The 10 Best Questions to Ask Potential Roommates

After a spike in household formation in over the past couple of years as Millennials sought out more living space as COVID receded while they had built-up savings during lockdowns, the opposite effect is being seen today as savings dwindle and layoffs start to mount with a recession and housing downturn around the corner.

As a result, more and more people are reversing the trend of having their own place and opting to move-in with roommates to save money on housing costs.

However, even though rent and utility costs can be significantly reduced by moving in with a roommate, it’s crucial to make sure you get along with your new roommate.

What are the 10 most important questions you can ask a prospective roommate before you sign a lease with them? Treat this like an interview.

We’ve listed the 10 best questions to ask potential roommates before you sign a lease with them to help you select the best possible roommate. After all, what could be more important than carefully choosing who you’re going to spend so much time with?

What do you do for a living?

Is your potential roommate an ambitious student or a working professional? Is he or she an aspiring actor working as a barista? An investment banker about to be laid off or a start-up founder living on ramen?

Asking this ultra-important question will give you an idea of their financial stability. If your potential roommate has a stable job or is in school, it’s more likely that they will be able to pay their rent and bills on time. Knowing this information can help you feel more secure about entering into a living arrangement with them.

This question is especially critical in jurisdictions with ultra-friendly tenant protections like NYC. Familiarize yourself with the changes to the NYC rent laws that came into effect in 2019 before letting someone move-in. You may find it hard to evict them!

What is your schedule like?

One of the most important things to consider when living with a roommate is their schedule. Knowing whether or not your potential roommate is employed or in school can help you avoid conflicts when it comes to things like noise levels and shared spaces.

If your potential roommate is employed, they may have a more structured schedule and be more likely to be at home during traditional “quiet hours” such as during the evenings and overnight. On the other hand, if your potential roommate is a student, they may have a more flexible schedule and be more likely to be coming and going at different times throughout the day.

It’s also important to consider whether or not your potential roommate works a traditional 9-5 job or if they have a more flexible schedule or work overnight shifts. Knowing this information can help you prepare for any potential noise or privacy issues that may arise.

Additionally, if your potential roommate is a student, it’s important to know their class schedule and exam schedule, so you can avoid any conflicts when it comes to shared spaces such as the living room or kitchen.

Overall, knowing your potential roommate’s schedule can help you avoid conflicts and ensure that you both have the space and privacy you need to feel comfortable in your shared living space. It’s important to have open and honest communication with your potential roommate about your schedules, and to be respectful of each other’s needs when it comes to shared spaces and quiet hours.

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What are your cleaning habits?

Make sure you find a roommate who won’t drive you crazy because their standard of cleanliness is the opposite of yours. Some people are naturally tidy, while others may be more laid back when it comes to keeping things clean.

Everyone has different preferences when it comes to cleanliness, and it is important to be aware of and consider these differences when living with someone. For example, one person may prefer a spotless living space and may be more inclined to clean frequently, while the other may be more relaxed about cleanliness and may not clean as often.

By discussing and agreeing on cleaning habits and expectations, you can work together to create a living space that is comfortable for both of you. This could mean developing a cleaning schedule that works for both of you, or finding ways to compromise on certain cleaning tasks or routines.

If you can’t find someone who has your exact cleanliness preferences, you can still compromise. For example, perhaps your roommate is a neat freak and you’re not. In that case, maybe they would be find with keeping their own room ultra-tidy, but letting the common space be more messy and not nagging you about it.

What are your social habits?

Will your potential roommate be having friends over frequently, or are they more of a homebody? Knowing this will help you prepare for any potential noise or privacy issues.

This is super important, even if you’re not a super introvert because you may simply want to have social contact on your own terms.

It can be not only super distracting if your roommate has friends over all the time, but what if they cause issues or conflict and you don’t like them? Feeling like you’re losing control of your own space can be extremely frustrating, so make sure you’re on the same page regarding visitors beforehand. Ideally, you and your roommate are friends to begin with, and have a shared social circle!

Are you comfortable with having guests over?

Having guests over, either occasionally or frequently, can have an impact on the shared living space and can also affect the privacy and comfort of all parties involved. It is important to establish clear boundaries and expectations regarding guests, as well as to understand and respect each other’s comfort levels.

For some individuals, having guests over is an important part of their social life and they may want to have friends and family visit regularly. For others, they may prefer a more private and quiet living environment and may not want to have guests over often.

So if you like peace and quiet and going to bed at 10pm every night, then you may not want a roommate who goes out clubbing until 4am every weekend, and brings back one-night stands especially if you don’t have great soundproofing.

The same goes for relationships. Do you or your potential roommate have a significant other who will be spending nights at your place on a consistent basis?

If so, that’s a critical piece of information, as that adds up to essentially an additional roommate who’s not sharing the costs of the place.

It doesn’t even have to be something as extreme as frequent one-night stands or a boyfriend or girlfriend who stays over every night. It could be something more innocent like your roommate having many international friends who are visiting and staying over every weekend. Is this something you want happening without expecting it?

Do you smoke or use drugs?

It’s important to figure this out before you hand someone the keys to your apartment. If someone is sensitive to smoke or has health conditions that are negatively affected by secondhand smoke, it is important to know if a potential roommate smokes. Similarly, if someone is uncomfortable with drug use in the shared living space, it is important to know if a potential roommate uses drugs.

It can also help to clarify any house or building rules that may be violated. Many buildings have strict no-smoking policies, and if a roommate is found to be smoking in the shared living space, it could lead to eviction for all of the roommates. Additionally, many buildings prohibit drug use, and if a roommate is found to be using drugs in the shared living space, it could lead to eviction for all of the roommates.

Are you okay with pets?

Before you decide to share a living space, it’s important that both of you are happy with having an animal around! Do either one of you have any furry friends?

Having a pet in a shared living space can have a significant impact on the daily routines and living conditions of the people living in the space, it can affect allergies, cleaning habits and noise level.

For example, if one roommate is allergic to pets, they may have difficulty living in a shared space with a pet. Additionally, if one roommate is not comfortable with cleaning up after a pet, they may have difficulty living in a shared space with a pet.

Furthermore, having a pet in the shared living space can also affect the daily routines and habits of the roommates. Pets can make noise, and require attention, walks and specific feeding times, which can disturb the daily schedule of the roommates.

Additionally, many buildings have strict rules regarding pets, and it is important to ensure that all roommates are aware of and willing to abide by these rules.

How do you prefer to handle bills and expenses?

Knowing your potential roommate’s stance on splitting bills and expenses can help you avoid any conflicts or misunderstandings down the line.

One of the most important reasons to ask a potential roommate about their preferences for handling bills and expenses is to ensure that everyone is on the same page. This includes discussing how bills will be paid, who will be responsible for paying them, and how expenses will be split. It is important to establish a system that works for everyone and that everyone is comfortable with. This will help to avoid disagreements and misunderstandings about who is responsible for paying bills or contributing to shared expenses.

Another important reason to ask a potential roommate about their preferences for handling bills and expenses is to make sure that everyone is financially stable and able to contribute to the shared living expenses. If one roommate is unable to contribute to shared expenses, this can cause financial strain on the other roommates and create tension in the living situation. By discussing finances in advance, you can ensure that everyone is able to contribute fairly and comfortably.

Do you have any references?

Don’t be embarrassed to ask this question. First of all, many landlords and condo or co-op buildings will require reference letters to begin with for all occupants. Secondly, treat this like an interview as if you were the landlord. Would you rent your property to someone without a reference letter, especially given how hard it is to evict tenants in some jurisdictions like NYC?

If your condo or co-op building requires reference letters, then each occupant may have to come up with as many as two personal, two professional and one landlord reference letter each!

Another tip is to inspect your potential tenant’s social media profile. Don’t use this as a shortcut, but rather as additional intelligence on your prospective roommate.

Asking a prospective roommate if they have any references is important for a few additional, critical reasons.

Firstly, it can help to verify their identity (you never know!) and past living situations. A reference from a previous landlord or roommate can provide valuable information about the prospective roommate’s rental history, their ability to pay rent on time, and whether they have had any issues with previous roommates. This information can help you make an informed decision about whether to live with this person.

Secondly, references can provide insight into the prospective roommate’s lifestyle and habits. For example, if a previous landlord or roommate mentions that the prospective roommate is a heavy smoker, this can be an important factor to consider if you are sensitive to smoke or if your building has strict no-smoking policies. Similarly, if a previous landlord or roommate mentions that the prospective roommate has a pet, this can be important to consider if you are allergic to pets or if your building has strict pet policies.

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What did you do during the COVID pandemic?

This is an important question to gauge your potential roommate’s level of neurosis and political leanings. For example, if you happen to be more conservative, it may annoy you to no end to find out that your roommate is hyper-vigilant about catching COVID, and expects you to display the same level of neurosis.

On the other hand, if you’re more of a progressive activist, then it might annoy you to no end to learn that your roommate isn’t vaccinated and believes in freedom of speech and that the world isn’t ending.

While sad, the level of polarization has increased in recent years, and given how politics has unfortunately begun to affect people’s everyday lives, it makes more and more sense to co-habit with someone you can stand and speak freely with.

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Disclosure: Hauseit® and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal, financial or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal, financial or accounting advice. No representation, guarantee or warranty of any kind is made regarding the completeness or accuracy of information provided.

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