I moved out of my parent’s home when I was 22, and for the first time, I was in charge of paying real bills and keeping an entire apartment in working condition. No more asking my parents to unclog a toilet or get rid of a bug. I was on my own.
I found out the hard way that finding the right roommate is just as important as finding the right apartment. At first, I lived with one of my good friends from my hometown. Someone who had known me since puberty and still liked me. What could go wrong?
Well, a lot actually. Living with someone is completely different than being friends with them. Turns out, my friend didn’t feel obligated to do any chores, like, at all. As the pile of dishes rose, so did my anger, and I started making passive-aggressive comments. I wasn’t prepared to deal with a strain in our relationship; the tension simmered and inevitably boiled. We don’t hate each other, but we aren’t friends anymore.
I moved in with another friend a month ago, but this time, I was ready. I made sure we were on the same page by asking questions and addressing potential concerns before we even signed the lease.
Here are some questions you should absolutely ask your roommate before moving in together.
How should we handle money?
Once money becomes involved in a friendship, it changes the relationship. I once lived with someone who never bought toilet paper — not even once! It was extremely frustrating to feel like our responsibility wasn’t equal. Instead of talking about it, I just stewed… even though having a conversation would’ve saved me both money and resentment.
Clearly define money expectations up front. It’s not just rent; you have to consider the cost of utilities, groceries, furniture, décor, and household necessities like toilet paper and cleaning supplies. Here are some helpful questions, to start:
- Do you want to split everything (which can include the cost of bills, groceries, furniture, decor, paper goods, cleaning supplies, etc.) 50/50 or do you want to pay separate bills?
- Will we assign the purchasing of shared items? (e.g. I’ll buy toilet paper while you buy milk and eggs).
- Are we going to split the cost of furniture? If so, who will keep the items if one person moves out?
- If one person has a nicer or larger room, will they pay more or will we still split rent equally?
- If one person cranks the heat (or AC), are they responsible for paying the increased bill?
Breakdown a list of every cost you will have and decide how it’s going to be paid. Don’t wait until a bill is due (or you’re out of toilet paper) to bring it up.
What’s your lifestyle?
Not everyone lives the same lifestyle as you. I had six roommates junior year of college, and we each had our own schedule. Most of us were night owls, but one roommate went to bed at 9:30 p.m. and woke up at 5:00 a.m.. She asked us to be quiet one night at 10 p.m. when we were up talking, and we had to ask her to be quiet in the morning, as we slept in. It was difficult to adjust at first, but we all realized that we had to be more respectful.
Being upfront about your lifestyles will allow you to plan ahead on how to make compromises. If you like the apartment to be cold while your roommate likes it hot, discuss that ahead of time. Then you won’t get in a passive aggressive fight over the air conditioning setting. Some important things to ask are:
- What time do you go to bed and when do you wake up?
- Do you like it hot or cold when you sleep?
- When is it okay to have people over? When is it not?
Of course, since you and any roommates will all be responsible for keeping your apartment clean, you must also talk about chores and your cleanliness levels. How are you going to divvy up chores, and how often should they be done? Be honest about what you’re comfortable with. I once lived with someone who preferred to clean a little bit every day, while I preferred to do one big clean on Saturday. She would be frustrated when I would come home from work and be too tired to clean, while I would get annoyed when she wouldn’t be there with me on Saturdays. It’s a very small difference, but it caused tension in our relationship. Try asking:
- How long are you willing to leave dirty dishes in the sink?
- How often should we clean the bathroom?
- Do you prefer not wearing shoes inside?
Eventually, we compromised and created a cleaning schedule. We decided to vacuum and clean the kitchen counter and table every day, but would leave scrubbing the bathrooms and laundry to the weekend.
How do your personalities differ?
If you’re already friends with your soon-to-be roommate, you might have a good sense of their personality, but you will learn a lot more from living together.
I’m extroverted, and every time I came home from work, I wanted to talk to my roommate about our days immediately. One day, my roommate told me she needed time alone when she came home to unwind from work. I totally understood, and I’m glad she shared that with me instead of getting silently aggravated with me. Some things I ask are:
- Are you an extrovert or introvert?
- Do you want to hang out after work or do you want to be alone?
- Do you want to eat dinner together?
- Do you like to be left alone in the morning?
I’m so happy that my new roommate and I set ourselves up for a successful living situation. After losing a friend, I was determined to handle things differently this time around. So far, it’s been great. I’m positive that we’re prepared to deal with any situation thrown our way in a mature and respectful manner.