When you’re pressed for time, or need to make rent ASAP, you might find yourself in a less-than-ideal roommate situation. This has happened to the best of us, and isn’t the end of the world. But if you can, try to make a point of asking your potential roommates a few questions — before signing anything official.
You don’t have to conduct an investigation, but you should delve a little deeper than surface-level conversation to make sure you’re all on the same page. When it comes to sharing a space, you’ll want to create as harmonious and safe a situation as possible, and sometimes that means weeding through people who just won’t be a good fit.
“As much as you want to respect their privacy, their private issues are going to become your issues as soon as you move in,” Joshua Klapow, PhD, clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, tells Bustle. “Better to know before you get into it.” It’s fine to voice your concerns about larger topics — such as significant others — but you’ll also want to ask about the small stuff, too. Do they like quiet? When do they wake up? Questions like the ones below will help you find a great roommate, and hopefully prevent problems from occurring down the road.
While you obviously don’t need to go poking around in someone else’s love life, you might want to ask a potential roommate about their current relationship status — as a way of opening up a discussion about house guests.
“If your roommate has a significant other, you are moving in with someone who is not alone,” Dr. Klapow says. “The physical presence of the significant other, the challenges of their relationship, the seriousness of it (are they getting married soon?) all can impact your living experience.”
For example, many people find that they end up taking on an unexpected roommate, in the form of a significant other who just won’t leave. So make sure you ask, and are clear on everyone’s expectations, before making a commitment.
Another question that goes along with the theme of house guests, is how often they usually see their friends and family. “You are moving in with a person who is potentially part of a larger social network,” Dr. Klapow says. And while you obviously don’t need to ask about what they do outside the home, it is your right to ask if they plan to have people over — especially if it’s your place.
Chatting about your social lives can help you get an idea about what the traffic in your home might be like. Are they going to have friends over every weekend? Do they want to throw big family parties? Knowing up front will be key when it comes to preventing resentment down the road.
Perhaps one of the most important questions to ask is what their definition of “clean” tends to be. Are they someone who leaves dishes in the sink, and gets to them whenever? Or are they neat as a pin, and super annoyed by the smallest speck of dust?
“This is an important question because someone who is very tidy will have a difficult time living with a messy roommate,” Helen Odessky, PsyD, clinical psychologist and author of Stop Anxiety From Stopping You, tells Bustle. “This is particularly true if living in an untidy place gives you anxiety or triggers issues like OCD.”
And the same is true if you’re not bothered by a mess. Living with someone who doesn’t share your ideals can lead to arguments, resentment, passive aggressiveness — and a whole slew of other problems you just don’t need.
Asking a question about how they spend their free time will help you glean some important info. How social they are and what hobbies they enjoy play a large role in how often they might be out, how often they’ll be home, and what their daily habits might look like, life coach Melissa Drake, tells Bustle.
If you’re a night owl, you might be happiest with other night owls. And if you’re introverted, you might get along best with other quiet types who never have any guests. And so on.
It’s nice to share a space with people who have a similar lifestyle to your own, so that you don’t have to clash over mismatched noise levels, sleeping times, etc. It’s all about attempting to create a harmonious environment.
After your roommate moves in, you can always go into further detail about house rules — such as how you’ll divvy up chores. But it never hurts to get an idea of what they care about before signing a lease together.
“[It’s] important to establish and agree to house rules with input from all those who rent,” Drake says. “This helps set expectations and defines the best way to expect smooth interactions.”
This is another one that’ll help you decide if you two will be more likely to live in beautiful roommate bliss — or if you’ll grow to despise each other over time.
“Asking detailed questions can help ensure a good fit,” Dr. Odessky says. “This may prevent hassles like living with a roommate whose cleanliness habits you hate or whose socializing habits are vastly different from yours.”
This can also reach over into questions about noise levels, bed times, and so on. The last thing you want is to live with a night owl if you like to go to bed early. Or to move in with someone who will be loudly getting ready for work, when you’re just going to bed.
You may also want to know if this is going to be their first roommate experience, or if they’re used to sharing a space. So go ahead and ask if this’ll be their first go around.
“If this is their first time living with someone or they complain about their past roommates the first time you meet, they may have difficulty adjusting to the living situation,” therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW, tells Bustle.
Of course, brace yourself for potential problems that may occur, that you never thought to ask about. No roommate situation can be perfect. But it can help to ask a few questions, and try to get on the same page, before moving in.