It’s easy to see the advantages of living with a roommate. It’s cheaper, less lonely and you have the added benefit of knowing that there’s always someone there on those nights when you’re convinced that a psycho killer is lurking on your porch (it’s really just the neighbor’s cat).
While there are a lot of good things about moving in with a friend—the most important of which is the fact that you already know each other—moving in with a stranger can be just as great, so long as you take the time to make sure that said stranger is going to be a good roommate.
To make sure your experience is safe, hassle-free and perhaps even fun, here are five things you should know before moving in with a total stranger.
Be an Interviewer
You don’t need to be a journalist or a detective, but you do need to know what questions to ask the stranger you’ll potentially be living with. If you’re stumped, start with these five.
If you’re moving into their place, take the time to talk to the landlord and make sure he or she has never had any issues with late payments or anything else. If they’re moving into your place, ask for information about employment and get references from previous landlords and roommates.
This is the One Situation Where It’s Okay to Be a Social Media Stalker
It’s time to sleuth. Start with a Google search. If this reveals mugshots, don’t jump to conclusions. This may be related to a past offense that wouldn’t necessarily affect your roommate situation. Find out what exactly you’re dealing with.
Check out their social media—Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin. This is a good way to rule out someone who is obviously not a match personality-wise. You shouldn’t expect your potential roommate to have the exact same views and interests as you, but if you are radically different in a way that’s ripe for conflict (i.e. opposite political views that you’re both very, very outspoken about) this might not be a good match.
Keep it Legit
Make sure you’re both on the lease. It might seem tempting to skip the hassle if you think your landlord won’t notice, but you want to make sure you’re both responsible for rent and damages that occur.
Set Your Expectations
Even the most compatible roommates are going to disagree occasionally. Realize that not every roommate you have will think exactly like you. If you’re a total slob, don’t be offended if your roommate asks you to wash your dishes. If you like to clean the floors every single day, don’t expect your roommate to have the same gusto for vacuuming.
Discuss what’s fair for both of you when it comes to things like cleaning and having guests over and base your expectations on those agreements, not your own personal expectations.
Have an Escape Clause
Look, the stranger you move in with might end up being such an awesome roommate that you don’t need to think about an escape clause. That being said, if your living situation does end up becoming a total nightmare, you’ll be glad you thought ahead.
Have the uncomfortable conversation when you’re still strangers about what should happen if it doesn’t work out. Common courtesy implies that if you moved into their place, you should move out if you’re not happy and vice versa. Agree on the amount of time that the roommate who wants to move out should give the other and determine what will happen to items you purchased together. Figure out if the vacating roommate should offer to find someone to take their place.
Remember, it’s better to talk things out (and maybe even put them in writing) than assume.