Whether you are starting out on your career after college, contemplating moving in with friends or a significant other or considering financial benefits of splitting the bills with someone, many apartment dwellers at one time or another think about getting a roommate. There are pros and cons of having a roommate to share an apartment with. And then, once you decide to get a roommate – and you don’t already have someone in mind or you are new to Phoenix or Tucson – how do you go about finding a roommate?
First, let’s think about why getting a roommate is a good idea. If you have a roommate you’re compatible with, chances are, your roommate’s friends will become your friends, too. Sometimes, it’s nice having someone around, whether it’s to rescue you from a bad date or awkward work situation by texting a code word or being able to unlock the door when you’ve locked yourself out. And if you’re just starting out – or looking to start over again – having a roommate means that you can not only split the cost of rent, utilities and cable/satellite/streaming TV, but furnishing the apartment, too.
There’s also a sense of security when you have a roommate, too. Roommates can ward off loneliness, but they can also be a comforting presence and can look after the place when you’re away, feed the pet, water the plants and pick up your mail so it doesn’t build up. You’ll also have someone to split the household chores with, too, from grocery shopping to washing the dishes. And, hey, if you run out of shampoo or a roll of tissue paper in the bathroom, roommates come in handy!
Where’s your roomie?
That being said, how do you find a good roommate? The best place to start is to ask your friends. Perhaps they know someone looking for a roommate, too, and what better way to vet someone you don’t know than through someone you trust? Once you start getting leads on roommates, do multiple interviews, perhaps meeting them in a public place to getting to know them before letting them into your apartment home. Hopefully, you’ll have several people to choose from and select the most trustworthy of those people to invite over to see the apartment. When you’re talking to potential roommates, be sure to find out about their likes, dislikes and lifestyles; ask what they do for a living or, if they’re a student, where they are going to school, what they are studying and how able they are to afford rent and bills. Be sure to ask about where they’ve been living and why they are looking for a new place.
Get a good sense of the costs, even offering potential roommates an estimate of what their share of the costs will be. Make sure to cover who will be paying for what, down to whether you’re going to share food costs and certain bills.
You have the right to ask for references – especially if you can get the name of a previous landlord or roommate – and be sure you follow up and contact the references. Sometimes, just seeing the reaction when you ask for references will tell you a lot about that person’s credibility. You may not have to go as far as doing a background or credit check on a potential roommate, but those are options to consider.
Most importantly, get everything in writing. Yes, signing the lease is a contract, but make sure it’s clear – and in writing – any agreements between you in case something goes wrong, from what happens if someone can’t make rent one month or pay bills to who is responsible for upkeep of the apartment.
Close to home
If you’re considering moving in with someone you know, whether it’s a friend, co-worker or your significant other, you should still think about how compatible you will be. After all, it’s one thing to see someone for a few hours each day to seeing them night and day, day and night.
That has many pros, such as the fact that you know who they are, their habits and moods. Plus, it’s fun being around your best friend or honey because you probably share many interests, so you’ll enjoy watching movies together or participating in activities such as working out or going out to eat. You’ve built up good communications, too, so misunderstandings are likely to be less frequent than with a stranger.
However, there are some cons to take into consideration. There are habits that might be incompatible, for instance, your friend or partner is a neat freak and you’re … not. Or you might find that spending too much time together strains your relationship because you need that time away by yourself every once in a while, which is hard when you’re living in the same place.
The next step
When you’re thinking about moving in with your significant other, there are other considerations. First, have an honest discussion about what your goals are, whether you’re moving in together for convenience, financial reasons or before taking your relationship to the next level. Both of you should agree on the reasons as well as what possessions you both have that will be brought into your new apartment home, even if that means taking an actual inventory of your furniture. You might consider renting storage space for things that either don’t go together or you’re not sure you want to part with.
Even though you should know about your partner’s lifestyle and habits, be prepared for times when one of you needs privacy – where do you go? – and what to do when someone’s habits get the best of you. Prepare for a period of adjustment as you get used to being around each other all the time.
Discuss the lease, which should include both names, just in case, and finances. This is no time to be coy about what both of you earn and how expenses will be covered, including unplanned bills. Make sure you both agree on who does what as far as household chores go and – we know, it’s not what you want to talk about – what happens if you break up (working up a cohabitation agreement is a good idea). Getting all of these issues discussed up front will go a long way toward making a happier home.
New to the area
Perhaps you’ve just moved to Tucson or Phoenix from another city or state and you don’t have many contacts to ask for referrals. What can you do in that case? Social media might help. Let your friends and family know where you’re moving to because they might know people looking for roommates or be able to ask around for you. You can even ask them to post on their social media for people looking for roommates.
There are plenty of websites to consult, including roommates.com, Roomiematch, EasyRoommate, Diggz, and SpareRoom. Likewise, there are lots of apps designed to help in your roommate search: Circle, Roomi and Roomster.