Searching for a new roommate can be a tedious process, but making the right selection will save you a lot of headache later on. Many of us have experienced life with people lacking in the consideration, calmness, or cleanliness department (or sometimes all three!), and know firsthand the stress that can result.
Thorough and discerning questions are a key instrument to ensure that your roommate search concludes successfully. What are some important questions that need to be asked before any agreement is signed? Here are 12 suggestions that can help you narrow down your pool of candidates, and find a suitable roommate to cut down on expenses.
1. What Do You Do for Work?
This question should be somewhere near the top of your list. After all, the main reason you're looking for a roommate is to save on housing expenses. It only makes sense to search for someone who has a relatively steady source of income.
As a safety measure, you may also want to ask if your prospective roommate can pay one month's rent upfront as a deposit. You don't want to get anywhere close to being one of the over 2 million Americans who suffer eviction each year, just because your rooming partner isn't pulling his or her weight.
Of course, the type of job that your roommate has may also affect your overall comfort level with the living situation, which brings us to our next question...
2. What is Your Work Schedule Like?
If your potential roommate works a steady 8-5, Monday through Friday gig, and you work from home, then you know that during working hours you'll be able to give full attention to your job without distraction.
On the other hand, what if your roommate works 3rd shift, works a rotating shift... or even works from home as well? Opposite work shifts may be desirable for both of you; when one of you is coming in from work, the other may be heading out. However, two people working from home in a tight space may be too much to handle every weekday.
Regardless, you need to know what you can and can't handle when it comes to your prospective roommate's weekly work routine.
3. Do You Smoke?
For many renters, this one is huge. In fact, it's often a deal-breaker. If either you or your prospective roommate smoke, then you need to be honest and upfront about it right from the outset.
If you can handle some occasional puffs, but are unsure about living with a heavy smoker, then you need to ascertain some specifics as to how often your candidate lights up, and where. Whether it's nicotine or marijuana, make sure that clear ground rules are set going forward; and if you can't handle smoking at all, move on to other prospects.
4. How Do You Feel About Cleaning and Cooking?
Clashes over cleanliness and cooking arrangements can be a big source of contention between roommates. Maybe you have certain standards that you like to stick to when it comes to keeping your home neat, and expect cooking duties to be shared evenly. However, what if your potential roommate tends to leave unwashed clothes strewn about the floor, and doesn't know the first thing about cooking? You may decide it's best to keep searching.
Agreeing on a written schedule right at the beginning, whether for cleaning or cooking or both, can prevent misunderstandings in the future. If your candidate is willing to take on a fair share of household duties, then you may be on to something.
5. What's Your Current Romantic Situation?
While it may seem a little awkward to ask this, the purpose of this question is grounded in practicality. If your prospective roommate has a significant other that will spend a lot of time in your shared living space (maybe even sleeping over), then you have a right to know ahead of time. After all, this could mean more mess, more food consumed, and more awkwardness, without the benefit of more money going towards rent and utilities!
6. How Long Do You Plan to Stay On?
Have you ever been at a job interview, and heard the question: "How long do you plan to stay with our company?" Why exactly do interviewers seem to always ask a question like that?
It's because organizations invest quite a bit of time and money into new hires, and they want to make sure that their return on investment is worth the initial expenditure. In the same way, you are investing your resources into finding a good roommate. While circumstances can change at the drop of a hat, it only makes sense that you want to know how long this candidate plans on rooming with you, so that you can plan accordingly, or move on to another prospect.
7. Do You Have References?
Most people tend to put themselves in a good light when answering personal questions. That's all well and fine; but in this situation, a second or third opinion can't hurt.
If your prospective roommate is reluctant to provide references from previous landlords, or has to offer lengthy explanations as to how terrible each of those landlords were, this might be the signal to move on to other candidates. If this would be the first time your roommate has lived by him/herself, then you may want to ask for professional references, like former/current supervisors, or professors. This can at least give you some insight into your prospective roommate's personality and work ethic.
8. Do You Have Any Pets (or Are You Planning to Get Any)?
Whether dogs, cats, or trained attack squirrels, there are a lot of pets out there, and a lot of pet lovers that couldn't live without them. In fact, one survey found that more than 70% of people that rent apartments also own pets. That means that there are good odds at least some of your candidates will own, or want to own, a pet.
If you have allergies or other issues with pets, this question may be a deal-breaker for a lot of your prospects. However, if you can tolerate a pet in the house, it's still a good idea to set clear expectations as to what is and is not acceptable in the home. You may even want to charge a little bit extra each month for this concession, or ask for an additional pet deposit upfront.
9. What is Your Usual Bedtime?
Getting a good night's sleep is not something to take lightly. If you're the type that needs a solid 8 hours of rest in order to function like an actual human being the next day, then rooming with a night owl or a party animal may not be the best match. On the other hand, if your potential roommate's circadian rhythms jive with yours, then you can look forward to enjoying good sleep on a regular basis.
10. What are Your Pet Peeves?
This is a good question to help keep the peace later on, should you decide to room with the prospect in question. We all have idiosyncrasies that tend to irritate others; but when you and your potential roommate are upfront about what really gets on your nerves, it's so much easier to be aware of your actions, and refrain from doing something that you know will aggravate your housing partner.
11. What are You Looking for in a Roommate?
The purpose of this question is to gain some insight into how your candidate views an ideal relationship between roommates. For instance, if this prospective roommate is looking for a best friend for life that will share all of his or her deepest, darkest secrets, but you are just looking for someone to throw $400 into the pot every month and leave you alone, then it's likely that neither of you will be happy with your living arrangements.
On the other hand, two people who enjoy their space, or two people who are outgoing and chatty, could probably see eye to eye as roommates.
12. Is There Anything Else I Should Know?
This is a good general question with which to conclude your conversation/interview. You're giving your prospective roommate an opportunity to let you know about anything else, big or small, that could affect the success of your living arrangements.
For instance, maybe they enjoy singing opera every morning. Maybe they have a phobia of peanut butter. Maybe they are on the run from the Mafia. These would be good things to know before drawing up a contract or signing a lease. In any case, it never hurts to ask.
There are many resources available that can further assist you in the quest for a suitable roommate. For instance, VerticalRent Community is set to launch in February 2020. This free service will help renters across the United States match themselves to other potential renters that meet their specific criteria.
If you would like more assistance in finding that perfectly matched roommate, get in touch with us at VerticalRent today. Our team of experts stands ready to provide the practical guidance that you need.