Accommodation is super expensive! I moved to NYC what feels like a million years ago, and I took a look at different property listings in my budget. There were zero. Yep, I was priced out of nearly all the listings I could find, so I had to turn to roommates. There were sections where I could find different apartments available, I went to a couple of interviews and eventually settled on a nice little place that I’d share with someone who’d go on to be one of my closest friends. As nice as that is, the staggering thing is how much money I saved. I don’t remember my numbers, but according to the latest annual study by SmartAsset, renters in NYC can save roughly a thousand dollars per month, per person. SmartAsset goes on to point out that this can present a combined savings of nearly $25,000 per year in a two-person apartment. That’s not a small sum of money, and it definitely makes a world of difference down the line. This is definitely appealing, but what if you, like me from all that time ago, don’t have a roommate? How can you find one? Well, since newspapers are becoming more and more few and far between, your best bet would be online. There are lots of different matchmaking services out there, or you could broadcast it on social media: people near you will be sure to help you out if they know you’re in need. Whichever way you choose to track down someone to help you out, it pays to be diligent and ask plenty of questions.
There are plenty of tough lessons that you might learn while home-hunting, but here’s the big one: don’t trust a friend’s recommendation.
Seriously! Even if you’ve known that friend since you were five and you trust them, you need to screen out people on your own. I didn’t do that at first, and I had poor results. I spent far too long with Dan, who spent so long on our couch that he started to look like it. He left pizza boxes strewn everywhere, and it drove me crazy! Eventually, I saw the light and asked him to leave. After that, I lived with Zac, the compulsive cleaner. hHe’d clean at any given opportunity (I think I was overcompensating for Dan), and while I loved living in a clean apartment, I didn’t love having a rigid lights-out at 10 pm every night, including weekends. My final pre-screening roommate was Tod, who insisted upon bringing his boyfriend over almost constantly. He left in a huff after I politely suggested that he might enjoy spending a couple of nights at his boyfriend’s place instead of at ours. Suffice to say: I’d had enough. I screened the next candidates on my own, and I actually came up with a long list of questions I knew I wanted to ask them. I screened out five (yes, five!) different potential roommates before I found someone who particularly impressed me. As a matter of fact, they had their own questions prepared!
You’ve got what they want: an apartment in a good place at a good price. Bear that in mind, and treat the conversation like what it essentially is: an interview for the luxury of living in that apartment with you. An interview may be a particularly great idea: not only will it be good to ask questions that you need to ask, you can also get to know the person you’re considering rooming with. Even if you’re considering rooming with a close friend, this is worth doing. In fact, rooming with a close friend might not be a great idea. The only way your relationship with that person could go is down. However, if you were to room with a complete stranger, then you stand to gain a new friend. If you do end up shacking-up with a stranger, and you decide you’re definitely going to treat it as an interview, then there are a few questions it’s worth asking. Here are our twenty-one questions to ask a potential roommate.
One person’s clean really can be another person’s horrifying. When you’re screening out potential gay room rentals roommates, it’s important to figure out more obvious things like ‘how often do you usually clean?’, but it’s also important to find out smaller things, like ‘do you always dry and put away the dishes after you’ve washed them?’ Honesty is key here. It doesn’t matter too much how hygienic you both are, what matters is how similar you are in hygiene. For example, if you’re the type of person who can’t stand the sight of dirty dishes in the sink, then make sure to ask them how often they do dishes. It isn’t prying, as you’ll soon be living in each other’s pockets: it’s worth asking. If you and your potential roommate really hit it off: this could be a great time to draw up a bit of a plan for who’s going to do what chores. You can make sure that you both have an equal number of chores that you loathe doing, and you could even request the ones you like. A bit of a secret: I really love washing dishes. If both of you have some spare cash, it might be worth considering splashing out on a cleaner. You can pay someone a wage, and then ask them to come to your place to do anything from the bigger things, like washing your shower and dusting your surfaces, to the smaller things, like washing and drying the dishes. After you’re sure you can trust your cleaner, you could even ask them to come when the two of you are at work. That way, you can leave your apartment messy in the morning, only to come back to a clean, tidy space for you to relax in.
Asking this question can help you to determine how you’ll be spending your precious time off. If your potential roommate announces that he loves to throw brunches at nine am every Saturday, and his friends all love to come over and make a lot of noise, you’ll know he isn’t compatible with your habits as a late riser. This is also a good opportunity to pick up on whether your new roommate is a homebody or party animal. Either one can be fine, as long as you respect each other’s space, but it’s worth knowing. If you’ve got a roommate who spends a lot of time in the house, then watch out for whether they’re looking for you to provide a pre-built social life for them. If your roommate’s set to be coming back at three a.m. most mornings, then make sure to ask them to be quiet and not, for example, make an omelet while listening to Van Halen. I promise that’s not based on a real-life example. You might discover someone out there who has the exact same tastes as you. In that case, you can feel free to blast heavy metal and cook super garlicky food all day long, and you’ll both be happy. Either way, it’s worth asking and making sure.
This might sound like an obvious one, but in an important decision, it’s worth writing down even the most obvious of things. Living with a smoker, be it cigarettes, cigars, or pot, is a huge deal-breaker for some people. If your building forbids people smoking indoors, then it’s even more important to ask this question. If your potential roommate says that they’re an occasional smoker, then it’s worth asking how occasionally they smoke. It can even be wise to add a clause to your contract saying that they can’t smoke inside the apartment if that’s what you’re hoping to avoid. Smoking at home is a huge grey area between different people. Some people absolutely loathe it, while other people wouldn’t think twice before doing it. Everyone has a strong opinion on it, and you really need to find out what your new roommate’s opinion is before they move in. Both you and your new roommate need to be upfront and honest throughout all these questions, but this one in particular.
This is a really important question. There’s no one out there in the world who’d say that they were a bad roommate. People are always much more likely to tell you that they were a kind, considerate roommate who was always happy to cater to their old roommate’s whims no matter what. Even if this isn’t the case, people will often say that it was. If you ask someone this question, there’s one thing you want to hear: honesty. You want to hear them tell you a story about an old roommate that they’re still in touch with, but also not be afraid to let you know about a nightmare roommate that they had who refused to ever clean anything. If they tell you that they aren’t friends with any of their old roommates, and then proceed to regale you with countless horror stories, think to yourself: how many bad roommates can their possibly be? Could the problem be this person themself? More often than not, that’s the case, which makes this question an important one to ask.
References are a really important part of inviting someone to live with you. If they give you a reference to a former roommate, or even to a boss or professor, you’ll be able to learn a lot about their character. People are often more candid in a phone call, though an email will serve as a good backup, and you can use the opportunity to ask both all-business questions, as well as more telling, character-related question For example, a good all-business question to ask a former roommate or landlord could be ‘did they always pay the rent on time?’ or ‘did they have any periods of unemployment while you knew them?’. These types of questions will be good tells for the business side of things: can you trust that your potential roommate will always be able to pay the rent, at the very least On the character side of things, make sure to ask old roommates if they have any annoying habits or tics. As invasive as it sounds, you’re always going to get a truthful answer on annoying habits out of an old roommate, and that answer’s something you want to get if you can. While you’re looking for information on your potential roommate’s character, it’s worth taking a look at their social media. It might share some important information with you on whether you really want to live with this person. For example, is there a photo of this person holding a guitar, while sat next to an amp at maximum volume? Depending on what you’re looking for in a roommate, that might not be an ideal hobby.
I know, I know, this question feels a little invasive. The thing is, the other person’s likely thinking the same thing about you! Sleep’s an important thing in our modern world, and you need to protect yours! Ask the person what they’re likely to do in their evening wind-down routine, and what they typically want to avoid. Are they a falling-asleep-in-front-of-Netflix person, or a reading-silently-in-bed person? As a person who can’t fall asleep with background noise, I definitely know which I’d prefer.
It’s only really a problem if the other laughs off the question, or claims not to have a regular sleep schedule. If that’s the case, then the person will almost certainly be disturbing you. You need to make sure to know as much as possible about what an average day will look like for the person you might be sharing an apartment with.
There’s one other thing that might be worth considering: if you’re both night-owls, for example, then you might be forced to share the kitchen, bathroom, or other communal areas as part of your daily routines. This can be a huge pain for some people, so try to figure out if it would be for you. Are you going to step on each other’s toes, or will you be okay?
This is a question that can highlight a large difference between people of different personality types. The answer you’re looking for will depend entirely upon your attitude to this question: do you never have people over, or do you have an open-door policy? If you figure out that you both feel quite similar toward this topic, try to get some specifics. For example, a nightly sleepover from a significant other will be quite different to a twice-monthly poker night. You need to figure out which of those you’re okay with and go from there. Remember: you both want someone to live with, it’s about finding the right middle ground.
This is a lot of questions all disguised as one big one. If your roommate has some out of town visitors coming several times a month, then what should you be expecting? A friend from back home who’ll only stay for one night, who you might not even run into? Or the rest of their family (parents, brother, and dog), who you’ll have to fight for space in the bathroom while on your way to work? Whatever answer your roommate gives, you need to set boundaries. Perhaps you could say that you’re each only allowed one out-of-town overnight visit per month. That way, you both get to have some friends or family stay over, but you’re also respecting each other’s space. Make it clear that you want fair access to common areas while people are staying, but make sure to be flexible. After all, you’ll be asking your roommate for the same thing, too.
This is a huge thing, obviously. You’ll need to comply with any pet policy that your building might have. For example, my first apartment had a strict no pets rule, which I learned while on the phone to my landlord, mentioning that I was thinking about getting a hamster. Suffice to say, I didn’t get one. Even if your building has pet-friendly rules, they might have a size or number limit on certain animals. For example, a chihuahua could be fine, while a great dane might not be. There may be other, confusing rules about pet ownership which allow, for example, a tenant to own a pet, but not a subtenant. Make sure to do your research on the rules in your building to protect yourself from any recourse. There could also be a pet deposit, which can be pricey. If there is one, make sure your roommate is prepared to cover that cost if needs be. There are also things that are specific to your situation. Is one of you allergic to a certain animal? Then perhaps meet the pet beforehand to see if this particular animal will set off your allergies. This same advice goes for any roommate with a pet in general, it’s always sensible to meet the animal first. Finally, ask them about how they serve the regular needs of an animal. For example, are they always happy to walk their dog? Do they hire a walker? Do they send their dog to a sitter while they’re at work? As long as you’re happy with their answers, make sure that they follow through. There’s nothing quite like the carnage caused by an unhappy pet.
This is an obvious question, and it’s definitely an intrusive one, but it’s also one of the most important. If you’re going to expect someone to pay half of the rent, then you’d better make sure that they’ll actually be able to. It wouldn’t be too forward to ask to see some payslips for the past few months, especially if their job seems a little sketchy. If you’re interviewing a good few actor-slash-baristas, then you need to make sure that their barista work will actually pay the bills.
A good way to ensure that the person is fiscally responsible is to ask for a deposit when they sign the contract. Taking a security deposit will show you how responsible they are (or aren’t), as well as give you some peace of mind for their half of the first month’s rent. Price up how much one or two months of the rent they’ll be paying you would be, and ask them for that as a deposit. That way, even if they struggle to pay you on time, you’ve got some funds to make up the difference. This can also be a good time to ask your potential roommate how they plan to pay bills. For example, if all the bills are currently being taken out of your account by standing order, will they send you the money through PayPal? Venmo? Or even a bank transfer? Make sure you’ve got that all squared away before they officially move in.
As much as people might deny it, everyone has a workday routine. There are two potential situations, either you’ll be working the same hours as your new roommate, or you’ll be working different hours. Both of these have their perks, but you really ought to be aware either way and thereby plan ahead. Working different hours from your roommate can be fantastic. It means that you can both lead relatively independent lives, and it offers you both some often much needed alone time. This is such a perk, in fact, that it may even be worth seeking it out. If you’re a standard nine-to-fiver, then you might want to find someone who works less conventional hours, such as a security guard or a chef. If you end up rooming with someone who works the same hours as you, then, as control-freak as it might sound, it can be worth coming up with a morning schedule. You might not be able to afford a place with several bathrooms and a larger kitchen, so making sure that you won’t get in each others’ way every single morning is really important. You could make sure that the person you might be rooming with is amenable to having a regular schedule set, and go from there. If they’re the type of person who enjoys having a schedule like that, they’re likely to enjoy creating one with you.
If your potential roommate does work from home, then it can be great or terrible, depending on a few different things. On the positive side of things, it may be a good thing for you to have someone who’s going to be home all the time, ready to accept deliveries or deal with the cable guy. Plus, if they’re home all day, then they might be able to get a few chores done during the workday and let you come home to a clean apartment On the negative side, you might find it a little annoying to have someone in your space 24/7. There are lots of people who might not trust a complete stranger in such close proximity to their stuff for that much time, and if that’s the case, then it might be easier for you to just admit it and move on. At the end of the day, you just need to ask yourself how much it could annoy you to have your roommate be home all day every day. Be honest with yourself, and go from there.
Let’s just say it and get it out of the way: living with a couple is a hassle, especially in a cramped apartment. Before you know it, you could be three people living in an apartment made for two, facing higher utility costs and less privacy without a decrease in rent costs. Furthermore, you’re facing signing up to a roommate without having any idea who they are. If you’re open to sharing your space with a third party, then you definitely need to meet them, ideally with your potential roommate. If you can see how they interact when with a stranger (you), then you can learn how they’re likely to interact when they’ve fully settled into the apartment with you. If they’re not shy about PDA, then you can imagine how they’ll be in the apartment. If they bicker more than you’d expect, then you can figure out how they might be, going forward. That said, it’s essentially a trade-off on whether you want to alleviate the burden of social time with your new roommate, and whether you’re comfortable sacrificing a little of your privacy and alone time.
I love to cook, and so I’m always a little intense about rules in the kitchen. I made sure to let my potential roommates know that when I started screening people out, and I had a fair few people who were happy to agree to my rules since they felt much the same way. One of my big ones was that if you’re the person to finish something off, you should be the person to get a new one. For example, say I finished a bottle of olive oil, I’d go past the store on my way home from work and get a fresh one. That way, we’ve always got a stocked kitchen, and we’re both contributing more or less equal. lyIt’s also worth saying that, as with bathroom time, kitchen time can sometimes come at a premium. It’s wise to ask your potential roommate about their eating habits so that you can be sure they won’t be cooking smelly fish at midnight or anything like that. It’s also wise to ask about their shopping habits. Are they the kind of person who meticulously plans ahead, or do they think about what they want in the day, and then swing by the store on the way home? Either way, make sure you’re both on the same page so that you can easily help each other out and contribute fairly to food costs.
You can be completely teetotal, or a devotee of whiskey Wednesday, but either way you’ll want to make sure that your roommate feels the same way. It’s a challenge to relax after a long workday with someone watching over your shoulder and counting your drinks, but you also need to be wary that your new roommate might be a serial binge drinker. That type of behavior could mean they’re strapped for cash and may find it more difficult to hold onto a regular job. Someone not holding onto their job will put their ability to pay the rent in question, so it is worth considering, despite how unsavory it sounds. That said, if both you and your roommate agree that it’s always past five somewhere, then you can feel free to go for it. It may be worth setting boundaries around what’s yours, what’s theirs, and what’s ‘ours’.
This question is the only one on our list where their answer doesn’t matter quite as much as how they say it. If they immediately jump at the chance to tell you and reel off a long list of ideal attributes, then you can tell a lot about the type of person that they are. They might be someone who’s likely to be more highly strung and strive for a clean apartment, and healthy, well-cooked meals. If they have a more relaxed attitude toward the question, then they may be a more laid back person in general. They might, for example, be more relaxed towards any house rules you’ve set. It depends on the type of person you are to know which of these types of roommate you want. If you’d prefer a more relaxed, laid-back person, then go for someone with that opinion. If you’d prefer someone who’s a little more regimented with their time and possesions, then you might prefer someone who answers this question in a more serious, complex way.
This is a surprisingly big one. Before you ask, make sure you know the answer you’re looking for. For example, do you want someone who might only be here for six months before you look for a roommate again, or do you want someone who’s likely to stay for a very long time, i.e. several years? As with all the other questions on this list, as long as you and your new roommate are on the same wavelength, you’ll be completely fine. However, if you and your roommate decide upon an agreed end date: make sure to get it down in writing. Life has an unpleasant way of throwing you annoying curveballs, so it’s worth making sure that you’re protected from them by having your subtenant be contractually obligated to leave your apartment on a certain date. You could even include penalties for what you’ll do if the subtenant doesn’t leave the apartment by then, for example: keeping the security deposit.
This is a really good way to tell what type of tenant your potential roommate is likely to be. In a lot of different modern accommodation solutions, you might encounter nightmare neighbors, lack of hot water, or even bed bugs. These things shouldn’t scare you off from a potential roommate, as they’re a relatively common sight. Instead, look for how they dealt with the problem when it arose. Were they someone who took all the reasonable steps, or did they deal with it in a way that’s full of red flags? Did they withhold rent without proper cause? Or did they simply look away and leave it all for their previous roommate to deal with? The second one may not be a red flag if that’s your preferred way of dealing with things. As with all the elements on this list, the right answer is subjective.
We all have pet peeves, it’s no use denying it. It’s best to get to know your potential new roommate’s pet peeves right from the outset, and vice versa. That way, you can make sure to cut out any habits that might annoy them. For example, if they don’t like the smell of red meat, you could only cook it on nights when they’re on a late shift. Living in a confined space with someone can lead to you annoying each other, so it’s best to lay all your cards on the table and avoid annoying them from the outset.
This can be a surprisingly powerful weapon in your interview arsenal. There are often a few different things swirling around in someone’s mind at the end of an interview that they haven’t mentioned, simply because you haven’t asked the right question. By asking an open-ended question and letting the interviewee take the lead, you’re likely to learn a whole host of small, seemingly insignificant things that will help you to learn more about the person as a whole. You might learn smaller things at this point like they might hog the tv for a cinema night, or you might learn something worse. For example, they might like to cook tripe or something else that smells terrible. A true red flag in this situation is a person who says they have no answer. Best-case scenario, they’re boring, worst-case scenario, they’re lying. Neither of these things are good qualities in a roommate and should be a huge red flag right away. If they’re struggling to think, perhaps ask for a few more details on something they mentioned before.
Whatever questions you decide to ask, you must bear transparency and honesty in mind: they’re the cornerstones of this interview. If you’re open and honest with your interviewee, they’ll be open and honest with you. Happy gay room mate -hunting!