Living with a roommate is the purgatory between your parent’s basement and having your own place. It allows you to actually have a date over without the shame of having to walk past your dad watching the History Channel in his underwear. For anywhere from $200 – $600 a month you can enjoy the perks of almost having your own place. Some people become best friends with their roommates. Others aren’t so lucky and are forced to share their living space with someone they can’t stand. There are a lot of risks to rooming with a stranger. By asking these five questions before hand you can get a good idea of what you’re getting yourself into, and will help determine whether you two (or three or twenty) can coexist peacefully.
1. What’s your biggest pet peeve?
You really should answer this for yourself as well and incorporate it into a question of your own. I always asked this question to potential roommates as I wanted to find out the ways I could unintentionally piss them off. It may never be an issue that they vomit at the scent of a feta cheese, unless feta is your favorite food. There’s also many habits you might have that are completely normal that end up being an issue for your roommate. In addition to discussing possibly annoyances, it’s also a good idea to ask them what complaints past roommates have had about them. Be ready to offer up a few weaknesses of your own in exchange.
2. Do you smoke, drink or do any drugs? If so, how often?
This is important, whether you partake in any of these or not. Being in the military I tried to steer clear of any roommates who used illegal drugs as I did not want to risk second hand exposure causing me to fail a drug test. I’m also not a fan of second hand smoke, so this was another deal breaker for me. A word of wisdom; if you don’t want to breath smoke, don’t agree to live with someone who says they will smoke outside. They may honor this, but there is also a good chance there will be times when they just smoke indoors anyway. If you’re a smoker, it’s important to ask if your roommate has any issues with it for these same reasons.
Alcohol usually isn’t an issue with most roommates, though it could be if they’re a recovering alcoholic or have religious objections to it. Even drinking elsewhere and coming home intoxicated may be an issue for them psychologically, so you’ll want to ask ahead of time.
3. What hours are you asleep? Are you noisy when you’re awake? Do you have people over often? Do you mind if I have people over?
I have found that most reasonable roommates are generally ok if you have a someone stay over provided they don’t stay more than a night or two at a time. As a general rule, as long as it doesn’t feel like there’s an extra roommate living for free, most people will not complain. You’ll want to find out if your roommate is on the same sleep schedule you are, and if not, make sure you won’t be a disturbance to each-other during your opposite waking hours.
4. How do you feel about food?
Some roommates consider anything in the fridge to be fair game. Others keep an inventory of everything, and I mean everything. If the label on their Cheez Its box states approximately 52 servings of crackers, your bean counting roommate knows the exact amount and will slide a bill under your door the next day for the handful you grabbed.
I’ve also had roommates who played food politics. I lived with a guy who saw me cooking a steak and went out of his way to insist that I used his steak seasoning. I didn’t see the harm, sprinkled a little bit on my meal and thought nothing of it. A few days later I found half a tub of my ice cream missing. When I confronted him he told me “well I let you use my steak seasoning!”. I ended up getting tool boxes with a padlock to store my ice cream in after that.
5. What’s your definition of warm?
Personally, I’d rather blow $50 a month extra on utilities to be able to wear shorts and a t-shirt in the winter and sleep under a comforter in the summer. Your roommate may have other ideas and could find it perfectly acceptable to force everyone in the house into wearing a parka to save a few dollars on the heating bill. Your idea of a comfortable indoor temperature is an important topic to cover, especially if your utilities are not included with the rent.
By College editor
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