Over the past decade, affordable housing has become sparse in major American cities. Resorting to splitting the rent isn’t just for college-aged students anymore. In fact, many young and middle-aged adults are sharing housing with roommates. In some instances, even married couples are opting in to split the rent with roommates.
In many instances, people rent out rooms or share leases with people they didn’t know prior to living together. Given living with others and accepting their quirks can be challenging, it’s especially important to know what to look for when interviewing potential roommates. This is why it’s best practice to incorporate the following six questions into your roommate search.
1. References: Can you provide references?
A first impression may be all you get before deciding to move in with a person. That is why references are critical to determining if the individual is a reliable and agreeable roommate. Acceptable references could include previous roommates, landlords, and leasing agency representatives. Your roomie’s references will vary based on their housing history.
2. Financial Expectations: Can you pay a security deposit?
It’s good to disclose costs upfront, as well as when bills are due. Asking for a security deposit is a practical way to protect yourself from loss if the roommate ends up becoming unreliable when it comes time to pay bills. It’s especially important that you thoroughly document all financial commitments made by both you and your roommate so there is no confusion in present or future interactions.
3. Lifestyle Preferences: What kind of lifestyle do you live?
This question is very important because this is where roommates may really clash. For instance, someone who works a traditional 9 to 5 office job may find it irritating to live with someone who has an alternative work schedule and parties late into the night. When sharing a home with others, try recruit roommates who have similar values, tendencies, and habits as you.
4. Setting Clear Expectations: What do you want your living situation to look like?
Ask your potential roommate to paint a picture of what they want their living situation to look like. This will be telling because what the person places emphasis on is likely what matters most to them and might raise any red flags ahead of time. For instance, if the person mentions living in a house that isn’t tidy all the time and you are a clean freak then you may negotiate cleaning responsibilities or you may explain that you have different expectations.
5. Knowing Their Longterm Plan and Goals: Are you looking for long-term or short-term housing?
If you’re just getting to know someone then asking about their long-term goals and plans will help you determine if they are going to be committed to sharing a home with you or are more interested in a temporary pad. Being blunt about this question is completely okay. It benefits everyone when there is no mystery in the equation. You may want to ask other questions that put their response into perspective. For instance, if the person is applying to jobs across the country or mentions an engagement, you might consider these lifestyle changes as a potential factor leading to the person only seeking temporary housing, even if he or she says they want something more permanent.
6. Relationships: Do you have a significant other?
This may seem like a personal question but the truth is it effects you. Your roommates will likely bring people over to your home so knowing what kind of relationships they are in may be helpful. If you don’t constantly want your roommate’s partner around then you might want to gauge the relationship by asking additional subtle questions.
Additionally, keep in mind that as you search for someone to split the bills with don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. Present yourself “as is” and treat the person as you would on a daily basis. Treating the interviewee with kindness and respect is always encouraged, however, there is no need to butter-up your potential roommate. If it’s a good fit then that will be enough to persuade the person to move in. If it isn’t, then you’ve both dodged a bullet by avoiding an unideal living situation.