Looking for a Roommate? How to Find a Good Match

By Amy Zimmer on April 23, 2014 7:00am 

 Don't be afraid to ask questions when finding a roommate, experts said.
Don't be afraid to ask questions when finding a roommate, experts said.
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Shutterstock/Kzenon

BROOKLYN — Most newly minted grads can only afford to live in New York City if they have roommates.

But finding the right person takes more than luck. Making a good match requires asking the right questions of a potential roommate and setting clear expectations.

"Look at it as an opportunity to learn about conflict resolution, assertiveness and ways to communicate more effectively," said Yair Kramer, a psychologist at Brooklyn College's counseling center.

Here are some tips on how to find the right roommate:

1. Find someone in your social network.

It's important to talk to mutual friends who can vouch for the potential roommate.

"The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior," Kramer said, adding that the more information you have on someone, the better.

2. Make sure you interview the potential roommate thoroughly.

You shouldn't feel awkward or intrusive about asking questions, said Jonathan Alpert, psychotherapist and author of Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days.

"This is a major decision, as you'll be sharing your home with someone, and by extension, your life," Alpert said.

3. Find out about habits and lifestyle.

"One of the biggest complaints I hear from people when it comes to roommates pertains to different lifestyles," Alpert said.

He advised asking whether the potential roommate smokes, drinks alcohol or uses any drugs. Does the person have pets or wear fragrances? Is the person messy or neat?

4. Be clear about chores, sharing and other house policies.

It's important that you discuss how chores will be handled and how common items like toilet paper and other supplies will be paid for, Alpert suggested.

Potential roommates should also be upfront about their philosophies on borrowing.

5. Be explicit about financial agreements.

It's crucial to discuss how rent and utilities will be paid and whether everything will be split down the middle — even if the sizes of bedrooms are different, Alpert said.

 Yair Kramer, a psychologist at Brooklyn College's counseling center, talks to colleagues at the Flatbush school.
Yair Kramer, a psychologist at Brooklyn College's counseling center, talks to colleagues at the Flatbush school.
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Brooklyn College

When someone rents a room in an apartment, they may not undergo a credit check and income verification as they would if they signed a lease from a landlord, but it's still important to know someone's ability to commit financially, Kramer said.

"You should have a plan to ensure the person is not going to drop you and leave you with financial obligations," he added. 

6. Figure out your expectations.

Do you want someone just to live with or someone you'll develop a close connection with? Do you want someone who is a social butterfly and brings people over or not? These are important questions, Kramer said. Also, find out if the potential roommate is in a relationship and, if so, whether that person would be like a third roommate or whether the roommate would never be home.

"You can't really predict what's in the future," Kramer said, speaking from personal experience. "The best you can do is understand that people's circumstances change."

7. Red flags: reacting extremely negatively or extremely positively to a potential roommate.

Beware if you're feeling negative or feeling bad about yourself when you meet a potential roommate, even if you can't articulate it, Kramer said.

On the flip side, if you're immediately "totally taken" by someone, that may be a red flag, too, he said, explaining that someone can fall down hard if you put them on a pedestal.

8. Trust your gut.
Follow your instincts. If you're feeling uneasy, take heed.

"If you feel even a slight bit of discomfort or uneasiness, then do not live with the person," Alpert said.

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