How to find the perfect roommate

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

Renting a property can be an expensive business, particularly if you’re single. One of the best way to offset some of the costs is to find a roommate (or two). On paper it sounds great - you’ll have someone to help pay the bills, you’ll have company and the idea of having like-minded people sharing your living space is often exciting. Unfortunately there are downsides too, and there are important questions that need to be asked before you allow a relative stranger to move into your home.

All potential roommates should be thoroughly vetted before they are allowed to lug their suitcases across the threshold. Questions that need to be answered include:

  • What do you do for a living, and how secure is your employment? Evicting a roommate is awkward and often painful. Try to ascertain that the person can not only afford their share of the rent, but will also be able to consistently contribute towards the usual monthly expenses.
  • Are you willing to pay a deposit? This is an important consideration as you will need to have cash in hand to repair any damages which may become apparent when the roommate leaves.
  • How fastidious are you? There’s nothing worse than living with a slob and there is going to be conflict if you find yourself constantly cleaning up after your roommate. Honesty is key in these situations and it’s a good idea to bring up any personal bugbears at the initial interview. If you start frothing at the mouth when dirty dishes are left in the sink, say something. Likewise, if a dirty bathroom makes you twitch, mention it. This will help both you and the prospective roommate determine whether you are suited before the move takes place and irritation sets in.
  • Do you smoke? There’s nothing more irritating for a non-smoker than having someone smoking in their home. Make it clear from start if there’s a strict no smoking policy, and make sure you explain clearly that this extends not only to the housemate, but also to their visitors.
  • How much do you drink? Most youngsters drink to a certain degree, but some go totally overboard and this can cause problems, particularly if friends with similar habits start staying over regularly.
  • How often do you like to throw parties? Having the odd party is fun, but if you find yourself stepping over heaps of drunken bodies or your sleep is being disturbed by noisy revellers every weekend, it may be time to look for a new roommate.
  • Are you still on friendly terms with your previous roommates? Be wary of those who have tale after tale to tell of bad roommates. The problem may lie with them, and not with the prior housemates.
  • Do you have pets? This can be a deal breaker, particularly if the roommate doesn’t take proper care of the animal or expects you to clean up after the pet.
  • Are you in a relationship and if so, how often would your boyfriend/girlfriend want to stay over? Again, this can be hugely problematic if you find yourself shouldering the living costs for the object of your roommate’s affection.
  • How long would you like to stay? If you’ve signed a year’s lease for a property, you’ll probably want a long-term roommate. Make it perfectly clear if you are looking for someone who is in it for the long haul as opposed to someone who is looking for a temporary house or flat share.
  • What are you looking for in a roommate? While you need to get along with the person you are sharing a home with, this doesn’t mean you have to be best friends. However, you do have to share similar ideas as to what makes the ideal roommate. If you’re a clean freak, try and find someone who shares this trait. Likewise, if you’re a party animal, find someone who also enjoys letting their hair down.

Start off as you mean to go on. Have firm rules in place and address any issues as they arise. Remember there are bound to be arguments when people are living cheek by jowl, but these don’t have to escalate in to a full-scale war. Talk about your concerns and grievances and if necessary ask the person to leave if you can’t agree on how best to resolve the problems.

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