How to pick a good roommate

Written on June 7, 2018 by

There’s an art to choosing a good roommate. The more responsible the person, and the better you get along, the better everything will work out for both of you.

Even though it may take a little time to find a great roommate, it’s well worth the effort to prevent unnecessary strain on your sanity and your wallet. Here’s what to do.

1. Advertise

  • Craigslist. Be prepared to be inundated with responses. Help weed out types you don’t want by providing information that’s important to you in a roommate, such as nonsmoker or even a vegetarian.
  • Facebook. Post your quest to your status. It’s up to you whether you make it public or send it only to your friends’ list. Making the post public nets more views, but sending it only to friends also has value, because bots and spammers won’t respond. Tag a few friends who may know of others seeking a new home. This way, you and the potential applicant have at least one mutual contact in common.
  • Roommate apps. These apps can be great places to find someone, but know that some charge for premium versions of their services. RoomieMatch.com, Roommates.com, Roomster, and the Roomi app work a lot like a matchmaking service, helping filter out seekers who don’t match your search criteria.
  • Online college-alumni boards. Great places to find roommates with similar interests and work schedules.

2. Ask questions

  • Do you have a steady income? Ask the other party for proof of income to determine whether they make enough to cover their share of the rent.
  • What other expenses do you have? Other bills such as student loans, medical expenses, or a car lease make a dent in monthly income. Make sure there’s still plenty left over to cover the rent.
  • Do you smoke?  If you don’t smoke, rooming with a smoker may not be a good idea, especially if they smoke indoors.
  • Do you have a pet? Since some rentals have restrictions on pets, it’s good to know upfront whether a potential roommate has any pets. If you have a pet, this is the time to mention it to applicants to see if they mind or if they have allergies.
  • What’s your work schedule? Work schedules are also worth discussing, as this could affect the other party’s sleep routine. If you work nights and they work days, their after-work Netflix sessions might impact your pre-work nap, for instance. If they work from home and spend time making calls, this could also impact your post-work relaxation time.
  • Are you dating anyone? While this may seem too personal, it’s best to know if they have a significant other and if they plan to invite them over frequently. This could be an issue if you don’t like houseguests.
  • Do you have any questions for me? Allow the other person to ask you questions.

After going over the basics, discuss one another’s general habits, likes, and dislikes openly. This gives both of you a chance to find out if rooming together is a good idea. After all, you’ll both probably be named as tenants on the rental agreement.

3. Screen applicants

  • Meet in person. Once you’ve narrowed down the list of potential roommates, arrange an in-person meeting. This allows the chance for you both to make sure you feel comfortable around one another and to discuss furniture, pets, and potential move-in dates.
  • Order a background check. Just as a landlord screens tenants before moving in, due diligence on your part helps ensure you won’t get burned or stuck for the entire rent. Cozy offers a complete screening suite that looks through local and nationwide criminal records and sex-offender registries. It also notes any previous evictions, which comes in handy for weeding out potential deadbeats.
  • Ask for references. And call them. An employer can let you know whether the applicant really works where they say they do. A past landlord can tell you whether they’re a good renter.
  • Get proof. Ask to see several months of pay stubs or other proof of income.

4. Think twice about friends

It may seem like a good idea to rent a place with a close friend or three, but that’s not always the case. That old adage, “Familiarity breeds contempt,” holds especially true for friends and family members.

It may be fun to hang out with your bestie on weekends, but not so fun when you discover they’re a complete slob or that they drink out of your personal jug of juice. A close friend or family member who falls behind on rent could be even more of an issue, since you care about them and may not want to kick them out.

The bottom line

The effort spent finding the perfect roommate is well worth it. You’ll both potentially spend a lot of time in the same space, and you deserve to be as comfortable as possible in your own home.

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