Thinking about finding a roommate? Do your homework!
When I moved in to my first apartment I was a college student. To save money, I decided to live off-campus with roommates. For a while, everything was rosy. But it didn’t take long for the shine to fade.
I set out to find one and ended up finding three. (Three!) There's always a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend who needs a place -- the person I found knew someone else, and she knew someone else ... and who can say no to rent split four ways? And after all, we were four college girls -- how bad could it be?
We found a large enough apartment and for the first week or so, things seemed great.
Speed forward a couple more weeks and the bad habits began to surface – the emotional drama queen who cried, yelled, or screeched about everything. The alternative-rock diva who blasted her stereo until 3am. The clothes-stealer – I still don’t know what happened my favorite rock concert T-shirt. Needless to say, things fell apart fairly quickly.
I learned this from the experience: do your homework or you could end up with roommates you can't live with.
We ended up kicking out the rock diva – the music was making us crazy and the neighbors were complaining. But the drama queen and the clothing thief were no bargain, either. Eventually, I took what little wardrobe I had left, bid the two goodbye, and found a situation that worked better for me.
But first, I did my homework. Learning from my first experience, I came up with some basic roommate rules:
- Do interviews – have a list of questions of things that are important to you. If you are happy with their answers, don’t be shy about asking for references. Treat it like a job interview.
- Set some ground rules (no music after 11pm, no touching anyone else’s stuff without asking).
- Iron out how the grocery shopping will be handled – will you each buy for yourselves or pool your money and share in the shopping?
- Discuss the rent, due dates and procedures, and the consequences for being late. Do the same for utilities.
- Be clear about what is expected of shared household duties, such as cleaning and laundry. If you are neat and your potential roommate is sloppy, that could be an issue – find out now so you aren’t the only one pushing the vacuum cleaner around and hauling out the trash.
Having a roommate can cut down on living expenses for college students and first-time renters, but be sure to set the ground rules ahead of time.