There are a lot of perks to having a roommate. You pay less in rent, can afford a bigger place and have someone who will share all the typical living expenses. There's safety in numbers, you'll never be lonely and you'll always have someone to plop down on the couch with for a movie night.
In 2015, 25 percent of people between the ages of 18-34 lived with a roommate. This totaled up to some significant savings, especially in expensive cities like San Francisco, New York City, Boston, Chicago and Seattle. According to SmartAsset:
“Across our top 10 [cities], the average resident could save just under $10,000 per year by switching from living alone to living with a roommate."
These are all great reasons to get a roommate, but at the same time, having a roommate is a commitment. You're not on your own to be you in private. Sharing a living space means someone else can witness all your unusual habits and quirky behavior.
This is why it's important to find someone who's not going to mind if you leave your shoes in the hallway or hang your delicates to dry in the shower. It's also why you need to know a little bit about the person you'll be living with before deciding to move in together.
Follow these eight tips to find your next roommate.
The most important tip for finding a roommate is to start early. Begin the hunt as soon as you know you'll need one. Giving yourself plenty of time to search means you'll feel comfortable taking a minute to evaluate whether a candidate will work.
Waiting until the last minute may force you to rush your decision, which can create a roommate situation that's the complete opposite of a soulmate pair. Having a bad roommate can turn your home into the last place you want to be each night. Nobody wants that.
To begin your search, you'll most likely need to get online. Unless you've got some inside knowledge about a friend of a friend or another loose connection seeking a roommate, you're going to have to do the work yourself.
You should also tread lightly when getting a personal referral from someone. Don't feel like you have to accept that suggestion. Talk to all candidates the same way, whether you have a mutual connection or not.
A few of the top places to conduct a roommate search online include:
The one place you don't want to search when looking for a potential roommate is your pool of friends and acquaintances. It may seem like a good idea but resist the urge to share a space with a friend.
“Often times, friends are opposites of one another. It may be better to choose someone by focusing on similar living qualities that you respect versus your BFF," says Elizabeth Hoyt from fastweb.
Just because you love being around someone when you hang out, does not mean you'll make good roommates. In fact, friends hardly ever become roommate soulmates. Taking what you like about them as a friend and applying it to the things you're looking for in a roommate doesn't work. They're not the same.
Some of the key reasons that friends fail as roommates, according to Brazen are:
Take the time and search for a roommate you don't already know, then check and see if they're your roommate soulmate. Keep your friends as friends, who maybe crash at your place now and again.
Don't fall for a roommate resume or some casual texts as enough to get to know a potential roommate. You cannot accurately evaluate a person in print. Try to meet any potential roommates in person. At the very least, set up a video chat.
Both of these interview methods help establish if there's in-person chemistry. Once you get to the interview, some good opening questions are:
If you want to know more about their lifestyle, ask whether they have a pet, if they like to entertain or how they relax at home. If you're worried about conflict, check if they have allergies, have an arrest record or consider themselves a recreational drug user. Get their take on how they'd divide up household responsibilities like cooking and cleaning and how comfortable they are sharing food.
Any issue where you're worried you may do things a little different than someone else, ask about. Be forthcoming on your opinions and preferences, as well, to see how they react. If they're not comfortable discussing, or your responses are vastly different, maybe it's not a match.
Before you make a decision, take a minute to check in with your feelings. Are you walking away liking this person? Do you feel a high level of compatibility? Would you want to talk to them again?
Don't be uncomfortable requesting a follow-up chat either. If you began with an interview, meet a second time for a cup of coffee or a quick bite to be sure this is who you've been searching for as a roommate.
This second meeting can be more casual. You can talk more about your interests to get a little deeper into what you might have in common. You don't have to be “twinsies," but you should have some common ground to connect through as roommates since you do end up spending a decent amount of time together.
The next thing to establish, once you're confident you've found the right roommate, are the ground rules. These are best written out in a roommate agreement. Not only will this help you stay on the same page in areas where conflicting opinions can often cause deep rifts, but it helps you establish processes for the essential areas where roommates have to work together.
“What's surprising…is when renters don't take the proper precautionary measures to vet potential roommates on important topics like expectations of cleanliness and how to handle disagreements," says Allie Volpe in The Atlantic, relaying the sentiments of Susan Fee, a Seattle-based therapist and the author of My Roommate Is Driving Me Crazy.
Coming to an agreement in these types of areas before actually moving in also saves a lot of time figuring all this out later, when it may feel more urgent.
You may even want to discuss the littlest things like what temperature you prefer the thermostat at or what time of day you like to take a shower. Emotions in any of these areas can run high, especially if one person feels marginalized by the other's needs or preferences. Your roommate soulmate only stays your soulmate if you continue to get along and live in harmony.
All this talk of compatibility can give you the wrong impression that finding the perfect roommate means you won't fight at all. After putting all this effort into figuring out how to find a roommate and making a perfect choice, how can you have a little fight after a few days? Because they happen.
Everyone fights, and it's what you do after that will help define whether you're living with your roommate soulmate. Are you quick to apologize and talk it out? Do you try to work on preventing the situation from becoming a problem again? If yes, then you'll be alright.
In fact, you'll grow as roommates and have a better relationship as a result. Resist the urge to run and hide, or throw blame and let a little disagreement get drawn out into something big. It's not anything to feel embarrassed about. We all have our moments.
Regardless of how long the process takes, once you make your roommate selection, you're involved in a relationship with someone new. Whether it lasts a year or you become bonded for a lifetime, a successful roommate is someone you like living with no matter what.