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4 Things to Look for in a Roommate

[Updated: Apr 08, 2020] Jan 29, 2020 by Maurie Backman
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There are plenty of good reasons to get a roommate -- the savings involved in splitting rent, the ability to afford a larger space, and the built-in security of having another person under your roof. But unless you happen to know someone trustworthy who's looking to share a home, you may need to rely on crowdsourcing or the good old internet to find someone to live with. And that could be a challenging prospect.

While there are sites out there (think Roomster, Roomie Match, or Craigslist) that can help you find someone to live with, they have their limitations:

  • You don't always get a complete picture of the person you'd potentially be living with.
  • You don't always get initial insight into their finances -- which is huge when you're signing up to share in a large expense.
  • Many of these sites charge for premium access, which is what you really need to utilize them to the fullest.

Therefore, while roommate-matching sites are a good starting point, ultimately, you may be better off finding a roommate by networking -- blasting out the news that you're roommate hunting on your social media accounts and asking your friends, colleagues, and long-lost cousins if they know anyone where you're looking to move. And here are some of the qualities you ought to look for once those recommendations start rolling in.

1. A steady job

A roommate who's fun, friendly, and easygoing may seem like a good fit. But if that person doesn't have a steady job and a regular paycheck to go with it, run the other way. The last thing you want to do is move someplace where you end up subsidizing your roommate's rent to avoid getting evicted. If you're meeting a potential roommate out of the blue, get the details of:

  • Where he or she works.
  • How long he or she has held down that job.
  • Whether he or she has any intention of leaving to pursue a less stable means of employment -- like singing in a band or selling hand-knit clothing at street fairs for a living.

2. Decent credit

It's common practice for landlords to run a credit check on prospective tenants before agreeing to rent to them. Therefore, you shouldn't hesitate to ask questions about your potential roommate's credit -- like what his or her score is and whether he or she has a copy of that number, or of his or her credit report, to share. Poor credit should be a major red flag in your book, since it means that person has historically done a bad job of borrowing responsibly and managing his or her bills. Of course, if you're going to ask for a potential roommate's credit details, be prepared to share your own -- hopefully, yours won't send other people running.

3. Lifestyle habits that align with yours

It stands to reason that a roommate with lifestyle habits that mimic yours may be a better fit than your polar opposite. For example, if you're a neat freak, you'll want someone who appreciates a tidy home as well, as opposed to someone who regards cleaning as optional. Similarly, if you're the go-to-bed-early type, you don't want someone who will host gatherings at your home until all hours of the night. Ask lots of questions along these lines before agreeing to live with someone so you don't make the wrong choice.

4. The right amount of desired social interaction

Unless you're itching for a roommate-best friend combination, the person you live with should probably have a life and hobbies of his or her own. If that doesn't hold true, then you may find yourself smothered every time you walk in the door or settle down on the couch with a book for some alone time. That said, you probably don't want the opposite extreme, either -- a roommate who barely gives you the time of day and is vehemently opposed to the idea of splitting a pizza when you're both stuck home on a Friday night. Finding that ideal balance is key.

Choosing the right roommate is no easy feat, so prioritize the qualities that are most important to you -- keeping in mind that the ones above are a really good starting point. With any luck, you'll find the perfect person to bunk with.

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