No matter whether you’re renting your first apartment or have already switched places more often than you can remember, choosing the right person to move in with is terribly difficult. Knowing what questions to ask potential roommates can save you from ending up in an argument later on. When you prepare for your roommate interview it’s great to keep in mind what the most common problems are likely to be. Our survey on this matter showed that the main reasons roommates end up disagreeing or arguing are for not paying the rent on time, being mean to each other or not being interested in becoming friends.
Here are 10 useful questions to ask potential roommates to think about if you want to avoid those unpleasant situations.
1. How often do you clean?
Our survey found that 12.1% of roommates break up because of uncleanliness. No matter whether you’re neat or messy, considerable discord is likely to arise if you’re not on the same page. Since it can be a potentially sensitive topic, avoiding the direct approach is recommended. Instead of risking offense, it’s better to begin your roommate interview by asking how they plan to keep the shared space clean; this isn’t as upfront and you’ll immediately find out if your personalities converge. Asking a potential roommate “how often do you clean?” is likely to go a longer way than asking something blunt such as “Are you a clean person?”.
2. Have you ever had any difficulty paying the rent on time?
If you live in an expensive city like New York or San Francisco, you already know how much you need to rely on your roommate(s) to make the rent every month. According to our survey, not paying the rent is the main reason roommates break up, so it’s important to put it at the top in your list of questions to ask a roommate. Listen for clues to figure out if they’re financially reliable or have a pattern of late payments. Another way of arriving at the same answer is to ask about their job or how often they changed workplaces in the past year or so.
3. Do your friends come over often?
Another important question to ask a potential roommate is to ask about their partying habits. One way to go about it is to ask something like: “and do your friends come over often?”. While you don’t want to be staunch about it and a killjoy, you want to make sure a few loose rules are in place which you both abide by. For example, agreeing to throw parties only on weekends will make sure you get your much-needed shut-eye time for work or classes during the week.
4. What’s your typical schedule?
Housemates can have a rough time with each other if their schedules don’t match. One wants to sleep while the other one wants to play video games with the volume all the way up. You don’t need to have identical schedules, but the more different they are, the more you want to make sure you can accommodate each other. It’s best to discuss your schedules right away and make sure you can find workarounds where troublesome mismatches come up.
5. Do you have pets?
Even if you’re a pet lover, you really need to ask yourself if you’re ok with someone else’s fluffy little beast scurrying around your apartment. Try to see if you can meet the little guy or at least confirm with the owner that they’re not trouble. Allergies are something to keep in mind as well. And even if you’re totally against pets, don’t turn potential roommates down until you’ve made sure it’s truly something that may bother you – after all, there’s a big difference between living with a German Shepherd and living with Dory the fish.
6. What indoor temperature do you like best?
Opinions will often diverge when it comes to the ideal room temperature, so you want to make this one of the things to ask a potential roommate. Besides comfort, the temperature you choose will show up on your utility bills. What can save tremendous trouble is to have the option to adjust your bedroom temperature independently from the rest of the house, so it’s good to remember to check this with the landlord. If that is not possible, talk openly to your future roommate and agree on a compromise, if needed.
7. Do you think we’d get along well?
Some people want to hang out with their new roommate and expect to become friends; they would find it natural to share their belongings. But just as common are the people who don’t expect much more than the occasional hello while passing each other in the hallway. These people often don’t show much interest in sharing and see themselves as living solitary lives, parallel to their roommates. Renters living with a roommate reported in our survey that this was the third most likely thing to get flunked for, so it’s extremely important to set the expectations straight from the beginning.
8. Do you smoke?
You’ll want to know this so that you don’t wake up one day, open the door to the hallway and be hit by a thin cloud of cigarette smoke. If you don’t smoke but your roommate does, and the landlord allows them to do this inside the apartment, it’s potentially a deal-breaker, so make sure to ask whether smoking is permitted
9. Do you have any food restrictions?
“Do you normally keep away from any food items?” is a great question to ask a future roommate. It makes you aware of potential restrictions as to what you can and cannot keep in the apartment, and it shows that you care. Some people might have a health-restricted diet or a bit of an aversion towards certain types of foods, especially if it goes against their belief, principles, or current fitness goals.
10. What would your previous landlord say about you if I called him/her?
When leasing long-term it’s worthwhile to do a quick background check on your future roommate. Although you might not be able to get a recommendation letter or the contact details of their previous landlord, you can still bring up the topic and see what they have to say. A friendly manner to approach the subject is to ask something like: “What would your previous landlord say about you if I called him/her?”. Depending on how easily they talk about their previous renting experience you’ll be able to find out if they’re serial home-busters or not.
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