Finding and Living With Roomies: Your Roommate Survival Guide

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” This is one of the most famous literary quotes of all time – but it also sums up pretty perfectly how it feels to live with roomies.

When you get along really well, it’s like having a best friend you can hang out with all the time. When you aren’t getting along, though, it can feel uncomfortable, tense, or even unbearable to be at home. The thing is, living with roommates is a good thing the majority of the time. It helps you save some money on bills, it keeps you from feeling lonely, and it’s usually an OK living situation overall.

Bottom line: sharing a home with a roommate can be tough if you’re not prepared—just ask the 17% of people in a survey who moved out of their rental housing because of roommate issues. According to the survey, renters say these are the worst roommate traits to have:

  • Leaving the living room or kitchen messy (35%)
  • Using another roommate’s things without asking (34%)
  • Blasting loud music (13%)
  • Always having a significant other around (11%)
  • Eating another roommate’s food (6%)

To keep things from getting bad, you just have to set yourself up for success. That means following this survival guide to find compatible roomies and live with them peacefully for the duration of your lease:

Hold Interviews

When you’re first searching for compatible roommates, you should dedicate a good deal of time and energy toward getting it right. There are a couple of ways you can go about this: You can ask friends if they or anyone they know needs a place to live and start there. Or, you can try searching for strangers who also need a place to live through apps and Web resources.

If you’re considering living with friends, just remember that, while it may seem fun at first, things can go downhill pretty fast if you aren’t compatible as roommates. It’s a good idea before deciding to live together to sit down over coffee or drinks and talk a bit about your lifestyles, cleaning habits, and other relevant quirks that could affect your compatibility.

If you’re looking for strangers to live with, spend some time holding multiple interviews with each person. And stay safe: Make sure you meet any potential roommate in person before agreeing to move in with him or her.

Look for Red Flags

During the interview process (or when considering living with friends), there are some red flagsyou should look out for. Has the person ever had disagreements with roommates before? What were they about? Has he or she ever been evicted or fined? Does he or she have a consistent job?

In short, make sure you’re agreeing to live with someone who is just as responsible as you are when it comes to paying rent, keeping the apartment in good condition, and getting along with roomies. These, along with certain compatibility issues, are the most important things you should know before signing a lease together.

Put Everything in Writing

Speaking of signing a lease together, you absolutely should. Even if you’re searching for someone to sublease an extra room in your apartment for only a few months, the person you find should sign an agreement saying he or she is going to pay X amount each month, cover damages to the apartment, and take responsibility.

If he or she doesn’t sign the actual apartment lease, you can find sublease agreements online. Print one out, and have everyone living in the apartment sign it to make sure the person is legally accountable for the terms you’ve agreed to. It’s better to be safe than sorry – especially if you’re living with a stranger.

Talk About Money Up Front

When you’re trying to find a roommate, be completely up front about how much the person will be responsible for paying, both in rent and monthly bills. Then, when you all move in together, sit down and have a talk about money again.

It’s crucial to make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to who’s paying for what. Is someone paying a little extra to have their own bathroom? Who’s in charge of the electricity, gas, cable, and Internet bills?

Come Up With House Rules

Another conversation you should have when you move in with anyone – whether they’re strangers or friends – is what you can all expect as far as cleaning the apartment, sharing food, having overnight guests, and other household rules.

Again, getting everyone on the same page about these up front will be an important part of diffusing disagreements down the road–and put it all in writing. If someone isn’t doing his or her fair share of cleaning, for example, you can say, “We all agreed when we moved in that you would be in charge of this task. If you aren’t willing to, we should all sit down and come up with a new system.”

Prepare to Compromise – A Lot

Remember that when you live with roommates, you’re all sharing a home with one another. That means you have to recognize that people have different habits at home, and that not everything is going to be done “your way.”

Prepare to compromise on everything from decor to cleanliness – it’s your roomies’ apartment too. And don’t forget: communicate, communicate, communicate. Then communicate some more. Talking through issues is the best way to resolve them in a mature and effective way.

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