Need a Roommate?
By Will from Holland
Whether you've already moved out or are planning your first move away from home, picking the right roommate is a big deal. That person will have an impact on both your pocketbook and your mental health.These tips can help make the experience a solid one!
- Develop an apartment budget.
Having your own place means facing a lot of new responsibilities and expenses that you didn't have before. You'll want to make sure any potential roomie knows the total amount of the expenses that they will be responsible for each month. Be sure to include rent, utilities, internet service, insurance, cleaning costs, charges for parking an extra vehicle, etc.
- Always ask for a deposit from your roomie.
If the apartment is in your name alone, you are solely responsible for any rental or lease agreement AND any damages. By requiring a deposit, you're making your new roomie a stakeholder in keeping the apartment shipshape and your relationship with your landlord on best terms.
- Decide what items are "deal breakers" when it comes to your roomie.
Does the person have to be the same sex as you? (Some guys will look for a woman as an apartment mate because they think a woman will do more to keep the apartment shipshape! Don't count on it!) Can you live with a smoker? Would you accept a roommate that works nights? Do you want to live with someone who always parties? Would you let a roomie have regular sleep-overs with friends? Are you a total train wreck when it comes to neatness? Would a neatnik drive you crazy? Do you have a giant pet boa constrictor? Be fair: Any potential roomie deserves to know about your pet (and any of these other deal breakers) up front! Finding a compatible roommate is important!
- Decide who is going to get the first choice of bedrooms.
Are you determined to have the Presidential Suite or the room with the balcony? Be prepared to say that up-front to any prospective roomies.
- Decide what duties you expect your roomie to complete.
Are you going to share general cleaning duties? Do you care if the roomie's room is a wreck? Who takes out the garbage? Are you planning to share the refrigerator? Are you going to share groceries?
- Develop an "Apartment Rundown" sheet.
This sheet should detail most of the pointers we've discussed. Share it with any serious prospective roommate. You may think it's corny to be this organized, but you'll be glad you did this. Even the closest roommates have disagreements, and a black-and-white list you both have agreed to in advance can prevent or solve a lot of future hassles.
- Note: Many lease/rental agreements DO NOT permit another roommate without the landlord's prior knowledge and permission. Be sure to check on this before you do anything.
Next up, searching for your roomie:
- Whether you're at school or working, consider starting your search there.
Sometimes, it's nice to have a roomie that isn't part of your "working" life, but finding a person related to your work or your school has its advantages: You'll start out with something in common, and if you're lucky, you may find ways to team up and commute together. Check websites and bulletin boards.
- Check out local newspapers and websites.
Most have "Roommate Wanted" sections.
- Head to the social networks or websites such as roommate.com or craigslist.org.
But watch it! Scam artists and weirdos cruise those sites. "Searching for a roommate" scams are all over the place. Follow our tips carefully to protect yourself, and be sure to read our "roommate scam" article. Lastly, Google "roommate scam" to check the latest scams out there.
Making the selection:
- Interview all prospects first on the phone—or better yet, via video call (like Skype or FaceTime).
A little distance makes it easier to say "No" if your instinct quickly tells you a person isn't right for you.
- Share your "Apartment Rundown" sheet.
Now is the time to weed out the definite "Dos and Don'ts" and this sheet can help you do just that.
- Ask for a couple of recommendations (another tip that sounds corny, but do it!).
If a person is hesitant to give you recommendations, that in itself tells you something.
- Call the recommendations!
- Set up an appointment to meet the person—but let the person know that you aren't going to decide at that meeting.
Saying this up-front takes any pressure off you to say "Yes" quickly. If you're already very comfortable with the person, have them meet at your pad. Big tip: Do not choose a roommate without meeting them in person.
Sealing the deal:
- Don't let any stranger move in who hasn't paid.
Be on guard if a potential roomie (friend or stranger) says, "Oh, I'll need a week or two to get the money to you." Once moved in, it's tough to get them out.
- Set the payment date on your roomie's contribution a couple of weeks before your rental due date.
If your rent and utilities are due around the first, collect money two weeks earlier. This gives you a time cushion if your roomie runs into cash-flow problems.
Do you really need to be this serious about picking a roomie? Yes! Spending some time now to be thorough will absolutely save you money and headaches later.
Make Sense? Hopes this helps.