What to Consider When Looking for a Roommate

By Madison White

As a college student, it is likely inevitable that you’ll have a roommate at some point. You know that roommates are good for socializing and keeping costs down while going to school. Unfortunately, the process of looking for a roommate can be a bit daunting if you’ve never done it before. How do you find one? How do you know if they’re compatible? Keep reading for more tips and information on how to go about finding a great roommate.

Searching for a Roommate

The first hurdle to overcome when searching for a roommate is how to find one. Navigating this can be really tricky because choosing a roommate is extremely personal, after all, you will be living with this person. When searching for a roommate, work in stages. The first stages should lead to you trustworthy people through friends and family, but if you aren’t finding anything this way, you may have to go towards more public avenues.

The easiest way to find a roommate is through word of mouth. Try asking friends and family in the area if they know of anyone looking for a roommate. Asking around can help make connections with people that you know or partially know. This is likely the safest option and will make finding a good roommate more likely. You may want to also post on your Facebook page that you’re looking for a roommate. This may help spread the word to family and friends that you may not be in close contact with. It allows you to expand your search without having to do too much.

If searching through friends and family doesn’t work, you may have to go a bit more public. As a college student, you’ll probably be looking for someone that is also a student. Most colleges have resources that students can use to help them figure out housing situations. If they have a housing department, you may want to get in contact and see if they know of anyone looking for a roommate. They may be able to point you in the right direction. Additionally, if your university has forums or groups that you can post on, this may also be a good way to find other students looking for roommates. If a digital posting doesn’t yield any results, I’ve also seen students put up posters around campus that say they’re looking for a roommate. This is a sure-fire way for lots of people to see what you’re looking for.

If you still aren’t having any luck with these methods, it may be time to turn to more public avenues. This might include posting on more public social media pages or listing on websites like Craigslist. However, when doing things like this, make sure that you are limiting the amount of information you present to the public. Additionally, make sure that you specify what kind of person you are looking for. If you are looking for a female roommate, make sure you say so. If you are looking for someone without pets, say this as well. Be specific so that you limit the number of responses you get from people that aren’t at all what you’re looking for. Of course, you’ll still receive some that you’ll have to screen out. When meeting with potential roommates, make sure you do so in a public place and have a list of questions ready.

Key Questions to Ask:

Here are a few sample questions to ask a prospective roommate.

1. What is a typical day for you?

This question should hopefully answer some other, smaller questions as well. By asking what a typical day looks like, you should be able to deduce what this person does (either as a job or as a student), what hobbies they may have, how social they are, and how late they like to stay up. Usually, you will be able to tell right away whether this person lives a similar or completely different lifestyle to you. If they say that they do things that you know would bother you, like partying or playing loud music, then this should be a red flag.

2. How often do you think an apartment should be cleaned?

This is another question that tells more than just what is on the surface. It helps you figure out what this person’s living style is. While some may outright ask if someone is clean or messy, many people misconstrue their answer. In fact, what is clean and messy can mean very different things to different people so your version of clean might not align with someone else’s.

How they go about answering this will tell a lot about them. If a person says “every day” then you know that they like to keep things very tidy and may even be a bit controlling about cleaning the space. If they say something like “whenever it needs it” you can probably bet that this person only cleans when conditions get noticeably bad. Depending on how you like to live, you’ll want to find someone whose answer mimics yours and isn’t the complete opposite.

3. How do you like to spend your time at home?

This question aims to answer an issue that most people don’t think about: noise. Some people are naturally noisy—they like to play their music out loud, keep the TV on while doing things, talk on speaker to their family and other similar things. These aren’t make-or-break things, but for someone who prefers to keep to themselves and have some quiet relaxation, it can certainly cause tensions to rise over time. Especially if you are a student that needs silence to be able to study properly, you definitely want to make sure that you aren’t living with someone that is going to be a big distraction.

4. How will you pay rent?

Some might find this a bit of an intrusive question, but it really is something that is key to finding a reliable roommate. One of the most common issues with roommates can stem from money issues. Hopefully, your potential roommate will be able to answer this question easily. If they have a regular job, then the rent comes from that income. If they are a student, the rent may come from their parents or from scholarship money. If somebody hesitates to answer this question, it might be a cause for concern that they might not be the most responsible with money.

5. What are you looking for in a roommate?

A thing often forgotten is that the search for a great roommate goes both ways. The person you’re speaking with also has in mind what kind of person they want to live with. This question allows them to voice what exactly they’re wanting from this arrangement and then allows you to gauge whether or not you would be a good match. Most of the time these expectations align, but it is always a good idea to check so that neither party ends up in disappointment.

Things to Keep in Mind:

1. Living Styles

There is no one perfect roommate for everyone. Because everyone has a different living style, the right roommate for you will largely depend on how you live. It is of the utmost importance that you and your roommate figure out what your style of living is and whether or not they will work well together.

Ideally, a great roommate will have a similar lifestyle to you. You may be tempted to live with someone with a completely different way of living, but usually, this ends up in annoyance, and further down the line, conflict. The best way to avoid those scenarios is to choose a person that lives in a similar way.

Some things that can determine living style are how social you like to be and if you like to host parties. Another thing is going to be your general time schedule. Do you rise early or stay out late? In addition to this, what kinds of things do you like doing? Are you a gamer? Do you watch a lot of movies? Or are you more of a quiet reader? These things will help you determine what your living style is and what aspects are compatible with future roommates.

Another big concern about living style is cleanliness. Most arguments that happen between roommates occur because of differences in how clean the apartment should be. Have an honest and frank discussion with a potential roommate. Ask things like, “How do you feel about clutter?” and “How long would you let dishes sit in the sink before cleaning them?” This will help you gauge what kind of mess each of you thinks is normal. If you have similar opinions on what needs to be cleaned and when, then you’ve likely found a great potential roommate. If you have quite a few differences, then you may want to find someone else.

On a final note, make sure you are listening to your instincts when it comes to living styles. If you feel that this person may be lying to you or hiding something, then they probably won’t be a good choice for a roommate.

2. Conflict

Even though this process of finding a good roommate means cutting down on potential conflict, there will still inevitably be an argument about something. Knowing how this person argues is essential to understanding how they will act when something may go wrong. You should also think about how you react when conflict happens. Some questions to ask and think about may be: Are you confrontational or do you avoid problems? How do you handle issues that occur between friends?

When it comes to someone being your roommate, you aren’t necessarily looking for a person that handles conflict in the exact same way that you do. In fact, handing it in the exact same way could lead to disastrous results. If you know that conflict makes you loud and angry, then you might not want to choose someone who also gets loud and angry. You may want someone with a more level-headed way of thinking. However, you may already know that you don’t like handling things in a certain way, and if that person does, then it might become a bigger issue in the end. For example, if you know that you don’t like loud, confrontational people then you should avoid roommates that react in this way.

3. Responsibility

This one can also be difficult to gauge, especially if you don’t know a person very well. It can also be kind of awkward because it can often bring up topics like money and savings. However, regardless of how difficult this conversation may be, it is very important to know this information before signing a lease with someone. Choosing someone that is irresponsible with money means that there will be lots of roommate conflicts down the line.

Firstly, a potential roommate shouldn’t have problems with deadlines. If they consistently find themselves forgetting to pay rent in the past, then it is likely to continue and will then become your issue too. You don’t want to be stuck having to cover their half of the rent or chasing them all the time to pay you back. If they’ve never had to pay rent before, maybe ask about how they are in school with turning things in on time. This is often another good indicator of how responsible they are. While you can’t always judge a responsible person based on just their grades, sometimes it can be a good predictor of their general reliability.

Finding a roommate can be a long and difficult process. You may have to meet with quite a few people before you find the right one for you. In any case, stay positive and remember to listen to what your gut tells you. You will usually know fairly quickly if you will get along with this person or not. When it comes to living with someone, you want to feel good about being around them and sharing a space. If you’re lucky, it may even turn into a friendship.

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