In a large and expensive rental market like Boston, roommates are often a necessity. It’s been said that choosing a roommate is like having a blind date for a year. If things go south then you’re in for 12 months of roommate hell. Or you could wind up with a great new best friend.
Here’s some tips on finding a good roommate, so your experience will be the latter instead of the former.
1. Decide on how many roommates you want / need
Can you afford for you and your roommate to each have your own bedroom and bathroom or do you need to share?
Do you need a third person to help out with rent but can only afford a two-bedroom rental?
2. Occupation and income
It’s not rude to ask a potential roommate if they will be able to afford the rent. After all they’ll have to prove it to the landlord, who will want to see verification of income that is three times the amount of your monthly rent.
Do they have a stable job or does their income fluctuate? If their income fluctuates, do they have a savings cushion or are you going to come home from work one day to discover that they sold the TV in order to pay rent.
3. What part of Boston do you want to live in?
From Somerville to Southie and Charlestown to Quincy, every neighborhood in Boston has its advantages and drawbacks. If you and a friend know you want to be roommates and they want a quiet neighborhood but you want to live next to Fenway, then someone is going to have to compromise.
4. Ask your friends
Sometimes living with a friend is the easiest way to kill a friendship. While a particular friend may not be good roommate material, they may know someone else who is.
Before you hit Craigslist or newspaper ads, ask your friends and family if they know anyone else looking for a roommate. Since they know you and the other person they can give you feedback on whether or not you’ll be compatible.
Since we mentioned Craigslist, be careful of online scams regarding potential roommates. Be wary of anyone wanting you to cash checks and send a portion of the money back to them, especially if they are outside the U.S.
The biggest crux in finding a good roommate is finding a person whose personality, schedule, habits, and style are compatible with yours.
Is your potential roommate a night owl or an early bird? Neat freak or pigpen? Do they like the thermostat set at a certain temperature? Do they like to be the life of the party and bring the party home with them?
Do they have sensitivities to fragrances or have allergies? How do they feel about house guests? Do they (or you) have a romantic partner that will become a de facto roommate?
6. What expectations does the potential roommate have of you?
Before you sign a lease, it’s best to have a couple face-to-face meetings (or one at the very least) with your potential roommate. If you have just one meeting, you may have caught them on a bad day, or they may have said only what they thought you wanted to hear.
Are they looking for a friend or someone who will basically be gone all the time? Make sure both your expectations match.
7. Set ground rules
While you don’t need to go to extremes with a written roommate agreement like Sheldon on the TV show Big Bang Theory, it’s a good idea to establish some ground rules when you move in with someone you don’t know that well.
Spelling out whether groceries are communal or separate, how often house guests can stay over, and who is responsible for various cleaning chores will go a long way towards maintaining harmony and minimizing resentment.