How to Pick a Roommate

The 6 Personality Styles to Consider When Picking a Compatible Roommate

Sharing an apartment or home with a roommate has become more common, even with the economy improving. Whether a financial necessity or just to save money for a rainy day, homeowners are renting out rooms in their condos and houses and single people are renting those rooms.

There’s an element of uncertainty when renting to or from someone you don’t know, but, once it’s established that the renter can reliably cover the rent there are still compatibility issues to discuss. Take time to understand your future roommate’s general lifestyle, and explain yours, and you’ll both be able to make a decision about whether or not the co-housing arrangement will work. If you won’t be compatible roommates, it’s far better to find out before a rental agreement is signed than after.

Introvert or Extrovert?

Shared spaces in most apartments aren’t very big. If you’re an introvert that needs quiet at home, but your roommate is an extrovert who needs to talk in order to survive, there’s a style disconnect that might impact how you share the living room, kitchen and other “public” spaces. The difference is manageable if your private spaces are large enough to serve as retreats, but if your rooms are the size of closets, you’d be giving up a lot of rent money if you spent a disproportionate amount of time in your bedroom simply to avoid being around the roommate.

The introvert or extrovert question also comes in with entertaining. Do you come home, shut the door and expect the world to stay out, or do you entertain friends on a regular basis? If your roommate wants to entertain, will you be able to handle guests in your shared space? Is it likely that your roommate will join the group when you entertain, and vice-versa? Would you be OK with impromptu guests, or would at least 24-hours’ notice be better?

Night Owl or Early Bird?

Some people are very strongly wired to be either night owls or early birds. Roommates with opposite sleep schedules can get along, with rules and understanding.

Set quiet hours are a must. Even if someone is up at 1:00am, they don’t need to be playing music and chatting on X-Box Live. On the early bird side, a roommate who gets up at 5:00am doesn’t need to slam kitchen cabinets in an effort to wake a night owl to “help” her reset to an earlier sleep schedule.

Spend Thrift or Tight Wad?

As important as a background check has become when interviewing new roommates, a credit check might be more important, and a frank discussion about how household bills will be handled has to happen before the rental agreement is signed. Roommates often choose to share living space because of financial constraints. Maybe she is saving for a major purchase, maybe her individual cash flow isn’t enough to cover a private apartment in the city or neighborhood where she wants to live. Maybe he’s in the middle of a divorce and the ex hasn’t refinanced, so he’s still technically responsible for mortgage payments and needs to keep expenses low. Or maybe he travels a lot for work and would rather not spend money maintaining a big house he’s rarely in.

Whatever the reason for sharing an apartment or home, it pays to understand how potential roommates handle their finances. If one person’s impulse purchases get in the way of paying the rent or electric bill, it absolutely will impact your relationship as roommates.

Every state has different laws about rental property, and before moving into a shared rental, it’s worth checking your local jurisdiction to know both renter’s and landlord’s rights. At a minimum, put a reference to the local laws in your rental agreement, so everyone has the opportunity to know how to handle the situation if one roommate doesn’t pay a bill (or a series of bills) on time.