How would you like to learn the secrets for pain-free living with a new roommate? Or how to choose the right house or apartment for a perfect shared living space?
By the end of this article, you’ll be prepared for any roommate disaster. And your current or future roommate pains will be eliminated!
Let’s start off with why living with a roommate is better than living by yourself. If you are turned off by the idea of a roommate, I bet you’ll change your mind after reading the next section.
4 Reasons why living with a roommate is better than living alone.
When you live alone, you get to enjoy the following perks:
- You don’t have to deal with other people’s poor cleaning habits.
- You get the kitchen and bathroom all to yourself!
- You’ll never have to stress out over trying to collect money from roommates who can’t pay their share of the rent and utilities.
These perks may sound nice but living with a roommate has some fantastic advantages! Let’s review them below.
Reason #1: You’ll save a ton of money.
Having someone to split the rent and other bills with will enable you to save a lot of money over time. These days saving money is so important, especially if you have some debts to pay off.
Here are some ideas you can use the extra money for:
- Having more money available for vacations and entertainment.
- Making your new car payment much more affordable.
- Paying off your student loans more quickly.
- Saving up a down payment to buy a home.
- Opening a savings account to set up an emergency fund.
Personally, I think saving money for buying your own home or saving up an emergency fund is the biggest perk.
Reason #2: You’ll be able to afford a more desirable location.
A desirable location is in a nice safe neighborhood, close to the most popular entertainment districts and public transportation.
Living alone, you’ll have to find an inexpensive place, in a less desirable part of town. Why be stuck with the feeling of having to settle?
By having a roommate and leveraging that extra money in your budget, you’ll have an easier time getting into the place that you want.
Every city has a different cost of living, so it is important to research your options ahead of time. Knowledge is your friend, and it will make you a smart cookie during your roommate search. Feel out what each city has to offer and feel confident in your decision.
Reason #3: You make more connections living with others.
If you and your new roommate enjoy socializing together, you will eventually meet their closest friends. You’ll have a whole new social network to build connections with, that could create a new business or career opportunity.
And if you’re lucky, your roommate’s social connections could spark a new romance for you. Imagine the story you could tell others down the road when they ask you, how you met your girlfriend or boyfriend? You’d say “My kick ass roommate hooked us up!”
New social connections can create social, romantic, and financial advantages in your life if you look out for them!
Reason #4: You’ll have someone to keep an eye on things.
There’s no better feeling in the world than this! You’re going on a two-week vacation to Europe. While you’re away, you’ll have a roommate you can trust to watch your place for you. You don’t have to worry about asking a friend, or even getting a house sitter.
You also have someone who can check the mail or get your packages off the porch. And alert the landlord to any home emergencies that might arise. They might even watch your pet for you!
If not, then all you have to do is hire a pet sitter or drop your pet off at a friends house.
Now that we’ve covered the benefits of living with a roommate, let’s talk about formalizing the arrangement.
Six Critical agreements to make with your roommates.
To create an environment where all roommates can be happy, there are some things everyone needs to agree to before making a decision to live together.
Establishing the following rules and agreements from the beginning are the keys to success. Let’s review them below.
1) Who will be the head roommate?
Whichever roommate signs the lease for the place you are renting is the head roommate. This person has the right to decide, depending on the lease terms, who stays and who goes.
If two people are signing onto the lease, you’ll both have the same authority. You’re in it for the long term together, so be a good team!
As a team or just one person, you’ll need to take the responsibility of what a head roommate does. Things like making decisions on house rules that are fair and deciding if pets are allowed or not.
You will also ensure that people living in the house are not breaking any of the lease terms. After all, you did sign your name to the lease and put a deposit down.
The easiest way to be a head roommate is to plan for it ahead of time. Whether you find a new place to rent or buy, plan ahead, and you can rent out that spare room and get extra money.
If you’re the head roommate you can have the rules and living arrangements more in your favor too. Especially if an argument comes up and you decide to part ways. Since you have more authority, being the head roommate, you won’t have to move.
But what if you both signed that lease? One of you will have to break it. Each situation is unique with its own details, so work it out with your landlord.
Dealing with leases, landlords, mortgages, or banks is one of the downsides of being a head roommate! You have to take the good with the bad.
2) Are overnight guests allowed?
If you are dating someone while living with roommates, you need to have an upfront conversation about the expectations of overnight guests.
If your boyfriend or girlfriend starts staying over most nights of the week. It could annoy your roommate who may not have wanted to have multiple people in the living space. They’ll start to think of your guest as another roommate, and it happens all the time.
Ever watch Court TV shows like Judge Judy during a weekday? Roommates sue each other in small claims court all the time. Because of disagreements with extra people who moved into the living space. The disagreements are usually regarding unpaid bills, rent, or other damages.
Have an upfront agreement on what’s acceptable for overnight guests. It will prevent problems from arising later on, for both of you!
3) Who will do the cleaning and when?
Nothing will cause roommate conflicts more quickly than the cleaning. It’s best to agree on some cleaning rules and a schedule, so everyone knows what’s expected of them.
If you like a kitchen sink that is free of dirty pots, pans, and dishes. Agree with your roommate that dishes should be washed right away, or promptly loaded in the dishwasher.
If you’re the type of person that picks up your food off the floor when you drop things, agree to that too.
Take turns cleaning shared spaces like kitchens, living rooms, and bathrooms. Keep a list of who took out the trash or did the dishes will allow you to see the chores each person is performing.
Cleaning schedules that alternate between roommates can really help out a lot too! And make sure they clean as good as you do, or it will never work out.
The kitchen and bathroom areas are the most work to keep clean, so make sure no one slacks off or skips their turn.
4) Decide on shared property vs. individual property.
Before you move in, make sure that you agree to what items you will share and not share. For example, if you share a bathroom, it makes sense to share toilet paper. But not a toothbrush or a bath towel!
Also, I would not consider food as being shared property, especially if you’re picky! It rarely ever works out the same way that sharing toilet paper does. (This sounds silly I know, but with roommates anything is possible.)
Avoid problems with others eating your food by having a labeling system. Label your other items, such as laundry detergent, coffee, and spices too! Also, make sure you each have dedicated space in the fridge, cabinets, and closets.
You also don’t want your roommate to hide your things like laundry detergent or coffee because you left it out, and they put it back in the wrong spot! So always put your stuff back where it belongs.
5) Agree on schedules for using the bathroom and kitchen.
Conflicting bathroom schedules gets really old quickly. Everyone has a schedule or routine in the morning before work. Make sure you are not both in there at the same time by agreeing on a schedule that works for each of you.
If the kitchen is spacious enough for two people to use at the same time, a schedule may not be required.
6) Work out bad habits and other silly things.
Occasionally you will discover a new annoying habit from your roommate.
Like they always eat the last slice of your pizza or take the last beer. Or maybe you move in together and find out they don’t know how to use a vacuum or a mop (yes, this has happened to me).
My favorite is when they like the thermostat 5 degrees hotter or colder than I do. Or every time you need to talk, they walk into their room and shut the door.
Opinions of what a bad habit is will vary from person to person, so do the best you can to make an agreement on correcting them with your roommate.
Seven Important things to consider before choosing a roommate.
Whether you’re considering subletting a room in your current place or you’re looking to rent a room in someone else’s home. There are some important things to consider when you’re screening potential new roommate opportunities.
Making a wrong decision about a new roommate can make your life very unpleasant. But with a little forethought and planning, you can substantially increase the likelihood it will be successful.
With those thoughts in our mind, let’s consider the following:
1) Find the right living space.
The house or apartment you rent (or buy) should have a nice layout, that can accommodate at least two or three people.
For starters, make sure the place offers an open floor plan, with a spacious kitchen and more than one bathroom. Having plenty of cupboard space in the kitchen and bathrooms will make it easy to separate your things, causing fewer arguments.
Insulation in the walls and doors will also make it easier to keep the space quiet. Especially when your roommates have guests over on a Saturday night, and you’re trying to get some sleep.
For some people, having to share a bathroom is a deal breaker. They prefer to have it all to themselves. If you have this kind of roommate, you need to make sure the place you choose provides two or more bathrooms! Period…
2) How many people can live with you?
The more people living with you, the more potential there will be for personality and scheduling conflicts.
Sharing a bathroom and kitchen with these additional people can also be challenging. So I always prefer just one roommate if I can get away with it.
Ever hear of “Three’s a Crowd”? Sometimes that’s a real thing if you have multiple people crammed in the wrong living space!
3) Are amenities readily available?
If you refuse to go to the laundromat, you’re going to want a place that comes with its own washer and dryer. If you have one or more cars or expect to have company, you’ll want a place that offers ample free parking near your new home.
If you enjoy sitting outside, are a smoker, or like to BBQ, you’re going to want a place with a balcony, patio, or yard so you can set up a fun relaxing hang out spot!
The benefits of a good outdoor set up will provide you an excellent way to have a social life with your roommates. And if you like, having friends come over to share it with you. Plus, you get to keep the mess from the party outside.
4) Does your lease allow for subletting?
If you’re planning to rent out a room in a place you’re already leasing. You’ll need to make sure that you’re allowed to do so legally.
Before finding a roommate, check your lease for subletting stipulations or reach out to your landlord.
If you found a room to rent from someone who already has a lease, you’ll need to make sure they’re legally allowed to sublet to you.
This will ensure you don’t end up in a situation where you have a breach of your rental or lease agreement. This can create an unexpected rise in the monthly rent.
OR WORSE! The landlord could evict you! Then you’ll have the hassle of paying for moving costs, finding a new place, and a new roommate.
5) Age of your roommates.
Should age matter? Well… it depends. How mature is the person for their age? What about life experiences? As people age, they become more set in their ways.
Older people are a bit less flexible and will be a lot more picky about who they chose as a roommate. If you’re the head roommate and are bringing an older person into your place, are they going to respect your rules and authority?
Think about how your personality fits in with younger or older people. Do you interact better with a particular age group at your work? Are most of your close friends older or younger than you?
Over the years, I’ve learned that age is just a number, to a point. For me, the best fit is five years up or down. If I stick with that age range, it works out just about every time.
6) Religion and kids.
If your roommate is religious or has kids, will you be able to adjust your lifestyle, so it’s suitable to their values or be kid friendly?
You may be required to censor certain adult activities. Or worse, exclude them!
Some activities that could be a problem are: Drinking alcohol, swearing, smoking cigarettes, sex, excessive partying, and watching R-rated movies.
Have an open discussion with your roommates and have an agreement on what is appropriate and what is not.
7) Who should live with you?
Think about this scenario for a moment. You or your friend come up with the idea to be roommates! It always sounds like a great idea in the beginning.
But when you start to see them every day, it’s different, and their bad habits will start to drive you insane.
You’re going to have a hard time correcting their bad behaviors. And if the living situation doesn’t work out, you may destroy the friendship.
The distinct advantage of choosing a friend as a roommate is that you know the person. However, the disadvantage is that you may be too relaxed with this person. And when problems arise it will be more personal than business.
If you do consider this option, short term arrangements are best. For example, a friend moves out of one place and needs a place to stay during a transition to the next, by all means, consider it.
Just use caution and clearly state your expectations. By doing that, you’ll have the best chance of making it work.
I have done this arrangement many times, and it worked out beautifully.
The only time it didn’t work out was when I kept running short on socks. I later realized my buddy was stealing them and not washing them, just letting them pile up under his bed.
Of course, I was pissed, but it was a bit humorous at the same time.
Now comes the worst idea anyone ever proposed to you for a roommate situation: share a living space with your co-workers!
You want to maintain a reasonable work/life balance. And living with a coworker brings your work home with you every day. You may already have to bring your laptop home, which is bad enough. But people from your office too?
Leave the drama, politics, work gossip, and people who might irritate you at the office. Consider this option only as a last resort!
And never, ever be a roommate with your boss!
Strangers or acquaintances
Here’s a personal tip for you that has resulted in 85% of all my roommate arrangements to be successful. They were all with properly screened strangers with strong references. That means that strangers have by far been the best option.
If you can see yourself being friends with this stranger down the road, that’s a great start. Having a conversation full of great banter and rapport helps too.
In some cases, an acquaintance can be an even better option than a stranger. Especially since you already have some past experiences together, which will help break the ice. And if it does not work out, you’re not close friends, so it’s easier to move on and forget.
The loving couple
Living with a couple could be OK, but count this as two roommates even though they might share a room. The biggest issue with this living arrangement will be if the couple fights all the time.
They’ll be dragging you in faster than you know what to do. You’ll always be the go-to person, stuck in the middle. Yikes, no thanks!
I once had this experience renting a room. Imagine within the first 48 hours of moving in you’re trying to get some sleep. You look at the clock, and it’s 11:30 p.m. For the next hour and a half, you hear crying, yelling, and doors slamming.
Finally, after 1:00 a.m. you’re able to get some sleep. Then the next day after work you hear being yelled over and over again, “You don’t love me!” When this happened to me, I thought to myself: “No thank you!, I”m going to get out of this living situation asap.”
If you run into a similar situation, you can speak with them about the problems and see if things can improve. But don’t make the couple feel like you’re taking sides, that won’t end very well for you. The best option is probably just to have someone move out.
Let’s get on to the next section where we discuss some tips for easing the pain related to sharing the living space!
Sharing the living space.
During the first month, when you live with someone new, make sure you alert them to any of their bad habits. You need to catch it early on–the more time that passes, the harder it will be to correct.
Below are some common scenarios that will come up when you live with someone new. Think of all those times you had a run in with your brothers, sisters, or friends while growing up.
Bad behaviors or habits become much harder to manage when you have more than one roommate.
Sharing the kitchen
Sometimes sharing a kitchen will be going well for one person, but the other person is thinking. “This sucks, what is this person thinking?”
Imagine this for a moment. You go to your favorite home store; Bed Bath And Beyond and buy a new premium dish brush (one that will really scrub those dishes clean).
You use it once, and then you leave it by the sink, then
your new roommate decides they want to use this brush.
They see it and say, “Wow! What a lovely new brush, how nice of my roommate to buy this. It will make a great brush to clean my muddy shoes with.”
You later walk into the kitchen to witness them doing this. Of course, you say: “Hey! What are you doing?” They get upset because you are yelling and in their mind, they are doing no harm.
What if you did not walk in on them? I guess you’d be using a dirty dish brush for washing your dishes.
Another interesting problem that comes up in the kitchen is when everybody stares at the overflowing trash in the garbage can; sometimes it will even get packed down. Then you can’t pack it down anymore, and it smells dreadful.
It should only get packed down once and never get to the point where it smells. Set the example and take it out yourself, then hint to your roommate to chip in if they are slacking.
The last big problem I have noticed in the kitchen is the floor. They’ll be a time when one of you will be finished sweeping and mopping it. You’ll look down when you are done and say “Wow does that floor sparkle!”.
You’ll leave for a few hours, and when you get back, you feel something under your feet. Then you realize what has happened. Your roommate cleaned the counter-tops and wiped all the coffee grinds and sugar straight onto the floor.
So you make a request to have them clean that up, and they say “Okay.” You come back a few hours later, and your feet are sticking to the floor like glue. They used a cold wet towel to spread it all over the floor. Then you find out that they don’t even know how to use a mop!
Believe it or not, this same thing happened to me once with an old roommate, I was shocked, to say the least.
Sharing a bathroom
If you are not getting along in the kitchen, the bathroom will be hell. If you are getting along, it will be no big deal.
One of my favorite problems is when my roommate likes to use my clean towel as a floor mat! It’s nice for their wet feet to dry off after getting out of the shower. Then they’ll mop up the water on the floor and hang the towel back up.
That was a problem I had once and why I don’t share a bathroom anymore.
Sharing the laundry area
Having a laundry schedule might sound like a good idea, but no one will ever follow it 100% of the time.
Be a good roommate and move your clothes from the washer to the dryer, when the cycle finishes. Then out of the dryer when your clothes are cleaned and dry.
If you accidentally leave laundry sitting in one of the machines and your roomy needs to do laundry. Agree with them that they’ll gently put your clothes to the side and not on the floor.
Also, please make sure to remove the lint from the dryer. Nothing is worse than burning up your dryer because it cannot vent properly.
Don’t ever expect a roommate to fold your clothes. Ever!
Sharing a living room
Sharing the living room with your roommate will be fun and where most of your social interaction happens. When you start inviting friends and other guests over, some memorable events will occur in this space. You’ll want to make an inviting and comfy place for all the people using it.
Respect the furniture, whether it is new or old. Furniture pieces such as couches, tables, pictures, candles, lighting, and a TV with DVR will benefit everyone.
The DVR helps everyone! You can watch your favorite show anytime, and scheduling conflicts will not matter.
I once had a roommate that was exactly 2 hours ahead of me every day. So I got the TV in the morning after they left for work and then late at night after they went to bed early. It was perfect!
I think the living room is the easiest space to share with someone overall. Just keep food and drink stains off the couches, chairs, and floor!
Sharing the garage and outdoor areas
What kinds of problems could you possibly run into, while sharing the garage and outdoor areas?
If you have too much patio furniture, you’ll need to pick out who has the best pieces and leave the rest at the junkyard. No one wants big, heavy, rusty old furniture.
Barbecue time! Make sure you show all your roomies how to use the grill if you’re the one that owns it. I once saw someone take a Charbroil grill and preheat it to high.
Then they forgot about it and it, burned up the metal paint on the lid and ruined the burners inside.
Storing too much junk in the garage could take up valuable indoor parking. Or worse, your roommate moves out and leaves that junk behind.
Be careful of the roommate who likes working on old cars. It is the worst person to share a garage or parking area with, that broken car will never get out of there! Not to mention, all the scattered old tires, rims, tools, and engine parts throughout the garage. Maybe even a little oil and grease, landlords just love that! NOT.
Now, that we’ve got that covered, let’s discuss a serious problem in the next section!
What happens when your roommate doesn’t pay rent?
This is by far the worst type of roommate problem to have because their actions have a huge impact on you both. This could turn into a major problem if you can’t afford to pay the rent on your own and your roommate comes up short when the rent is due.
You’re both placed in a bind that could leave you on the street.
The best thing to do in this situation is to exercise some patience and understanding.
Try to help your roommate brainstorm some ways to get some quick cash. Selling drugs will not work, don’t even think about it!
Here are some suggestions to offer your roommate:
- Ask a family member for assistance.
- Sell some books or video games for extra cash.
- Get a payday advance from work.
You might think about picking up the entire rent and collecting it from them at a later time. Especially if you’re both sharing a lease and you don’t want to ruin your credit.
BUT… BE WARNED! You’ll have to collect it in court if they don’t pay you back!
If late or unpaid rent is a recurring theme from your roommate, you may need to give them a thirty-day notice and ask them to leave. If you set up a month to month agreement with them and you’re the head roommate, this will be easy!
If not, then make other arrangements with the landlord and work out the best solution for your situation.
You could even bring other people in to look at the room. It’s a good way to let your roommate (who is not paying) know you’re serious about the importance of on-time rent payments.
If you hit it off with this new person, maybe a deal with the landlord could be worked out. You could have them move in and get the old roommate off the lease. Just an idea for a peaceful solution for resolving a bad situation.
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