This article comes to us from our friends over at porch.com
Freedom! Moving out on your own brings independence, flexibility, and responsibility. Renting your own place has some great benefits, and having a roommate to share the bills and popcorn as you watch movies together can be sweet. We have some advice to help you find the right place and the right roomie.
Most people at one time or another will live with someone else as a roommate. This might be in a college dorm, a place when you’ve moved out on your own, or when you’ve hit a bump in the road financially and appreciate someone helping out with the bills.
When you search for a roommate, have a good set of expectations in place to reduce miscommunication. This minimizes the chance of hearing from your roommate things like, “You never said you didn’t want a party every Friday night,” or, “I thought you liked dogs… Bruiser’s only 150 lbs.”
Coliving can help you save money on rent and utilities, and when you get along with your roommate, you have a friend to spend time with. To succeed, though, you and your roommate need to be patient, willing to compromise, and empathetic with one another.
We have some great advice not only for finding a great apartment but finding someone to share your space with you, if that’s your choice.
How to Find an Apartment
When you’ve decided to start looking for an apartment, do a little homework first. Look at the neighborhoods and find ones that don’t involve a long commute to your job. You may also want to look at rental houses. Depending on the community, you might be able to find a house that costs less to rent than an apartment. Some people enjoy having a yard and a greater sense of independence, while others love the carefree, maintenance-free life of an apartment.
Figure out what your budget is. Remember to add up all costs associated with renting, including utilities, rental insurance, and incidentals. Budget the cost of furnishing the apartment, too, if you’re just starting out or starting over very few furnishings. Don’t spend more than you can afford.
Deciding Whether to Live Solo or with a Roommate
One of the very first things you’ll need to decide is whether you’ll be living alone or with a roommate. There are advantages to having a roommate, and there are also benefits to living alone. It’s a decision only you can make.
Make a list of the advantages and disadvantages of having a roommate. Advantages might include sharing living costs and being able to live in a nicer apartment or house because someone’s paying half the rent. You might enjoy having companionship, someone to talk to instead of the walls. Negatives might be that your roommate turns out to be a slob, is too loud, or hates your music. You’ll have to make decisions: Is more money in your bank account from sharing expenses worth the loss of privacy?
How to Find a Roommate
If you’ve decided you want or need a roommate, we have some tips on how to find one.
You can go the traditional route and run an ad in the paper. Or, you can advertise on social media. Some people find success posting it on their own Facebook page. Sometimes a friend will have a friend looking for a place so you can find out some background information on that person.
There are lots of online sources to find a roommate. Some of them are Craigslist, ROOM8, RentHoop, RoomieMatch, Roomster, PadMapper, Rainbow Roommate and Roommates.com. Finding a roommate can be fast and easy, or it can take a bit of effort. Take your time because you’ll be living with this person for up to a year or more, depending on the lease length.
Questions to Ask Potential Roommates
When you find coliving candidates, write some questions down before meeting them. You’ll pretty much be interviewing them and with luck, you’ll soon find out how compatible you and the potential roomies are. Some possible questions:
- How would you describe your personality?
- What is your sleep schedule like? (Early riser, stay up all night?)
- How quiet do you like your living space?
- Why are you looking to move in?
- What is your communication style?
- Do you have any pets?
- How often do you have friends over?
- How do you feel about overnight guests?
- What are your expectations of cleanliness? How neat are you?
- What are your expectations of privacy?
- What kind of music/movies/video games do you like?
- Do you already have furnishings?
- What is your lifestyle like?
- Do you smoke?
- Do you have any food or pet allergies?
- What’s your biggest pet peeve?
- What is your idea of an ideal weekend/weekday?
- Do you have a job? Day or night shift?
- How much do you have budgeted to spend on apartment rent/utilities?
- Have you lived with roommates before?
- What questions do you have for me?
Ask the potential roommate financial questions as well, including how he plans to pay his portion. For suggestions of more great questions, you can ask someone wanting to live in your home, check out this site.
Adapting Spaces While Coliving
When you start to share living space with someone else, you’re combining two different personalities into one apartment. This includes melding two decorating styles. There will be a need to cooperate and negotiate – and all roommates need to have a spirit of acceptance. Understand that your idea of decorating might not be your roommate’s and vice versa.
Consider shopping together for new or used furnishings – that way, you can compromise on what goes into the shared living spaces.
House Rules and Chores
While you are searching for a suitable roommate, during the interviewing process, let them know what your expectations are, and remember that the roommate will need to be patient with you, too. There are no perfect roommates, you included.
Before a roommate moves in, have a sit-down and, working together, write a set of house rules. This requires good communication and compromise and will give you a good idea of how compatible you will be with your potential roomie. Find common goals.
Write down the rules. There could even be simple rules like “always replace the toilet paper.”
Be fair, be willing to compromise, treat your new roommate with respect, and expect the same. Most issues and disagreements can be resolved with honest conversation and understanding.
Sharing a Bathroom with Roommates
Sharing a bathroom with roommates can be challenging. Try to keep a loose schedule for things such as showers, and have rules that all roommates clean up after themselves. Keep a list of chores in the bathroom: Clean toothpaste slop from the sink, scrub the toilet, remove hairs from the shower drain, and replace any toiletries you use up. You may want to have separate soaps and shampoos. Respect others’ items.
Kitchen Sharing and Cleaning
The kitchen can be a hotspot, so to speak, for disagreements among roommates. Some people are naturally neat, and others are not. Some wash dishes and some pretend not to see them piling up.
Consider having kitchen and food-sharing rules. Some roommates are generous when it comes to food-sharing and food-buying, while others have specific expectations and do not care to share. If you don’t want to lose the last slice of your leftover birthday cheesecake, make expectations clear.
Write rules (that all agree to) about washing dishes, mopping floors, keeping the table and countertops clear, and other chores and ways to be considerate of the others.
Smoking or Drinking
Lay down house rules when it comes to things like smoking and drinking. Make them clear. Are you a teetotaler (someone who never drinks alcohol), or are you a social or moderate drinker? You’ll want to find a compatible roommate.
Do you smoke or vape? Find out if this is acceptable to a roommate. If you don’t do either and refuse to deal with that in your living space, make that clear and stick to that rule.
Decide whether you want to have a pet in the apartment. Most landlords require a pet deposit and have restrictions on the kinds of pets a renter can have. For instance, there are breeds of dogs that are not allowed in apartments and other rental properties, and if dogs are allowed, there may also be weight limits.
Does your potential roommate have a pet already? Does it get along with a pet you may have?
Before you run out to adopt a dog or cat from the shelter, give it some thought. Are you and your roomie going to be living together for the next 12 to 20 years? If not, who takes the pet?
Having Friends Over
This could be a big sticking point. Are you sociable, or prefer to have your space to yourself? Negotiate on rules that both (or more) roommates can agree with. You could negotiate with having people over certain nights of the week. Discuss whether you want (or do not want) parties in the space.
Dealing With a Roommate Who is Messier Than You
You’ve heard horror stories about roommates who leave dishes so long stuff is growing in them, and you have to step over boxes of three-day-old pizza leftovers. If the toilet looks like a petri dish experiment, it’s time to have a heart-to-heart with your roommate about pulling his or her fair share of the cleaning chores.
One way to help nip this in the bud is to create a chores list that everyone agrees to follow before the move-in date. All roommates need to have input in this and make sure the load of chores is even and occasionally rotates. Write down exactly what chores are needed in each room. Post the schedule on a dry-erase board somewhere in plain sight, such as the refrigerator, and change up when needed.
Try to take turns on some big chores, and consider a “wash your own dishes or put in the dishwasher” rule – this cuts down on resentment against the dish-hog in the house. Sticking to this house-cleaning schedule should make for a more peaceful home.
Paying the Rent and Utilities on Time
If you’ve taken on a roommate to help pay bills, you’ll need to make sure your roommate keeps up his or her end of the bargain. Bill-paying should be part of the house rules.
Set clear rules spelling out how much each roommate will pay and when. Are you paying equally, half of the rent, and half of the utilities? Make that clear because some of the utilities may fluctuate every month. Make a list of each monthly utility, too: water and sewer, electricity, possibly propane or natural gas, HOA dues, mandatory apartment rental fees, cable, internet, etc.
Some roommates prefer to be the ones who pay bills with the other roommate(s) paying their portion before the bill is due. In this case, you should require your roomie’s portion about a week before the bill is due. This way, the money is in your account to pay the utility or landlord. To exchange funds, you can rely on one of many money-sharing apps like CashApp and Venmo.
You’ll also need to figure out in whose name the utility bills will go. Remember, whoever’s name is on it is legally responsible for those bills, and failure to pay can show up on your credit report. Likewise, if you’re wanting to build credit, your on-time payments will count toward good credit, too. Also, have a house rule on who pays for late fees in case someone is late paying his or her share.
Enjoy your New Space
Renting an apartment or house – with or without a roommate – is a big responsibility, but you can do it. After you’ve signed the lease agreement and recruited some friends to help you move your stuff in, the fun begins: decorating, hunting down deals on furniture, and planning your first parties or your next evening on the sofa watching Netflix. With or without a roommate, you’ll make some wonderful memories in your new space.
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