Choosing Housemates

The process of looking for off-campus housing can be stressful. An important task in finding a home is deciding who to live with. Ask yourself the questions below before making a commitment.

Define Your Limits and Preferences Beforehand

  • How much rent can you afford to pay?
  • How will you split the rent if the rooms are not equal?
  • Are you willing to share a bedroom?
  • Are you willing to share a bathroom? With how many people?
  • How many housemates would you be comfortable living with?
  • Do you prefer to live with people of the same sex or in a co-ed household?
  • Will you need to supply furniture, appliances, utensils, etc. that can be shared?
  • Do you walk, bike, ride the bus, or drive to school? Do you need to be close to a bus stop?

Living with Others

Even the most ideal house can be miserable to live in if shared with someone you find difficult. Consider the following factors that influence the success of sharing responsibility and personal space, even with a long-time friend:

  • Noise: Do you need peace and quiet to study? Do they?
  • Cleanliness: Will their habits conflict with yours?
  • Compatibility: Who are their closest friends and significant other? Perhaps the potential roommate comes as a package deal. Who else will be spending time in your home? Do you enjoy their company? Any personality friction? Do you feel safe around them?
  • Schedules: When will you be home? When will they?
  • Responsibility: Can you trust them to pay their portion of the rent and utilities every month?
  • Do you anticipate personality conflicts? Trust your instincts.
  • Security: Do they respect you, your privacy, and your belongings? Are you respectful of others?
  • How well do you know them? Did you only meet once? Are you being pressured to live with a friend of a friend whom you hardly know? Will you be able to share space with them?

There is a big difference between being friends and being housemates. Sometimes it's best to save the friendship and find a different housemate.

Joining an Existing Household

  • If you will be a new addition to an existing household, you'll want to ask even more questions. Invest more time than a quick tour of the place and a five-minute introduction to increase your odds of making an accurate assessment. Make sure to meet everyone before making a decision. Perhaps share a meal with them at the rental and discuss how the household runs.
  • After the initial rush and awkwardness of the first meeting wears off, your observations of others become more reliable. When dazzled by someone you immediately like, you're more likely to soft-pedal your questions and a lot of crucial information can fall through the cracks. Listen to your gut instincts while you're interviewing, which are often right. Write down your observations so you can re-evaluate them later when you can think more objectively.

Questions They May Ask You

  • What are typical hours you study, work, and sleep?
  • How much time do you spend at home?
  • What are your personal habits regarding food, cleanliness, noise, smoking, and alcohol use?
  • How much privacy do you need?
  • How often do you have visitors – overnight guests, group meetings, friends, and relatives?
  • What do you do in your spare time and for recreation or relaxation? What kind of music or TV do you enjoy? How often do you tend to listen to it and how loud?

Questions You May Want to Ask Them

Remember, you are also interviewing them. Don't be afraid to ask them the questions above, as well as the following:

  • Is there a principal tenant? Who signed the rental agreement with the landlord? Will you sign the rental agreement?
  • Is it a lease or month-to-month? Does the landlord know they are moving in a new tenant? Make sure the answer is yes!
  • How will your security deposit be handled? Make sure it goes to the landlord and not the previous tenant. If the later is the plan, make sure you get it in writing from the landlord how much they consider to be your deposit.
  • To whom do you pay the rent: landlord, or principal tenant? How are utility bills split?
  • Do they use a Housemate Agreement? If not, are they willing to use one?
  • What are the house rules? How are household decisions made? How is conflict resolved? 
  • How are personal kitchen and bathroom items separated and stored? How do you pay for shared items such as toilet paper and dish soap?
  • Is cooking done collectively or independently? How are housekeeping chores divided?
  • How did they find themselves with a vacancy?
  • How long have they lived together? How did they meet? Are there any existing conflicts?