Tips for Living With a Roommate

Sharing an apartment is a necessity for many people, especially those who are just entering the housing market for the first time on an “entry-level” salary. In these tough economic times, sharing costs with a roommate is a great way to help cut expenses. And living with someone can be a lot of fun and a great bonding experience: many roommates remain lifelong friends.

But the success of a roommate relationship is dependent upon two factors – compromise and communication.

Do you really want a roommate?

First and foremost, if you are considering a roommate purely for financial reasons, you may be able to afford an apartment on your own – if you are willing to make the required tradeoffs. For example, a further distance from the city center will lower costs, as well as finding a walk-up building instead of a luxury doorman tower. You have to establish your priorities: privacy, space and independence, living in a prime neighborhood, etc… the decision is yours.

Keep it equal

If you choose to enter a roommate situation, there are a few things you can do to increase the chances of the experience being positive. While it’s not always possible, it helps to start the apartment search on “equal footing,” meaning that both parties are moving into the apartment at the same time. This scenario helps avoid the feeling that the apartment belongs “more” to the first person who got there, which can cause instant tension.

While it may seem cold, it also helps for both roommates to be in similar financial situations. It can cause problems if one party feels they cannot “keep up” with the other or if one roommate feels the other is “pulling them down” (by being late with bills, rent, etc.). In roommate situations, a similar financial status equals a better chance of success

Communication is key

Outline your expectations for the new living situation as soon as possible. Be clear as to your expectations up front and don’t hold back – it’s better to discuss these issues prior to the move-in date rather than six months into a lease. What are your thoughts on visitors, the division of chores and sharing personal items? Everyone has a different idea of what an ideal roommate should be. Do you want a joined-at-the-hip best friend? Or a nearly invisible roommate who works an opposite schedule and locks their food cabinet?

With last two pieces of advice: They tell married couples to “not go to bed angry” and that goes for roommates as well. If something bothers you, address the issue immediately. The last and maybe most important? Don’t sweat the small stuff. Your roommate WILL at some point drive you crazy. So, when things aren’t going so well, remember to put it all in perspective. Pick your battles and dismiss the little things.

Living with roommates will help teach you valuable skills in dealing with people that transfer to every aspect of your life.