weekends. These might seem like trivial questions, but you’ll be wishing you’d asked when your roommate and his friends keep you awake until 3 a.m. on a work night.

After you’ve completed your interviews and found the right roommate, you should formalize your agreement in writing. Easy-to-use roommate agreement forms can be found online, and will allow you to clearly outline the responsibilities and issues agreed upon during your interview. By getting the agreement in writing, you lessen the chance of conflict and, more importantly, protect yourself in the event that you do have a disagreement with your roommate.