They often call getting married and moving in together as “taking the plunge,” but if you ask us, moving in with someone you know and love is a lot less scary than moving in with a stranger. Don’t go into the roommate interview unprepared; we’ve got the questions to consider before you both sign the lease.
Whether you are the one inviting a new person into your home or the one looking to get into a new place, there are certain things that just have to be discussed before a living arrangement is agreed upon. These are ten topics we think you should consider before taking your own plunge.
1) What's your definition of clean?
Some people wash their dishes immediately after use. Others get to scrubbing only after the sink is overflowing/you’ve run out of dishes to use. Some consider sweeping every other day normal. Others might not know how to operate a vacuum. It might be best to live with someone who’s in the same cleaning boat as yourself.
Bonus question: Do they prefer to douse the home with bleach or like to make their own eco-friendly cleaners out of vinegar and more vinegar? Both extremes could be too much for someone with a strong preference.
2) When do you catch Z's?
A night owl and a morning bird can be roommates, but their nest probably won’t make for a happy home unless there are at least a few hours of sleeping time that overlaps. Also ask them what they need to sleep. Some folks (myself included) need a completely silent, walk-in-fridge level cold room so dark it rivals a black hole to sleep soundly. Others could sleep through a train barreling into the apartment. It's good information to know.
3) Do your friends have a "su casa es mi casa" attitude with you?
Will your potential roommate have frequent game nights? Will you have frequent overnight guests? It's good to ask what the other person thinks is a reasonable size of a party, too. One person's idea of a calm book club could be another's idea of the equivalent of a fraternity kegger.
4) Are stray cats adorable, perfect creatures for feeding and loving, or are they flea-ridden, allergy-inducing nightmares?
Stray cats are cute to some, but to others they are flea-ridden nuisances. Make sure all parties are on the same page when it comes to what to do with wildlife. (This includes bird feeders, which can affect a night owl's sleep in the morning.)
5) Do your speakers go up to eleven, always?
Some people have to watch movies with complete surround sound, others are perfectly content to listen with headphones. People have pretty wildly different definitions of "loud." Along with sleep hours, you might inquire as to someone's musical listening habits and ask them which reality show they prefer blaring in the background on the TV.
6) Is a dish not complete unless it's covered in bacon or cheese?
Dietary preferences can really clash sometimes. Make sure that if you’re a meat lover and they're vegan, they’re okay with you having slabs of meat in the fridge (if that's something you happen to store in your fridge from time to time).
7) You come home one day to a door accidentally left unlocked. Is it no big deal or the end of the world?
Do they think it’s normal to leave the windows open or unlocked while they run out for coffee? Do you require all doors locked when indoors? This is something not many people consider beforehand, but could lead to heated discussions (especially since material/personal safety is at issue). While you're at it, you might discuss inter-apartment physical boundaries. Some folks are knock-first, others are open-first-apologize-later.
8) Would you rather wear a couple of extra sweaters or spend more money on utility bills?
You spot a recycling bin while being interviewed by a potential roommate, but don’t make assumptions about energy and water habits—ask. Some people consider it madness to ever turn lights on during daylight hours, while other people would prefer to keep the climate a nice reasonable temperature year round.
9) Best friends forever?
Some people aren’t just looking for someone to mumble hello to while passing each other in the hallway, whereas others are perfectly happy leading solitary, parallel existences. Discuss this beforehand to avoid hurt feelings.
10) How strong are your opinions on wall colors, furniture arrangements and art placement?
If you read Apartment Therapy this is obviously going to be important issue. You don’t have to have it all figured out, but at least express what your likes and dislikes are, and suss out their interest level in decorating the place. Consider sharing a quick furniture inventory so you can see if you've got too many of one item or not enough of another!
What topics to ask a potential roommate have we left off the list? Let us know!
Re-edited from a post originally published 10.25.10 - AB