Rents have been on a steady incline for years now. And bringing in a roommate? That can be a great way to lower your housing costs and relieve some of the financial burden.
But be careful: All roommates aren't created equal -- not by a longshot.
The wrong roommate can frustrate you, annoy you, and basically make your home life a living hell. And worse, they could even put you at risk of eviction if they can't pay their share of the bills.
So if you're considering finding a roommate to lighten the financial load, tread carefully. Make sure you ask these ten questions before moving forward.
1. What do you do?
You'll want to find out their employment situation first and foremost. What do they do? Is it full time or part time? This can help you gauge their financial situation as well as how often they might have money coming in to pay the bills.
You should also get a feel for how their employment could impact their living situation. Do they work from home? That could mean more wear and tear to your apartment, or, if you work from home, too, lots of distractions. Do they primarily work the night shift or very early in the morning? You want to be sure their career works with yours as well as with your lifestyle.
2. Why did you and your last roommate part ways?
If they've had previous roommates, ask about why those relationships dissolved. Was it mutual and amicable? Are they still friends? If not, why? This can give you a good idea of how well they get along with people -- and how well you might get along with them.
In the event the person has never had a roommate before, get the details there, too. Are they coming from living with mom and dad? If so, you might have a learning curve to deal with. Do they know how to do their own laundry? Will they pitch in on grocery shopping and cooking? Make sure they're responsible enough to live on their own and that you won't have to baby them.
3. What does a typical day/night look like for you?
Have the person walk you through what their typical day looks like -- on a workday and on the weekends. Around what time do they wake up and go to bed? What's their work schedule like? What do they do for fun? What are their favorite things to do around the house?
You need to make sure their schedule, habits, and hobbies jive with yours. If they're big video gamers and are home during the day, are you going to be able to focus on those conference calls you have scheduled? If they wake up at 4 a.m. to get ready for work, is it going to interrupt your beauty sleep? Be sure they're a good match for your own schedule and daily habits.
4. Are you a smoker?
Does the person smoke? If they do, are they willing to do it outside the apartment? These are crucial questions, especially if the property's not yours. For one, having a smoker for a roommate can mean exposure to secondhand smoke -- a well-known health hazard. It can also pose a fire hazard, stink up your property, and potentially get you in trouble with your landlord.
5. Do you have pets?
Pets require a lot of care, and they can also mean extra damage and mess in your apartment. Does the person plan on bringing a dog or cat with them? If so, what size and breed are they? What is the plan for when the person's at work or on vacation? You need to know that:
- You're not allergic to the pet.
- The pet doesn't pose a risk to you or your property.
- The roommate will take full responsibility for the pet once they move in.
6. What's your cleaning / organizational style?
Not everyone is a clean freak -- and that's OK. But if you're an OCD germaphobe and your roommate is more of an organized chaos type of person, that's not going to work in the long term.
Ask them to break down their organizational/cleaning mantra for you. Do they get up and make their bed in the morning? Do they do their dishes after using them and pick up the living room once they leave it, or are they more the once-a-week or once-a-month cleaners? Maybe they hire someone for basic chores instead? Whatever it is, make sure it jives with how you operate.
7. How often do you have visitors?
When you bring in a roommate, you're merging their whole life with yours. Their friends will come over, their family might call or pop by, and they might throw the occasional party or two. Get a feel for how your potential roomie approaches socializing. Do they tend to go out more, or do they like having people over often? Do they host regular dinners, game nights, or birthday parties? Are they seriously dating someone who might stay over often? Finally, when they do have visitors, will they be in your shared living space or in their personal room? Know what sort of social traffic you can expect with any roommate you're considering.
8. How would you propose handling the rent and monthly bills?
You'll need to split a few bills with your roommate, so be sure to talk money, too. What's their plan for paying rent and handling bills? Are they willing to set up some of the bills in their name? Do they expect you to pay the rent and then they'll reimburse you? If so, be wary. Unless you know the person really well, offering to front the bills can be a risky proposition.
9. What do you want from a roommate?
Turn the tables and ask what they're looking for in a roommate, too. The arrangement is only going to work out if both of you are happy, so get personal. What are their pet peeves, and what's their ultimate deal-breaker? What did they like or dislike about past roommates? What does their ideal roomie look like?
10. Can we swap references?
Finally, ask to swap references. Get the contact information for a past roommate or two, and give them info for yours as well. If they're not willing to give you any references, consider it a red flag -- and run for the hills.
The bottom line
Let's face it: Living with roommates is never easy, and there's really no such thing as the perfect roommate. Still, your roomie is going to play a significant role in your quality of life for as long as you live together, and they could impact your finances, too. Because of this, it's important you take your roommate search very seriously. Consider several options, be thorough in your interviews, and don't be afraid to say no if someone just doesn't feel right.
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