There are certain benefits to having roommates.

Having a roommate will allow you to share the costs of rent and utilities, and may allow you to afford a larger or nicer place. In addition, you may prefer having the companionship that living with a roommate provides.

The downside is you will have to share your living space with someone, and his or her tastes and habits may not be compatible with yours. So think about it carefully.

How do you find a roommate?

You may already have a friend in mind, or you can post an ad or avail yourself of a roommate service.

What should you ask a potential roommate?

Consider carefully when choosing a roommate. You want to make sure that your living styles are compatible. Something as trifling as different housecleaning habits can cause major strife between roommates. Remember too that someone may be your closest friend, but might drive you crazy if you had to live with him or her.

So whether or not you already know your potential roommate, it is important to interview them to determine compatibility and set some ground rules up front. Following are some questions you might want to ask:

  • How long have you been at your current job?
  • Do you get up early, or stay up late at night?
  • What are your cleanliness and neatness standards? What may be "clean" to you, may not be to your roommate!
  • Do you smoke and/or drink alcohol?
  • Do you have any pets? Do you mind if I have pets?
  • Are you a quiet, stay-at-home type, or do you like to party?
  • What kind of music do you like? (and how loud do you like it?)
  • Will you be having visitors regularly?

It is essential that you get an idea of how responsible the person is. You want to know that the person is going to pay the rent on time, share the household chores, and be considerate and respectful towards you and your property. Even if someone comes across as friendly and trust-worthy when you meet him or her, you should always:

  • Ask for references from previous landlords and roommates.
  • Verify employment.

Setting boundaries and rules up front may prevent misunderstandings and conflicts later on. So once you have chosen your roommate, set some House Rules:

  • Who is responsible for which bills? Bills must be paid on time.
  • What are the rules for common areas: the kitchen, living room, bathroom, etc. When you use plates and dishes in the kitchen, do you expect them to be washed and put away immediately? If the carpet is pale, would you like everyone to remove their shoes at the door?
  • Chores - Who does what? What happens if they are not done?
  • If you are renting a house, who will mow the lawn and maintain the yard?
  • Set rules for boyfriends/girlfriends staying over, and visitors.
  • Set rules for safety. Lock the door, don't make extra copies of the key or leave it under the welcome mat. Don't leave candles burning.
  • Discuss common courtesy and respect for privacy and others' belongings.
  • If smoking is allowed, should smoking be indoors, or outside only?
  • Party plans should be cleared with the other roommate. What time should everyone leave? Will there be alcohol? What is permissible in the apartment? It may be important to let the neighbors know beforehand. You do not want the police called to your place for loud music or other disturbances.