6 Questions You Should Always Ask Your New Roommate (Before They Move In)

By Aaron Swartz

Having a roof over your head costs an arm and a leg, so it’s no surprise most people end up looking for a few extra limbs to help them split the cost. I’m talking, of course, about roommates, the saving grace for anyone who wants to live somewhere but doesn’t have a six-figure salary. Roommates are great for a lot of reasons — the least of which is helping cover rent — but not every roommate is perfect. Before you move in with someone there are a few things you should get sorted out to make sure you won’t drive each other up the wall, and to help you find the best roommate possible here are six questions you should ask your potential roommate before you start living together.

Student Roommates: 6 Questions You Should Always Ask Your New Roommate (Before They Move In)

1. Sleep Schedules

It’s a classic question, but it’s so oft-repeated because it is quite literally one of the most important things you can know about your potential new roommate. Some people go to bed at 8 PM every night, while some don’t sleep till after 3 in the morning. Those two probably won’t have the best time living together because their schedules are so mismatched. Ask your roommate if they’re a day or a night person, what time they usually sleep and wake up, and check in to see if your schedules will mesh. You don’t want to find out your roommate blasts music at midnight every night when you’ve already signed a lease and there’s no way out.

2. Social Life

Everyone has different ways they like to socialize, and your new roommate is no different. Ask them what their social life is like, how often they’re out of the house, and — perhaps more importantly — how often they want to invite people over. If you’re a party animal who has huge groups of people over every weekend then your quiet, introverted roommate might not have the best time in your joint living situation. Make sure you’re both broadly on the same page about social expectations before you decide if you’re a good fit.

3. Cleanliness

Some people are neat freaks. Some people are not. There’s nothing wrong with either of those things… until you look at the disaster area your kitchen has become and want to scream. Most of these questions are about establishing where you and your roommate’s living styles align and differ, and this is no different. Some people keep a home that’s neat as a pin, not so much as a hair out of place. Some people have a more disorganized style, and those are both ok. Ask your roommate about their living style and their cleanliness, and whether or not you can negotiate a way for your two styles to coexist if you have differing expectations.

4. Substance Usage

Drugs and alcohol are part of adult life, but not everyone is comfortable with them. Whether it’s a religious choice, a moral one, a past history informing a present, or a simple disinterest, there are a lot of reasons why someone might choose to abstain from substances and you should check in with your roommate about what your expectations around substances should. Make sure everyone is comfortable with what happens in your shared home. At the end of the day, it’s always better to ask ahead of time than have to do damage control later.

5. Morals and Politics

There are some people who have friends from every possible background and creed, but there are almost always lines we draw around who we’re actually willing to associate with. That sound a little extreme, but moral differences between potential roommates can be a huge dealbreaker. If you’re incredibly left-leaning then you probably won’t want to share a living space with someone conservative. Similarly, some people may have strong religious beliefs, or might not be comfortable living with someone who is devout for whatever reason. Political and moral choices make up a lot of who we are, so establishing what kind of person your potential new roommate is is a really wise choice before you move in together.

6. Roommate Expectations

This might take a bit of explaining, but you should definitely ask your new roommate what they expect your dynamic as housemates to be like. For some people, roommates are best friends, maybe even as close as family. For others, a roommate is a stranger who happens to share a home with you. It’s a good idea for you two to establish your expectations out the gate. Are you just paying rent and being courteous in shared spaces? Are you having late-night gossip sessions every other day? Ask your roommate ahead of time how they see your collective dynamic playing out. If you’re on the same page, then you’ll probably enjoy living together.

Roommate hunting is a challenging prospect, but hopefully, these questions will make it a bit easier. From politics to cleanliness, by the time you’re done talking you’ll have a great idea whether you’re heading back to the drawing board or finally found the right person to move in with.

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