What questions to ask potential roommates to find the right match for you?

Important questions to ask potential roommates when screening candidates.More about Ethan Greenfield

Moving out on your own brings a lot of excitement – and a number of challenges as well. You’ll have the freedom to make your own choices and lead the lifestyle you desire, but also the responsibility to provide for your own needs and overcome any difficulties you encounter. Unless you have a well-paying job, financial struggles are likely to be the greatest source of anxiety and trouble in your independent life, so you’ll be certainly looking for a way to cut down on your expenses and save some of your hard-earned money.

Living with a roommate can help you achieve this, but you need to find a good match – a responsible, agreeable, and conscientious person who won’t annoy you with their habits (or get annoyed by yours). To be sure that you’re making the right choice when moving in with a roommate, you need to know as much as possible about their lifestyle, preferences, and personal traits.

Here is an incisive roommate questionnaire that will help you find out the most important things about the person you’re considering living with – and find the perfect match for you:

What’s your daily routine?

The daily habits of a potential roommate are the most crucial factor that will determine if you’re compatible or not. Understanding what their typical day looks like will help you get a feel for how much alone time you might have in the shared apartment and whether your lifestyles are likely to collide or get along.

So, when interviewing a potential roommate, make sure you ask about their daily routine: what time they get up and go to bed, how long their workday is, if they work from home, what they usually do in the evenings, what they need to sleep well, etc. If your schedules conflict too much, this can be a serious problem – if one of you is an early bird and the other a night owl, or if you prefer complete silence and darkness while your roommate needs background noise from the TV to fall asleep, you will both be disturbed and finding a compromise will be very difficult, if not impossible.

Good to remember: What they use their home space for is also among the most important questions to ask potential roommates – some people only go home to bathe and sleep, others use their living space as a hub to entertain friends, and others still see their residence as a safe haven from the outside world.

What are your cleaning habits?

Cleanliness can be a big issue, especially when it comes to the common areas like the kitchen, living room, and bathroom. Everyone’s definition of “clean” is different – some people consider sweeping every day normal, while others use the vacuum once a month; some wash their dishes immediately after use, others get to the task only after the sink is overflowing; some keep their homes spotless and others don’t mind some mess. You will certainly want to live with someone who’s on the same cleaning wavelength as yourself, so you need to clear things up ahead of time and learn each other’s cleaning habits upfront, so that you don’t butt heads over cleaning issues later on.

Ask your future roommate how often they clean, how they feel about dishes being left in the sink, which chores they like and which ones they loathe, if they would be okay with hiring professional cleaning services, etc. Decide how to split up cleaning chores and cleaning expenses, so that you’re both happy with the arrangement.

What are your financial expectations?

Financial issues are your most likely reason to be looking for a housemate, so you need to make sure your future roomie will be able to pay for their share of the rent, utilities, and any other regular fees. (More often than not, if your roommate skips out on the rent, you’ll be responsible for paying their share as well).

Money is a difficult topic to discuss, but you need to protect yourself, so be clear with shared bill expectations and payment due dates and ask your potential roommate how they plan to make the payments, if they have a stable income, if they can put down a deposit (one month’s rent), etc.

It’s also a good opportunity to find out if your future roomie can pay for unexpected emergencies or have just enough money to cover regular expenses, but no contingency funds, and if they will be willing to pay more for greater comfort (such as running the air conditioner all the day long when it’s very hot or very cold). Be sure to discuss your preferred temperatures as well.

How long do you plan to stay?

If you’re looking for a long-term, secure situation, you’ll want to find a roommate who plans to stay around for several years (if they’re in town only for a short time, you’ll find yourself back in the same situation – looking for a housemate – in just a few months). If you intend to leave the city in less than a year, it’ll be best to get a roommate who is planning on moving away soon as well.

It may happen that your roomie needs to move without much notice, of course, but you’ll want them to at least have similar intentions about staying as you do.

Do you have (or consider getting) a pet?

Whether you love pets or not, it’s important to make sure that you and your potential roommate are on the same page about it – ask them not only if they have a pet, but also if they plan on getting one, how they feel about rescuing stray dogs and cats, if they are allergic to some animals, etc.

Tell your potential roomie if you want pets or not, which types of animals you don’t mind having around and which ones you would never agree on living in your home, where in the house they’re allowed to be, etc.

Good to know: Many apartment buildings have pet restrictions, so you need to deal with what your lease says about pets as well.

Do you smoke?

Smoking (and any other addiction issues) can be a deal-breaker for many people, so finding out where a person stands on cigarettes, alcohol, vaping, drugs, etc. is essential for getting the right roommate. It may be a bit awkward, but you need to ask.

If your potential roomie says they’re occasional smokers, ask what they mean by “occasional”. If you don’t smoke, but don’t mind sharing a flat with a smoker, talk with your roommate about whether they can smoke inside and where exactly they will be allowed to do so (see if your lease prohibits smoking indoors). If you smoke at home, be frank about it.

What are your hobbies and interests?

The things your potential roommate enjoys doing in their free time will tell you a lot about their personality, values, and attitudes. You will know if your priorities coincide or contradict, if you have any shared interests, if you can do some activities together, etc. You will know what to expect from them during their downtime at home (listening to music all day long, playing video games for hours on end, watching TV till the wee hours, etc.) and if your lifestyles are likely to clash or match. After all, if you are an introvert who likes to spend a lot of your time reading, you will certainly not want a roommate who loves throwing house parties. On the other hand, if you and your roomie have some common interests and share similar attitudes, you can have a lot of fun together and become good friends.

Roommate compatibility does not necessarily require identical interests and lifestyles, but if they’re completely contrasting, you just won’t get along.

What do you do on weekends?

You should both be able to enjoy your weekends, so it’s important to know how each of you spends their free days – traveling, visiting family and friends, pursuing outdoor activities, partying, relaxing at home, etc. If you’re hoping for some time to yourself in the apartment, but your roommate plans to be home most weekends (or vice versa), things won’t work well for either of you. Make sure you ask in advance to avoid frustrations and awkward situations later on.

Do you like having people over?

Making a commitment without being aware of your roommate’s partying identity can be a big mistake – you need to find out if they like throwing parties at home ahead of time. Your roommate interview questions should include: “How often do you plan to invite guests to our place?”, “Do you love to have people over for drinks?”, “What kinds of parties do you prefer?”, etc.

If you don’t want your flat to be turned into a disco club or can’t stand having other people at your home without your roommate having asked for approval, tell the candidates so right from the start. Even if you’re okay with house parties, establish noise limits and set clear rules about smoking, drinking, etc. Make sure your roommate knows he/she is responsible for cleaning after the party and restoring any property damage.

How do you feel about overnight guests?

This is among the most critical questions to ask your roommate as discussing the overnight guests issue beforehand can prevent a lot of potential problems from arising. Talk about what would make you uncomfortable and set standards you’re both willing to live by:

  • Ask your potential roommate if they’re okay with a relative or a friend of yours spending the night at your shared apartment from time to time;
  • Ask them if they intend to invite friends or family members to sleep over at your place;
  • Find out if your future roomie expects their significant other to be sleeping over most nights (tell them if you want your partner to stay over most of the time);
  • Think about adjusting utility bills if someone is staying over more than two nights a week;
  • Establish rules for how long out-of-town guests can stay (a weekend or a couple of days);
  • Keep a shared calendar to mark out-of-town visitors;
  • Talk about who can stay in your shared apartment when either of you is out of town.

How do you envision the use of common areas?

You’ll be sharing the kitchen, the living room, and, most probably, the bathroom, so you need to set up ground rules for using these common areas and keeping them in good condition.

Ask your potential roommate how often they cook, if they would like to share meals with you, how often they watch TV and what shows they like, what kind of music they like and how loud they listen to it, how long it takes them to get ready for work in the mornings, if they like to sleep in on the weekends, etc.Talk about how to share the refrigerator and other household appliances, how to split up daily expenses and responsibilities (like supplying dish soap and toilet paper, for example), whether you will go grocery shopping together, etc. Establish boundaries and set rules prior to moving in with your future roommate to avoid confrontations down the road.

How do you feel about sharing things?

Ask your roommate if they would like to share things – like the iron, the microwave, or the vacuum – with you. Find out what is already available in the apartment, make a detailed inventory of your possessions, compare it to your future roommate’s list of belongings and work out an agreement what each of you will bring to your shared home, so that you don’t end up with duplicate items or find yourselves without something essential for the first few days of living in your new place. If there is anything you need to get, decide who will pay for it and how you’re going to use it.

Are you still friends with your previous roommates (if applicable)?

If your potential roommate shared an apartment with someone else before, ask about their past experiences – what they liked and disliked in their previous situation, what challenges they faced, what’s their worst roommate horror story, etc. The answers you get will help you find out how your future housemate handles conflicts and troublesome situations and what their biggest pet peeves are. You will also learn what kind of person you’re dealing with and how responsible they’re.

It is a good idea to ask for references and do some research before making a commitment.

What are you looking for in a roommate?

There are people who simply want someone to share the rent and other living costs with. Then, there are some who are looking for a friend. You need to find out what your potential roommate expects from your relationship and let them know if you feel the same way.

Is there anything else I should know?

Of all the good questions to ask a roommate, this simple inquiry is the best – it will get your potential roommate talking, give them the chance to share anything they consider important with you, and reveal a lot about their personality and all its quirks.

Moving in with roommates you don’t know is a great challenge but everything will turn out fine if you keep in mind that both of you deserve to be happy and comfortable.

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