Getting a roommate that you like tends to be a slam dunk in many areas: you get a bigger place or an apartment in a better location than you could have afforded on your own, and you often still get to pocket the spare cash from having split the rent bill. Saving money and getting a nicer apartment aren't the only benefits though: most people need some casual socializing in their day, and a good, considerate roommate will offer someone to chat with when you are cooking, watching television, or working on a computer in the evenings at home. Many roommates enjoy just having someone else nearby, but they also enjoy the larger social network it affords them, introducing them to more people and more aspects of the city where they live.
All of these benefits, however, are tied to finding the right roommate for you. It can be tempting to just take the first roommate offer you get, since the benefits are so substantial, but a little legwork and thought can really alter your experience of roommate living. Finding the best roommate for you avoids conflict in your home, builds a core of friendship rather than just cohabitation, and ensures that neither you nor your roommate are made miserable by each other's quirks.
So make sure you go through in your mind and really get clear on what you want from a roommate, because finding the best roommate will be well worth the effort.
Ask Yourself The Big Questions
Most of us have at least a vague idea of what we like in a roommate; maybe you feel this way because you've asked yourself these important questions about roommates. However, if you haven't taken the time to think this through before, consider working through each of the following categories and deciding what you like in them.
The rhythms of your day may seem completely "natural" until you encounter a roommate that doesn't share them. While some of these can be accommodated just by having separate bedrooms and keeping it down, it is wise to know whether you will be a night owl, an early bird, or something in between. Do you work a 2nd shift job and want really quiet hours to sleep during the day time? Do you need 90 minutes to prep your gourmet meals in the kitchen? Do you take long showers? Anything about your schedule should be interrogated to see how it might impact a roommate, and how a roommate might interrupt that flow.
Sound in the Apartment
Everyone has different ideas of what "being quiet" and "a reasonable volume for a party" are, and you should know where you fall. Sound in the apartment includes everything: your smoothie obsession, your tuba practice, even your video games. These sounds aren't inherently good or bad (unless they get to someone-calling-the-cops level) but they are important to consider before you and a roommate sign a lease together.
Ideal Amounts of Interaction
Are you an over-sharer? What about a strong-and-silent type? How you tend to interact matters as a roommate, especially since there is a bare minimum of communication that really has to happen for you to be happy. Do you prefer to make systems (this half of the fridge is mine and that half is yours) or just to talk about things ("hey, can I use some of this milk?"). This can also include levels of extroversion and introversion, and how much alone time you want. Consider what you do naturally and how much you'd be willing to change your interactions to compromise with a roommate's style.
Roommates have different definitions, even if they both consider themselves "easy-going" or a "neat freak." Talk specifics: how quickly do you do the dishes? Who vacuums and who sweeps? You don't have to assign all your chores before you sign a lease, but you should know what you have to look forward to, and it shouldn't be someone else's overflowing trash can sitting for a long time without being taken out. This is where a questionnaire of some kind can be really helpful, since most of us like to give people the benefit of the doubt in conversation. It's important to really be clear on cleanliness so you don't end up resenting each other.
If you find yourselves at odds with each other, will you let it simmer or just level with each other? Most advice would say that you should just have honest conversations as early as possible so that bad feelings don't fester, but if you know that isn't your style, make sure you are very careful with how you choose your roommate. You don't want to end up having a dramatic blow-up fight and break your lease together, so planning ahead can really go a long way.
Pet Peeves and Quirks
These categories include all the things that you might find particularly annoying that aren't inherently so (for instance, some people are casual about leaving lights on around the apartment, and others are super-bothered when any light is left on when no one is in that room). On the other hand, it's wise to know anything that makes you a little unusual, your quirks; if you have a strange hobby, share it with your potential roommate and share how you will reduce its impact on them. If you own seven pet iguanas, talk about how you manage any strange smells and keep the iguanas out of the common space. This sort of thing has to go both ways: express what annoys you, but also consider how you yourself might be the annoying one.
Organize Your Priorities
Few, if any, people find their perfect match on all of the above categories— if you do, we certainly salute you! However, for most of us, you'll have to do a prioritization exercise. Once you've thought through all of the categories, think about your negotiables and your non-negotiables. This could look like the following statements:
- "I can live with someone who stays up late and is moderately noisy, but I cannot live with someone allergic to my cat."
- "I can do more than my fair share of dishes if it means I'll get to share my space with a chatty, extroverted person."
- "Yes, I'll accept their ultra-quiet and avoidant style of communication, but I cannot handle needing to be silent in my home all the time so they can sleep."
No one's priorities are going to be the same, but if you cannot find at least one or two areas in which you can bend, it may be hard to find a roommate. That being said, just asking yourself to rank these categories in order of importance may teach you important things about your own ability to be flexible.
Ask Potential Roommates to Go Through Community
If you are considering rooming with someone who isn't already on Community, suggest that they try it starting February 1st 2020. It creates a profile of likes and dislikes that helps you compare your compatibility without sitting and having an in-depth interview with each other. If you don't have a particular roommate in mind yet, use your newfound self-knowledge to fill out the Community yourself, and look up profiles in your area. It's a nice opportunity to get deep insight into how your potential roommate lives and works, without having to grill them for personal details the moment you meet each other.
What's even better is that the features at VerticalRent keep aiding you: you can write up your roommate agreement easily on the site, pay your rent there, create a calendar for when each of you needs to pay bills, and even submit maintenance requests. The system takes many of the frustrating conversations that roommates occasionally have to have, and it automates them so that you both are on exactly the same page.
Compare Results - and Make Sure They're Happy Too!
The nice thing about Community is that your roommate also gets information about you. Just like we mentioned that you have to be honest about pet peeves AND quirks, you may find that you are really excited to get this new roommate but they are more cautious about you. Try not to force the issue if you encounter a potential roommate who seems wary; they may know that something in your profile is not going to work for them. Don't give anybody the hard sell: rather, listen carefully to any concerns they have, and be honest about whether they are things you can change or not. Roommates have the luxury of finding someone else to room with, so don't force it if this isn't the right "match" for you or your potential roommate.
VerticalRent wants to take the guesswork and stress out of finding a place to rent and the people to rent it with. Your journey starts with Community, and continues with our many features for connecting roommates and their landlords so that communication is seamless and easy.