Living alone can be nice, but for a lot of New Yorkers, it makes fiscal sense to split the costs of an apartment with a perfect roommate. However, finding a good one can be a difficult process whether you’re renting out a room or moving into a new NYC location.
In NYC, choosing a good roommate is just as if not more important than finding a good boyfriend or girlfriend. After all, you’re going to be living in close proximity to them and signing a lease together so you want to make sure that you’ll have similar habits and at least get along.
Have a Checklist
It’s not always easy to find a good match, and while you probably won’t find someone who ticks all the boxes, you want to find someone who hits all the right marks.
For best results, create a list of all the required traits you want from a roommate, important things include:
- Level of cleanliness – are you a neat freak? Then you probably want to make sure your roommates are also clean
- Schedule – if you need to get up early in the morning, you probably don’t want a roommate who comes home late at night
- Personality – you don’t have to be friends with your roommate, but you should be cordial to each other. Generally speaking, you’ll want someone who is mature, responsible and friendly.
- Pets – are you allergic to cats and/or dogs? Skip any roommates who have them. Extend to all pets if you don’t want to deal with having to potentially take care of your roommates fish or hamsters when they’re out on vacation.
- Guest policy – chances are you and your roommate will probably have friends and/or dates over, but if you’re an introvert, you probably don’t want someone who has people over all the time.
- Drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, etc. – If you’re a smoker, then make sure your roommate knows that. As well, if you want a non-smoking roommate, chances are you wouldn’t be happy with a chain-smoker. Same thing with people who do drugs and drink a lot. Figure out what your limits are.
- Noise levels – if you want a quiet household, you need to make sure your roommates don’t blare their music and tv throughout the day. You should also be wary of musicians as they’ll often have people over for jam sessions.
You can communicate all of these points in your ad, but the majority of people looking for a roommate or a place to stay are probably applying to dozens of listings so they might not have read your ad. Once you do receive response, you’ll need to ask the tough questions to ensure both of you are uncomfortable with the living situation.
Look Outside of Your Friend Group
Just because you get along with someone as a friend doesn’t mean you’ll be good roommates. In fact, many friendships have broken down because their personalities and habits simply didn’t work out in living situations. Of course, that doesn’t mean all friends turned roommates are doomed to fail. It just means you need to be extra cautious when making that step. Ask just as many questions as you would to a potential roommate you don’t know. When visiting their current apartment, look around to see if there are any red flags that would lead to a bad living situation like an unkempt apartment, lots of empty booze cans, dishes in the sink, etc.
You can and should use your friend network to find other people who might be looking for a place to stay. Generally, friends of your friends tend to at least be good people, though you should absolutely still hold interviews to make sure they’re the right fit. And if you don’t find anyone there, use online classifieds and social media.
Take Your Time
Hopefully you have some advance notice when it comes to finding a new place or new roommate. You should try to set aside at least a full month for finding a roommate, but if you don’t have that luxury, at least meet several different people. While the first person might seem perfect, take the time to actually meet the others and spend a day or two making your decision.
Before making your choice, ask for references from their previous roommates. Obviously during an interview a roommate is going to put their best foot forward and while people won’t necessarily lie to you, it’s always good to hear from someone who currently lives with them. Perhaps they’ll give you more details that your potential roommate might have left out. And don’t stop there. Run a background check on your roommate. It might sound cold, but you want to be aware of things like a criminal record and poor credit rating.
Also, don’t be afraid to email all the candidates and ask follow up questions for more details. The more information you have, the better your choice will be.
Figure out Expenses
Besides rent, you should be upfront about any other costs and how you expect to share it with the roommates. Utility bills should be a given and split evenly, but you should also figure out how you intend to split the costs for household items such as toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, etc. You could agree to split each bill or you each of you would pay for every other purchase. Whatever the case, you need to come to an understanding of how you intend to split the costs.
The next big thing is food costs. Some people are okay with splitting food while others are not. Get a clear understanding of how to handle costs. If your roommate is not okay with splitting, then you might want to get a label maker and mark all of your food. It might sound petty, but if you’ve come to the agreement to not share food costs, you don’t want to spend more money than necessary. If you’re more of a sharer, respect your roommates wishes and don’t eat any of their food! That’s a quick way to get into fights. Ultimately, when looking for a roommate you want to feel comfortable with the person you’ll be sharing your apartment with.