The Savvy Girl’s Guide to Roommate Bliss

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I (Blair) have had my fair share of roommates throughout the years. From being assigned to random girls in my pledge class to living with some of my lifelong best friends, I never had big issues with my roommates in college.  They were all top notch… and female.  When I entered the real world, not only was I in for a big surprise in all other aspects of life, but I was also introduced to living with a male for the first time (that wasn’t including my brother or father, of course!) Surprisingly enough, it worked… if you don’t include the countless amount of Chipotle leftovers spread across the apartment and dirty dishes in the sink. Okay, I guess we did have struggles along the way as most roommates do.  Now that I am back in the world of female roommates, though, I can share closets, beauty products, and fight over bathroom time once again.  Dream!

A respectful roommate is key. But the real question is, how do you find a solid roommate in the real world? And how do you maintain the rules without them getting messy… literally and figuratively? I reached out to my friend, Sam Parr, who works at ApartmentList. Search no more, here is our savvy girl’s guide to roommate bliss!

What is the best way to find a roommate when moving to a big city?

If you’re in LA, Boston, Chicago, New York, or San Francisco –  use the Roommates app… duh!

In big cities, most people automatically turn to the “rooms/shared” section on Craigslist, which is where you can find rooms for rent in a house that already has a lease in place. In big cities, these postings get literally hundreds of responses, so it’s super hard to stand out. Oftentimes these rooms end up going to friends of friends.

A more reliable method is to snag your own 2-, 3-, or 4-bedroom place with other apartment seekers. Use either the Roommates app or Craigslist and find 20 people you think you might get along with. Then host a get together at a bar so you can meet everyone at the same time. It’s a fun, low-pressure environment, and you just might make a friend in the process! After the meet-up, contact the folks you liked and check out open houses together.

Is Craigslist creepy?

I don’t think Craigslist itself is creepy, but people on there can be kind of sketch. It’s not unusual to feel wigged out about meeting someone after exchanging only an email or two. Most folks send very generic emails that tell you very little about them. So you like going out on weekends, exploring the city, and cooking dinner with friends? That’s great…I REALLY know you now. Not. Getting to know someone through a few emails is not practical.

Without photos and an established way to meet in public, finding a roommate on Craigslist can be risky.

What are the pros and cons of living alone vs living with a roommate? What about more than one roommate?

Living Alone

Pros:
  1. You can walk around naked.
  2. You know exactly how much milk you have at any given time.
  3. Your visiting friends can stay over as often as you like.
  4. No one to judge your choice of television shows.
Cons:
  1. High cost of rent and bills – you’ll need to make an additional $10K a year to afford living solo.
  2. Coming home to an empty house.
  3. Not having any built-in friends.
  4. No one to “borrow” laundry money / food / shampoo from.

Having Roommates

Pros:
  1. Cost effective rent.
  2. A varied social circle.
  3. Now you can afford cable!
  4. Someone to watch said cable with. Breaking Bad drinking games, anyone?
Cons:
  1. They might walk around naked.
  2. They probably won’t change the toilet paper roll. Ever.
  3. They might bring the party home. Then again, YOU might bring the party home.
  4. You’ll finally fall asleep… then they’ll slam the door.

The sweet spot for roommates is 3 or 4 people per house

Pros:
  1. If you get sick of one roommate, hang with the others.
  2. Someone is bound to take out the trash eventually.
  3. Now you can afford cable AND Roku!
  4. Epic holiday parties.
Cons:
  1. You’ll have to order more than one taxi when you go out together.
  2. You’ll have more trash to take out.
  3. The shower line is crazy long.
  4. Bringing someone home from the bar is never just YOUR dirty little secret anymore.

What are your thoughts on living with the same sex vs. opposite? What about with a good friend?

I know a few people who have lived with a friend without any problems, but more often I hear of friendships that turned sour because 2 friends decided to become roommates. My rule? Never, ever, ever live with someone you’re close with. With a friend you’re more likely to think that you can borrow their car or leave the dishes out because your roommate is your best friend and they’ll “love me no matter what!” False.

With someone you only know as a roommate, you’re likely to have a lot more mutual respect for each other.

If you live with the opposite sex (which is great), balance is key. Two guys and two girls who are in a similar age range, with similar lifestyles, all of whom have friendships outside the house can be a situation. The guys will minimize the drama factor, and the girls will bring out the respectful (read: clean) side of their roommates. On the other hand, 3 frat boys who pee all over the seat and eat Ramen and Cheetos all day, living with a girl who drives a pink Mini Cooper and has a chihuahua named Tinkerbell? Sounds like a recipe for disaster.

What are important traits to look for in a roommate?

My number one criteria is that my roommate has a steady job. Not only will they pay rent on time, but they’ll also share cabs and household items without handing me the “but I’m so broke!” excuse on the regular.

Next, find someone who is similarly social. If a good night to you means hanging at home with a bottle of wine and a movie, you’ll want to avoid roommates who invite 20 of their closest friends over at 3am.

Another important factor: having their own life. It may sound appealing to become besties with your roommate at first, and – while bonding is very important – you’ll be happy that they don’t need to rely on your social circle for all their weekend activities. Having your own hobbies, interests, and plans is essential to keeping the peace.

Lastly – find someone who is respectful of common areas. Often you won’t find this out until after they move in, so do your homework. Ask their former roommates if this person helps out around the house, picks up their stuff semi-regularly, and knows how to wipe a counter. Otherwise, be prepared to take on that responsibility yourself.

What are the best ways to be fair when it comes to buying the apartment necessities (toilet paper, paper towels, etc.)?

Make Venmo your best friend. Venmo is an AWESOME app that makes it very easy to reimburse or bill someone. Take monthly trips to the store together and try to split everything equally. Or keep a running list on the fridge of things you need for the house. It’s hard not to notice when you run out of toilet paper / paper towels / soap, so if you’re out and about, just buy it.

What is your experience with making rules for your roommates? Have they been beneficial?

Be clear from the get-go about your schedule and boundaries. Before you even move in, make sure to say “I’d like the house to be quiet on weekdays at 11 PM.” If you know you have an early meeting, or if you have friends in town and want to host a get-together, let your roommates know in advance. They’ll appreciate the heads up, and you’ll be setting a good precedent.

Having a chore chart can be a good way to keep the responsibilities divided fairly. If that’s too high-maintenance for you, start out with agreeing to each pay attention to the trash, floors, etc. If you notice that some people aren’t helping out, like, ever, divvying up chores should restore equality to the house.

What are some helpful hints to avoid roommate conflict?

Don’t let things linger. No one likes confrontation, but letting your annoyance simmer will just result in a huge blow-up down the road. Can’t sleep because your roommate is being too loud? Knock on the door and tell them. Upset that the dishes keep getting left out? Ask them to be more considerate. Sick of their friend crashing on the couch? Bring it up. People can’t read your mind, so be clear about why you’re upset… and say it with a smile.