Although is would seem like common sense, asking the right questions when screening a potential roommate is crucial.
Not only are you going to be living with this person, but you and your roommates will be jointly responsible for anything that happens for the duration of the lease.
Your questions should be able to dive deep into the personality, beliefs, and background of your potential roommate. There shouldn’t be any “softball” questions. All of your questions should be fastballs; 100 mph plus and right over the plate. This isn’t a game of slow pitch. If the interview process goes well, you will be living with this person for the next year. You need to be sure that the person is a good fit with you and your other roommates, will take care of their responsibilities, and pay the rent on time.
It is important to meet your potential roommate in person. Meeting in person is vital in determining if the potential roommate is a good match for the household.
Having a conversation with a potential roommate using the phone, using email, or texting lessens your ability in determining if personalities will work together well. Too many barriers to communication. This will likely end in disaster.
Meeting a potential roommate in person allows you to read their body language and see how he or she answers your top 10 questions. Some people may be uncomfortable when asked direct questions. When talking in-person, you can see how they react to questions and how they interact with you. This will be a key indicator as to how they will act if you decide to rent an apartment together.
In addition, it is better to be in an environment where you are not alone when you talking to a stranger you do not know very well. There are sometimes reasons that people have trouble finding roommates. Meeting as a group will give you a better idea if everyone will be good roommates and be able to share an apartment. Having multiple people participate in the interview will give you multiple perspectives as to whether the candidate will fit with the other personalities in your apartment rental. You want to be sure that everyone is a good fit when living in off-campus student housing.
- What are you looking for in a roommate?
Although this is a broad question, the way your potential roommate answers this question will give you some insight as to what kind of person they are and their values. Are they looking for roommates who are gregarious, reserved, like social interaction, or prefer to spend time alone in their room.
As the potential roommate is describing what they are looking for in a roommate, reflect on your current living situation and see if you or your existing roommates offer the same qualities that the potential roommate desires. The more the qualities and values are in alignment, the better the living situation could be.
- Can you afford the rent?
Money will always be a major factor when renting an apartment with other people so be sure you ask if your potential roommate can afford the rent. This is an important question to ask because you want to make sure your potential roommate can afford their portion of rent.
You never want to be in a position where you and your roommates can’t pay the rent and utility payments on time each month. This causes unneeded stress and can impact your credit rating making it difficult to rent apartments, purchase automobiles, and obtain loans in the future.
Ask your potential roommate what kind of job they have and how long have they worked there.
Is he/she being supported by parent(s)?
They may be supporting themselves through loans, savings, work, or even with checks from parents, but the real question is whether the source of funds are stable and predictable enough to make everyone feel comfortable.
No one wants to get stuck covering someone else’s share of expenses based on a sad story.
- Do you have pets? Would you ever consider getting a pet?
Pets can cause conflict when renting, especially when it comes to student apartment rentals. Your roommate may decide they need an emotional support dog. But this can be problematic as you are allergic to dogs and have an equal right not to be forced to live with a dog. Overlapping rights are difficult conflicts to resolve in a way that is satisfactory to all involved.
If you or your current roommates already have a pet, make sure that your potential roommate’s animals also get along with your animals. When pets don’t get along, additional stress can be placed on the relationships between roommates. Unhappy pets can easily turn into unhappy roommates.
Make sure you also like the animal. If your potential roommate’s animal does not get along with you or other people, it may not be a good match for your household. No sense bringing in a new person if you and your roommates don’t get along with their pet.
Most importantly, make sure you have a full understanding of your Landlord’s rules about having pets. Some apartments for rent allow a variety of pets while some apartment complexes have a strict “No Pet” policy. Know what the policy is to prevent running afoul of the terms in your apartment rental agreement.
Before making any decision about the number and types of pets in your apartment, be honest about where you and all your roommates currently stand on either having pets or getting pets.
- What is your sleep schedule like?
On average, most people spend one-third of their life sleeping.
Is your potential roommate an early riser or likes to sleep in? And conversely, does your potential roommate go to sleep early or prefers to stay up late?
Note that it is okay to have opposite schedules, but it will be important to respect the schedule of your potential roommate’s and vice versa.
Make sure you are truthful about your schedule, that way your potential roommate will be able to decide if they can accommodate your schedule as well.
While determining if your potential roommate is a light or heavy sleeper (OMG, what if they snore like a tuba?), you will want to be honest about the location of where the rental property is. Some items to mention about your rental apartment location could be:
- Close to a train?
- Loud during certain hours?
- Near a freeway?
- Gardeners come on specific day and time?
Tired roommates make for unhappy roommates. If there are outside factors that can disrupt sleep schedules, it is best to be honest and up-front about them as these outside factors can have a negative impact on the roommate’s relationships.
- What is your class/work schedule?
Will your potential roommate hardly be home, or will they be around at the house all day?
It’s helpful to have an idea of how often your potential roommate will be around. Smaller apartments can be spacious if nobody is around for most of the day. Conversely, if everyone is home all the time, even a large multi-room apartment can seem a little cramped. Don’t forget, you will have visitors too making the space even tighter.
Does everyone want to shower at the same exact time? If everyone is on the same schedule, access to resources can be difficult. Imagine everyone wanting to use the bathroom at the same time in order to make their first class of the day or get to work.
There is no right or wrong answer regarding schedules but be sure you are okay with either having someone at home all day or hardly being at the apartment at all.
- Do you have a significant other?
Significant others can impact living arrangements. Roommates need to take relationships into consideration when sharing an apartment.
Will said boyfriend or girlfriend be coming over often? Sleeping over frequently? Using the facilities?
Some apartments are small and having additional people over all the time makes the apartment even smaller.
Also, respectful roommates would ask permission and obtain agreement before letting someone start staying over on a frequent basis or for an extended period of time; effectively adding another person to the roommate scenario.
When it comes to visitors to your apartment, be sure to check with your landlord and check your lease. Often, your lease agreement with your landlord will outline the rules in the amount of days a guest may stay at your apartment.
Also, be sure to set boundaries on what timeframe is respectful for all roommates when having guests over. While a midnight departure schedule works for some living situations, a 10:00pm departure schedule may work better for others. Having company all hours of the day and night is just like having additional roommates. Be sure to find a nice balance between entertaining and having some “down-time.”
- Are you still friends with your old roommates?
Based on how your potential roommate answers this question, you will get a good idea of how they get along with others.
Take note if your potential roommate says something like, “I have never been able to get along with my roommates in the past”.
Or for instance, if the household your potential roommate is signing up for has all girls living there and the potential roommate says, “I don’t get along well with girls”.
These are both probably good indicators that the potential roommate will not be the right fit for your household.
- How would you describe your cleaning habits?
Is your potential roommate a messy or clean person? Obviously, most would will not admit they are messy people. But it is important that you dig into this topic. A messy roommate does not fit well into a spotless household. Anybody remember the 1970’s television show, the Odd Couple?)
If there is some hesitation to the question or if you think there may be an issue here, perhaps asking some follow-up questions like, “which are your more favored chores to do?”, “which are your least favorite chores to do?” can give you some additional insight as to the cleaning habits of your potential roommate.
You can also see if your potential roommate is open to a weekly roommate chore schedule. Just be sure that not only are you respectful of doing chores and cleaning up after yourself, but that your potential roommate is also.
- What do you like to do in your spare time?
This is a great question to ask because you can get idea of what your potential roommate’s personality is like. They may even have common interests that you would enjoy together.
This is also a polite way to figure out whether they plan to invite guests to your place every night of the week and turn your place into party central and/or daily game nights might not be your thing.
Listen to keywords that may be considered your “red flags” in a potential roommate.
For instance, say your potential roommate plays an instrument in a band. Although this is a great hobby, maybe a follow-up questions like, “how frequently and where does the band practice?” would give you a better idea of how they will fit in. This is an especially good plan if noise or the number of guests that come over during the week for band practice is considered a “red flag” for you.
Does your potential roommate smoke, drink alcohol, or use drugs? You might have personal feelings about these activities and some of these recreational hobbies may be in violation of the lease depending on the induvial apartment complex.
- How do you handle conflict?
Although an uncomfortable question to ask, this is a very important. When a situation comes up, you want to know how your potential roommate is going to handle it.
Does your potential roommate bottle up their emotions or are they confrontational? If your candidate tells disaster story after disaster story about ex-roommates, there is a good chance that they were part of the problem.
Likewise, if they don’t want to talk about it, you better look a little more closely at references. There may be something there to find.
Regardless of how you or your potential roommate handles situations, it is always a good idea to keep open communication among yourselves and to hear each other out.
It is very important for every roommate you currently live with to meet the potential roommate. That way, after the meeting, everyone can discuss how the meet-up went and decide if the potential roommate would be a good match for the household.
Trust your ‘gut feeling’ because it will never steer you in the wrong direction.
Should your potential roomie meet everyone’s approval, it’s a good idea to write up a roommate agreement (doesn’t have to be like Sheldon’s from Big Bang Theory) to document the apartment rules and responsibilities including share of rent, utilities and agreement for each person to complete their assigned tasks on the written chore chart in a timely way each week.
Good communication will resolve most potential conflicts in advance and reduce anxiety, stress, and unnecessary misunderstandings.
Good luck and go find the perfect roommate!
If you and your roommates are looking for an apartment to rent in Davis, visit Davisville Management Company to learn more about the apartment complexes we manage and the right space for your and your roommates.
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