Jun 17, 2014

How to Choose a Roommate: What Matters & What Doesn't

It's easy to take finding a roommate lightly, especially when you're looking at a fast market like the NYC housing market.

When everything is out-the-wahoo expensive and finding a semi-reasonably placed room in a less than 10 bedroom apartment (most young professionals don't want to go straight back into dorm style living), anything sounds better than homelessness.

Which it is.

But do you really want to pay 2k a month (ouch, NYC rent) to room with a bunch of slobs that you can't stand? Most leases are at least a year long and those annoying habits can be, well, annoying.

Finding a roommate may even be considered a greater commitment than finding a boyfriend - you can't easily break up with a roommate!

But just like with boys, if you have a million and one deal breakers on your roommate list, you're going to find yourself without a roommate.

And who has the money for that? Maybe the Queen of England.

From a seasoned roommate expert (I've had roommates for over 8 years), here are some things that really matter and some that really don't in the roommate search!

Matters: Cleaning habits.

I've roomed with girls who leave dishes in the sink for days or even weeks. Girls who never scrub the shower. Girls who write up cleaning schedules, but consistently fail to deliver when it's their turn. All that does is build up resentment and make your home an embarrassing place to bring guests.


Make sure you have someone whose standard of cleanliness matches yours. 'Nuff said.

Doesn't: Decorating style.

Your shared apartment isn't your home for life. Decorate your room as you wish and compromise on the common spaces. It's unreasonable to expect your temporary roommate to have the same interior decorating taste as you and/or to contribute a large amount of money to getting decorations that you like for the common spaces.

Matters: Use of space.

I've roomed with everyone from people who are never home (pretty great, it's close to having a single) to total homebodies who are home for all but three or four hours a week.


From experience, unless you're planning to always be out of the apartment during waking hours or if you don't care at all about having any alone time at all, don't room with someone who works from home. Living with a hermit can be really trying.

Doesn't: Socialization habits.

While you probably don't want someone who is always around, it doesn't matter if they're a party animal or not (as long as they party happens out of your apartment).

As long as your roommate is respectful about keeping noise down if she comes home late, it doesn't matter if she likes to stay out until 4am dancing or if she prefers going out for a peaceful dinner on Saturday night and then turning in early. You don't need to find a carbon copy of yourself to be happy.

Matters: Pet peeves.

If your roommate does one of your absolute pet peeves all the time, it's not going to be a pleasant living experience.


Matters: Hygiene.

I've had roommates that let food mold in the fridge for weeks. That's not just a problem for them, it's a problem for you - if you're storing your food in the same place, as you will likely have to, it increases your risk of falling ill due to poor hygiene practices.


Doesn't: Friendship.

You don't need to be best friends with your roommate. A friendly, but not-friends, rooming situation can be the best for drama-free, stress-free living.


Matters: Guest policy.

From someone who has been there, be careful to talk over guest policies with your potential roommates. Having someone who treats the apartment as a hotel for any visiting friends or relatives and/or friends all the time can turn what you that would be a peaceful home into a dormitory.



Skip it.

Matters: Substances.

If you're rooming with a smoker or a drug-user, even if they say they'll only do it outside of the apartment, chances are it will affect you. Either the smell will come in with them on their clothes, you'll have to deal with erratic behavior (fi they do drugs or drink heavily), or they'll start doing it in the apartment.


Sucks, but I (and several of my friends) have ended up with roommates at some point or another that smoked pot in the apartment and made us extremely uncomfortable. Since it's a huge deal for me to not have that stuff around, one of my top deal breakers is substance use. That said, a little wine with dinner or mild social drinking is just fine.

Doesn't: Age.

I've lived with everyone from near-agemates to people almost a decade older than me.


Maturity, lifestyle, and respect is way more important than age in determining whether a potential roommate is really roommate material.

What are your deal breakers?

Do you have any roommate horror stories?

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