Yes. Finally. The big move is just a few months away. You’re eager to leave your small town and experience the bustling streets of New York City. You’ve seen Home Alone and Taxi Driver enough times to count on both hands and are prepared to participate. After countless hours scrolling on the web for the perfect apartment you keep running into the same issue: everything is way out of your price range. I get it, you want the studio in Greenwich with the washer and dryer in-unit, but it’s too cramped. The one bedroom on Houston is ideal, but with all bills put into consideration you would be eating packaged ramen for the entire year.
I can confirm that living with a roommate will cut down your costs by a significant amount. It is a perfectly viable predicament – not only will your rent be split, but so will virtually everything else that an apartment entails. We’re talking electric, Wi-Fi, groceries, and the daunting price of new furniture. According to Jonathan Ping, founder of MyMoneyBlog, by just finding one roommate you can save 29% a month. Say you were to revert back to your college days and get a place together of three other roommates… Now we’re talking about a 50% cost reduction.
Not only will you be fiscally responsible, but sometimes living by yourself can get lonely. Especially during a pandemic. Writer at the New York Times, Kim Velsey, interviewed multiple New Yorkers to get their perspective on what it’s like to live alone. To put it bluntly: most people felt like they were being suffocated by their own mind. Quiet time is always necessary, but when it is all day every day it leaves too much room for the psyche to wander to unwanted places. Velsey mentions Chelsea Hale, a real estate agent at Compass, who has seen an influx of co-habited living scenarios on the rise due to the pandemic. It’s just more ideal to go on your lunch break, leaving your cramped makeshift office setup in your bedroom and going out into the common areas to fraternize instead of suffering in silence.
Finding a roommate can be an unnerving task. As someone who has been through the trenches regarding sticky roommate situations, I can completely understand your concerns. What questions do you ask? Where do you look? What if…? I got you. We’re in this together. I have compiled a list of both sites and questions to assist in your roommate journey in order to make sure your search is as manageable and uncomplicated as possible.
ROOMMATE SEARCH SITES
Before we get into the interrogation you’re going to partake in, let’s start off with where to look. My best advice is to start off with Facebook groups. Social media is this generation’s best friend. We know how to utilize it better than anyone else. This means that there are hundreds, if not thousands of young adults in search for a roommate just like you. Some of my favorite groups are: NYU Roommates, Gypsy Housing NYC, and New York City NYC – Housing, Apartments, Rooms, Sublets, Roommates.
Let’s say you don’t have a Facebook. That’s fine, no one is judging you here. But I do recommend then hoping on the following sites or apps to try out their roommate finding services: RentHop, SpareRoom, Rainbow Roommates (LGBTQ+ friendly), Listing Project, and RoomZoom.
THE CRUCIAL QUESTIONS
Now that you’ve found yourself a handful of potential matches, it is time to begin the probing. You want to make sure you are compatible with the person you’re going to share corners with for the next year or so. Usually I will complete my questionnaire prior to meeting them over the desired social media app or text. Then, if everything checks out, I will make plans for coffee in order to confirm everything.
So, what questions should you be asking?
What are your cleaning habits like?
Not that this list is in numerical order by any sense of the word, but I put this question first because I believe it is the most important. Everyone’s definition of “clean” differs and that’s fine, but that is why it is crucial to immediately state your boundaries in reference to this hasty topic. Cleaning is one of the biggest points of contention between roommates, so it is principal that you have commonalities on what a tidy or not so tidy space looks like.
Are you a smoker?
One of my favorite roommate stories dates back to a few years ago when a friend of mine was looking for a sublet as she was moving back to her home country. After looking far and wide she finally found someone to take over her lease. The girl had moved all her stuff in, went to dinner with her family, and then came back and explained that she could no longer be in this predicament. With much shock to my friend, she asked why, and the girl proceeded to explain that she hated the smell of smoke and one of the current residents had been a smoker. In that situation there was little to be done because the sublet would not budge even if the roommate promised not to smoke in the house. A few days before my friend went back to Europe, she was stranded at square one.
To prevent this, just be up front. Whether you are a smoker yourself (vapes, pot, cigarettes, or cigars) or cannot fathom the smell, let your roomie know and vice versa.
Are you vaccinated/how seriously do you take COVID?
With the rise of the Delta variant it’s clear that COVID will be here to stay for a while. Even though I know you probably do not want to have a political dispute over Facebook messenger with a stranger, it’s within your best interest to know who you are getting involved with.
Let’s say one of you are double vaccinated but the other is completely anti-vaxx. Doesn’t sound like you’ll be getting along, huh? Or perhaps one of you is immunocompromised and the other is going to concerts every other weekend. Whatever it is, you want to make sure you meet eye-to-eye on most topics. A living space should be one where you are comfortable going back to at the end of the day. There is little harm in asking about their COVID protocols just to avoid any aggravation in the future.
What do you like to do on your free time?
Having a roomie in which you share common activities with is always a plus. If not, it’s not the end of the world. You don’t have to be the closest of friends, but to coexist cordially is probably what’s best. Though, it goes beyond this. Let’s say your potential match is a complete party animal. They’re going out Thursday through Sunday and coming home at late hours of the night, rustling through the snack jars and stomping in the common areas. Whereas this is a perfectly fine way of life, it may not be the one you want for a roommate. Especially if lights out is at 10PM and you have work the next day at 7AM.
Simple questions like “What do you like to do on your free time?”, “How often do you go out?”, “What does a typical Friday night look like to you?”, and “What is your schedule like?” will be sufficient enough for you to figure out if they’re a good fit or not. Natural follow-up questions will come into play depending on their answer.
Tell me about yourself?
Ah, the classic. I know this sounds like you’re ready to set up a romantic partnership, but really it just leaves the interview open-ended. With this one they could reveal virtually anything. Maybe you’ll find out a weird quirk that you guys have in common.
Don’t think too much into this process. Like I said, you don’t need to be the best of friends. It’s okay if you don’t agree on everything. Just make sure of a few things: you get along well, their communication skills seem up to par, you can set boundaries, and they’re open about their living scenarios. If it seems like they’re hiding absolutely anything, it’s okay to put your foot down and move forward with someone else!
Carly is a freelance writer with interest in topics pertaining to lifestyle blogging, social justice, and anything to do with film/media. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin - Madison with a degree in English & Literary studies in hopes to write for a large music publication. When she is not writing, you can find her watching movies, cooking her famous Carbonara, and enjoying time outdoors.