If a room is opening up in your home, it can be a wonderful opportunity to bring in someone new. Having a roommate is a great way to ease your finances, and it is also a good way to inject new energy into the house. If nothing else, finding a new roommate is also a good way to meet someone new or develop a closer relationship with someone already in your life.
As long as you are careful with who you select as your new roommate, there should not be any issues.
Finding the perfect roommate can be broken down into two key components: knowing where to look and, once you have a pool of candidates, knowing how to select the right one. Once you find the person you would like to be your new roommate, make sure to talk about including both renters on the lease put all of your agreements in writing, including what should happen if one or both of you decides living together not working out.
Use Your Network
Spread the word to the people you know about your search for a roommate. Ask if any of your friends knows anyone looking for a place to live. If a friend of yours is somehow acquainted with a potential roommate, even if indirectly, then that potential roommate may be more likely to be compatible with you than a complete and total stranger. If nothing else, you have your mutual connection in common. Use the power of social media to reach out to friends of friends of friends.
Give Multiple Interviews
It should be obvious to interview more than one potential roommate and to avoid giving the room to the first person you interview. Less obvious, but equally important, is to interview any person under serious consideration for the room more than just once. A second interview can tell you a lot about a person that you did not gauge the first time.
When you interview a prospective roommate, be sure to ask the tough but important questions. Find out his or her likes and dislikes and the kind of lifestyle the roommate leads. Include some variation of the following:
- What time do you wake up and go to bed?
- Do you cook or eat out and order in?
- Do you watch a lot of television or play a lot of video games?
- Do you have friends over often?
- Are you dating anyone? Do you expect to have frequent overnight guests?
- What hours do you work?
- What hours are you at home?
All of these questions will help you gauge how compatible you are with another person to coexist in the same household. Be sure to ask as well about what he or she does for a living, to find out both where the rent and utilities payments will come from and where the candidate’s interests lie. Ask about the renter’s prior housing history, including how long he or she lived at different places and why he or she left each time. You can also ask whether the renter has always gotten his or her security deposit back. Do not be afraid to reach out to previous landlords to learn more.
Make Keen Observations
In addition to the answers a potential roommate gives to your interview questions, observe nonverbal cues your potential roommate gives you during the interview process. Some things to observe include:
- Does he or she answer questions clearly or beat around the bush?
- Does he or she maintain eye contact or look everywhere but straight at you?
- Does he or she pay attention or glance at the phone every five seconds?
Make a mental note of all of these factors to help you later in more fully assessing a candidate’s viability to live with you.
Be Honest and Expect Honesty
Do not be so eager to fill a room that you neglect to inform prospective roommates about any aspects about the home you are afraid will turn them off from being interested in moving in after all. If you are not the cleanest or quietest roommate around, give full disclosure to prospective roommates so they too can decide whether or not they can live with you. Tell the roommate everything you would want someone to tell you if you were the one looking for a new apartment. Let prospective roommates know all the costs involved in the home that would be expected of them. If you intend to split certain bills, state which ones and give an estimate of how much each costs per month.
Likewise, at the end of every interview, ask prospective roommates if there is anything else they feel you should know about them that has not yet been addressed. After you get an answer, ask next what their expectations would be of you as a roommate. It is just as important to know if you meet their qualifications as it is to know if they can meet yours.
Your impressions of another person can be a helpful guide to how well you two might live together, but you should not rely on your impressions alone. Request references from anyone you are considering. Do not just assume because the person gave you references, they must be good. Make the effort to contact those references and find out if the person was as good a roommate as he or she claims or seems.
Always get more than one reference and current contact information. The reference can be a landlord or a roommate, but it should not be a family member or friend. Another useful way to research prospective roommates is to perform a background check on them. You will have to get his or her permission and pay money for the background check, but it can tell you a lot that neither words nor nonverbal cues suggest.
Do Not Rush
Above all, do not rush into any roommate situation for any reason. Haste is the worst motivator of all to find a roommate. If rent is about to come due and you still have not found a roommate, pay it. If you cannot, ask the landlord for an extension, explaining the situation. In the meantime, you can also find ways to save money at home during your search. If at all possible, without risking your own tenancy, it is far better to spend an extra month looking for the perfect roommate than picking a bad roommate out of desperation.