Living with roommates can be a nightmare, but it is becoming a financial necessity for many of us. Here are some tips to navigate the roommate selection process.
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One of the easiest ways to survive in a new city is to find a roommate. In fact, it’s a great way to save some dough (if not a necessary way)  — you save twice as much and might even make a friend in the process. Oftentimes roommates aren’t a perfect fit however. We have all heard nightmarish roommate stories, or been victimized by a poor roommate ourselves, and it sucks. Here are some red flags to watch out for when searching for your next roommate.

Red flags

Check to see if your potential roommate has reviews online. In college, word gets around fast about which people are safe to live with, and which are not. We may find that our best friends, though great to be around, are the messiest and dirtiest people we’ve ever known. Consider this before moving in with your bestie, or it might turn out awkward. 

Be sure to do all research possible, and learn all you can, before moving in with this person. Ask your friends, acquaintances and leverage your network to see if any of them have connections to, or knowledge of, your roommate. Some of these people may be able to provide information that might make or break this person for you as a roommate. 

If your roommate doesn’t have a job, they’re probably not a good fit. If this sounds obvious, consider that many people choose their friends as roommates. Post-grad life can be tough, but don’t rush to move in with a person who threw frat parties and played video games all day and then be surprised when there’s not enough rent money to go around. Don’t shut people out based on stereotype or prejudice, but with certain types it is best to maybe think twice. 

Look up your roommates’ social media profiles. Though social media only offers a glimpse into someone’s life, you can garner a good sense of who they are and what they are like from pictures on their feed. Most roommates also have a website that they post their availabilities and listings on. If their ads are riddled with spelling and grammar mistakes, that may not necessarily be a deal breaker, but it is a red flag.

The most important thing for a roommate is responsibility. Even if you don’t bond with the person, or if they’re a jerk, as long as they keep their living spaces nice and tidy and are reasonable with cleaning, payments and household duties, it will most likely not be a nightmare to live with them.

On the flip side, if your roommate is very nice to you and becomes one of your good friends, it may be hard to let them know when they’re messing up because you don’t want to ruin the relationship. They may be great people, but if you come downstairs to find underwear on your stove top, an in-person conversation might be merited.

To gauge how responsible a roommate is without living with them first can be tricky. If you sit with them and ask them questions before developing a relationship, it may rub all parties the wrong way and sour the apple, even before settling in.

If a rapport is built with them, however, then civil conversation can take place without seeming too invasive. Lifehacker recommends asking a few questions, including “how long have you been at your job?” and “do you have emergency savings just in case?”

Consider asking them about their past. Questions such as “have you lived with a roommate before?” and “what did you like/dislike about that experience?” can let you know why their last living arrangement did not work out.

The most important thing is building a relationship with your roommate — otherwise, things can go awry from even the smallest of questions. No matter how polite or reasonable you may be, there is bound to be some turbulence in the relationship.

Lifehacker recommends asking other questions, including those about rent, supplies, (“how do you think we should handle buying shared supplies like toilet paper, garbage bags, etc.?”) and, of course, chores (“how do you think we should handle the chores, like cleaning the common areas and washing the dishes?”)


If you are looking for a prospective roommate, consider looking at online resources, asking your network and checking reviews. Also consider writing reviews yourself— just as you are looking for roommates, they are looking for you too.

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Header image: Getty Images


Posted 01.22.2018 - 01:00 pm EST