Tips for a Successful Roommate Search

At one time or another in our apartment-living lives, whether fresh out of college in a new city, or looking for some extra income by refilling that "empty nest", most of us need to move in with a stranger. Which is kind of weird, when you think about it! I mean, you'd be unlikely to invite someone into your home after chatting with them for ten minutes or so on the street, much less let them take a shower, cook a meal, and fall asleep on the couch while you went out with friends. The opposite is true too, of course: if someone you just met at, say, a store, invited you to move into his or her apartment, you'd probably flee. And yet that's pretty much how the finding-a-roommate-game is played. True, you first meet these people through various room/roommate-finder websites and Facebook groups, but you don't "know" them any more than you know anyone else you've only hung out with for a few minutes. And what about moving in with a friend? Or a friend-of-a-friend? Sounds like a potentially better match than the stranger situation, but who knows? You may have fun going to a game or having dinner with a buddy, but living with someone can be a totally different scenario. In fact, it can be easier to shack up with a person with whom you have no history, no social expectations. And although it's certainly ideal to enjoy the company of your roommate(s), and be able to hang out every once in a while at home, making dinner or streaming a couple of shows or just sharing stuff about your day, sometimes the most successful pairings are with people who don't even particularly have much in common. They just live together well.

How to Find a Roommate

So what's the secret to finding a great roommate? There's no sure thing, of course, but here are some field-tested keys to, if not necessarily happiness, then certainly pleasant live-ability.  
1.) Daily Schedule What you're looking for here is someone with a complementary but not exactly the same daily routine. If your potential roommates have regularly-scheduled day jobs, what time do they need to leave the house in the morning to get to work on time? How does that play out with your schedule? Do you both (or all three of you!) need the same 15 minutes in the bathroom in order not to be late? Or if your roommate is a bartender, for example, and gets home at 3:00 a.m., and your bed's right near the kitchen where she's going to be making a snack and crashing around, and you have to be up at 6:30 for work... well you get the idea. In other words, it's a good idea to ask specific questions about what a typical day looks like. 2.) Cleanliness Expectations Everyone has their pet peeves when it comes housecleaning. For instance, I can't stand coming home, or waking up, to dirty dishes in the sink, while others don't think it's a big deal. "Just cook around them, I'll do it later." Then again, you might be grossed out by a bathroom that's not throughly scrubbed weekly, whereas as I can go a month before breaking out the Scrubbing Bubbles. As with everything, communication here is key (passive-aggressive notes don't count). And if you're the one looking for a room, it's pretty easy to tell what is and is not required/enforced in your potential new home. If the person didn't bother to sweep up the cat kibble that's all over the kitchen floor before you came to see the place, he's unlikely to do so on a random Tuesday after you're living there. 3.) Be Honest About Who YOU Are. Don't pretend you love watching reality shows or don't mind the smell of cooking bacon just because the room you've come to see has a nice closet. Is that extra 10 inches of hanger space worth the irritation you'll feel every night when the TV's blaring some inane show and you just want to relax and listen to music while you make dinner? And do those cute faucets in the bathroom make it ok that you have to flee your own home every weekend morning because your roommate's frying up a rasher again and it's making nauseous. No, of course not. No matter how beautiful an apartment may be, you are going to have to be YOU there every day, not some made-up version of you. Know your deal-breakers, and stick to them. 4.) Find the Courage to Compromise Look, you're not going to have everything "your" way always. But unless you plan on living alone for the rest of your life--or, for that matter, never interacting with another human being in any capacity--there's something to be said for learning how to adapt, to adjusting your expectations, to just rolling with things sometimes rather than fighting. You want your home to feel like home, no question, and finding a compatible roommate has a lot to do with your overall comfort level in both an apartment's common areas and even in your own room. So do some soul-searching, maybe even make a list of deal-breakers, then revise it, and don't be afraid to talk about the things that are most important to you as you're going about your search.
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