How to find a good roommate

Whether you're just leaving college or you're in your 40s, finding a roommate can be tricky

Okay, so you've finished college and now you're ready to give the real world a go. Before you dive in, there will be a lot of things to consider. Like where will you live? Are you going to remain in your college town or will you go back home or somewhere else? 

And if you do go back to your hometown, will you move back in with your folks for a while or get a place of your own? 

After asking these questions and a whole lot more, many will go the roommate route and either share a place with someone they know or live with a complete stranger and hope he or she doesn't display any creepiness.

An important decision

But what's the best way to choose a roommate? Because whether you're in or out of college, finding the right person to share your living space with can be just as tricky as finding the right person to date or marry.

Amy Zalneraitis, the author of "Room for Improvement: The Post-College Girl's Guide to Roommate Living," says finding a good roommate after college can be even harder because most people become a little set in their ways when they get older.

"It's not easy at all, especially after college," said Zalneraitis in a TV interview.

Additionally, she said it's important to have more than a conversation or two when choosing a roommate. You should spend actual time together and really try to get to know each other beforehand.

"Getting to know someone before moving in with them [is important]. Hanging out with them, not just having a question and answer session, but really hanging out in social situations," Zalneraitis advised. 

A lot of sharing

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 15,000 homes in New York City that had three or more roommates in 2008, just to give you an idea of how many people are sharing their living expenses and their overall space.

But it's not just people living in big cities who decide to get a roommate, it happens everywhere -- smaller towns, the suburbs, rural areas, you name it.

And people just out of college aren't the only ones who want or need to live with a roommate; people in their late 20s, 30s, and 40s find it easier to split their living expenses too.

Take Luke Crane, Rick Brown, Danaher Dempsey and Shyaporn Theerakulstit for example -- four men close to their 40s who decided to cohabit.

Remarkably, they all lived together for a total of 18 years and they told a reporter from The New York Times how living together helped them save money and fund their individual pursuits.

"The freedom this has allowed me to have -- to figure out my own quirks and foibles -- has been much more important than investing in things that might have tied me down to something that would have kept me figuring those other things out," said Dempsey. 

Roommate hunting strategy

Dan Ross, manager of the roommate pairing site Roommate Express, told MSN that when you're looking for a good roommate, you should take a peek into a person's living and employment history.

"You need to know what you can live with and what you can't," said Ross. "The compatibility issue outweighs everything. The future will be dictated by the past. Look at their work history for the last year. If they bounce from job to job, that's bad. If they've lived in four or five places in the last year, that's bad," he said.

When you do find a roommate, experts say to discuss the big and important things right off the bat. Like when and how everyone will pay the rent and their portion of the bills.

You'll have to organize a cleaning schedule too, and figure out who will clean what and exactly when cleaning time will be.

In addition, it's always good to lay out what the rules will be for sharing things like food, each other's appliances and other things in the home. Plus, what will the rules be for overnight boyfriends and girlfriends? And if you have a friend visiting from out of town, will it be okay if he or she stays for a week or will this kind of visit annoy your roommate.

It's best to iron out all of these things before you and your roommate start living together, since you'll probably be able to have a better conversation about what's expected from each other beforehand.

Know yourself

Amy Canevello, Ph.D., a psychologist at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte says knowing what your likes and dislikes are will be of great importance before you start looking for a roommate.

And just because you may have similar personalities or like the same things, doesn't mean that you and that person will be compatible as roommates. Finding someone who you'll be able to easily communicate with should be one of the main things you look for in a potential roommate.

"You're going to be spending at least some amount of time with this person, so it requires communication skills and self-awareness to make it go well," said Canevello. "You want to know what the other person's like, but you have to have at least equal concern about what you're like."

And when it comes to bringing pets into a new roommate situation, Zalneraitis says it's never a good idea.

"It's never a good idea to have pets, because inevitably the roommate ends up taking care of it at one time or another," she says.

And getting a new roommate takes time, explained Zalneraitis, so you never want to make a quick decision, no matter how great that initial meeting or interview might be.

"You have to meet a lot of different people and really get to know them," she says. "It's like a marriage, you have to date first. If you're moving in with someone it's a huge commitment."

Lastly, Zalneraitis says sharing a place with a best friend isn't necessarily the best idea, because again, it's not about finding a person who you have a lot in common with, it's about finding a person who best matches your living style.

Story provided by ConsumerAffairs.
Consumer Affairs

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