Finding a good roommate is as difficult as finding a good life partner. The chemistry has to be right. You don’t need to agree on everything, but there does have to be give-and-take, mutual respect, and open, honest communication. And much like taking a leap into a romantic relationship, there are no guarantees that the “honeymoon phase” between two roommates will last.
One important factor in both types of relationships is recognizing red flags before you commit. If you tend to see the world through rose-colored glasses, take a friend along to meet your prospective roommate, or someone else who can spot a bad egg a mile away. After all, a second opinion on the person you’re going to be sharing a home with is always golden. They may misjudge the person, too, but at least you’ll be able to share the blame with someone should things go awry.
Again, there will never be any guarantees. But watching out for these 10 things before putting your name on a lease with someone will probably save you lots of headaches, time, and money.
A Shady Past
There are many internet sources out there that can help you check out potential roommates — and no, we’re not just talking about Google. For a nominal fee (though some will provide you with basic information for free), many sites provide individualized ratings on people based on criminal backgrounds, lawsuits, bankruptcies, etc. You can also gently ask your new landlord questions about them, such as whether or not they’ve received any noise complaints or payed their rent on time. Personal references are also quite helpful if you can get them.
Bad Blood With Their Last Roommate
Always remember to ask prospective roommates why their last roommate moved out. This will reveal a lot about the people you’re interviewing. Stammering and evasive comments may mean they’re hiding something. For that reason, you’ll find that a direct answer, whether it be positive or negative, is the best sign. If their old roommate simply needed more space or wanted to have a pet the other person was allergic to, you’re in clear. On the other hand, if their response is “I don’t know. Guess he/she just wanted to move on,” you might just have stumbled upon a red flag.
No Steady Source of Income
Paying the rent on time is key to a good relationship with your landlord, a good credit rating, and a peaceful night’s sleep. So make sure you’re sharing your apartment with someone who has a reliable source of income. This is another question you can discreetly ask the landlord before committing to a lease with a relative stranger.
Selfish and Unkind
Living with a roommate is a partnership that demands sharing and kindness. Everyone deserves a place that’s all their own, like a bedroom, but certain items like small appliances (toasters, TVs, etc.) are generally shared if they’re in a common space such as the living room or kitchen.
Ask to peek into your prospective roommate’s refrigerator. If all the items have names on them, are organized by shelf, and contain threats regarding what will be done if someone else touches them, you may want to pass on them and find someone a little less controlling and self-centered.
Ads for roommates that are vague or contain a lot of basic spelling and grammar errors could indicate a general lack of pride and initiative. If the person doesn’t care about presenting a good image of themselves in an ad, they might not care too much about personal hygiene or good housekeeping, either.
Narrow-Minded and Nasty
One of the best things about living with someone new is getting the chance to learn all about their personal interests and hobbies and sharing all of yours with them. You may not share their passion for scuba diving or hiking, but it’s fun to know what other people do for fun. If, however, they find your obsession with Game of Thrones laughable or call your love of indoor rock climbing a childish waste of time, walk away. Later down the road, that intolerance for different interests could manifest in much more serious ways.
Ever walk into a bar or restaurant and just get a bad vibe? It might just turn out to be a false alarm, but gut feelings can really save your life sometimes — or keep you from moving in with the wrong person. Conversely, if you feel an instant rapport with a potential roommate, that’s a sign a new friend might have just entered your life.
Most people like to party, but partying means drastically different things depending on who you’re talking to. For instance, an apartment littered with take-out boxes and liquor bottles is usually a sign of heavy-duty partying done on more than just the weekends. If you’re more of a glass of wine after dinner type, this could be a match made in hell.
Chaotic and Cluttered
You meet the would-be roommate and they’re delightful. Everything you’re looking for, they have: compassion, sense of humor, intelligence, etc. However, if they have to step over piles of trash to shake your hand or draw a glass of water from the bathroom faucet because the kitchen sink is full of dirty dishes, take the time to pause and imagine living that way day-in and day-out. Suddenly they’re not looking so perfect, are they?
The Third “Roommate”
Occasionally you’ll run across a prospective roommate who mentions that their significant other sometimes sleeps over, or who’s brother crashes with them “whenever he’s in town.” This is all fine, but if that person is there most all the time, sucking up air, depleting your paper goods, and taking long showers, things can start to get messy. Freeloaders are often invisible to their hosts, but they’re definitely irritating to the roommates who didn’t sign up for an extra person sharing their space.