“Sunset Boulevard” in 1950, “Single White Female” in 1992, “The Roommate” in 2011 – is it any wonder we all assume roommates might be psychotic? Or if you want real-life examples instead of horror movies, there's always Reddit's "Terrible roommates" thread. (We are going to rate "brushes her teeth in the dorm room" way below "threatens to shoot me," though.)
If the widespread availability of these factual and fictional horrors makes you think you have to put up with them, reconsider. Life doesn't have to involve bad roommates. A bit of tolerating quirks and sychronizing snooze alarms may be a necessity. But you don't have to live with roommates who eat all your food or bring strangers home at all hours of the night.
Whether you're trying to emulate “The Golden Girls” or “Two Broke Girls” or just want someone who couldn't star in a horror movie, here's how to pick a great roommate:
Anticipate the trend
No matter your age, you may need to have a roommate, now, or soon. According to AARP, for example, many more retirees are sharing housing now. And Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies is calling for households headed by renters 65 and older to increase 80 percent by 2035. Younger folks, too, will be rooming together. More married people are also taking on an additional roommates to save on housing costs, according to Trulia.
Pew Research has also detailed a bunch of other situations where adults are increasingly living with other adults who are not some sort of significant other.
Screening the roommate, before or after the first meeting, may be most important step you take, according to Money Under 30.
"Just because you and your prospective roommate get along great over coffee doesn't mean they aren't an axe-murderer," MU30 warned. "Sadly, you just don't know who you can trust. Although a written contract is a must, you may want to go further in screening potential roommates just as you would screen a tenant renting out your entire home. Do a credit check and ask for at least two months of current pay stubs. Always remember, if your roommate decides not to pay you one month you are still on the hook for the entire rent or mortgage."
Use Craigslist to your advantage
The old roommate-opening standby really is a good way to find a someone to live with, but only if you look sharp, according to Moving.com, an offshoot of Realtor.com . Make sure to set up an e-mail account just for the search, so you're not divulging personal information to someone you don't ever want to hear from again. Also ask anyone you're considering as a roommate to friend you on Facebook, and check out their profile. Most importantly, even if you're out of town while dealing, make sure you meet in person before signing a lease.
Get it in writing
Agree on rent, who pays what, who does dishes, who buys toilet paper. And get it all in writing, along with penalties for infractions. That won't necessarily prevent all the bad behavior, but it will give you recourse if the lease arrangement doesn't work out. You'll notice that in all those roommate-horror flicks, no one had a leasing agreement in place.
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