Home & Apartment Lifestyle

How to Pick a Roommate So You Don’t End Up In a Friend Breakup

Not that we speak from experience or anything. *shudder*

In the months that follow college graduation, we’re willing to bet you’re battling some serious decision fatigue. After all, cutting the cord with your alma mater means you have to start down a career path, determine which city you want to live in, and find an apartment. Figuring out how to pick a roommate to actually share that apartment with might be an afterthought—and we’re here to make a case for why it shouldn’t.

Even if you’re fortunate enough to have a college bestie (or several) who are willing to go in on an apartment with you, perhaps take a pause before signing the papers (yes, even if Mercury is not in retrograde). We promise—it’ll save you a lot of problems (cough, trauma, cough) down the road.
How to Pick a Roommate - signing a lease

How to Pick a Roommate After College

Before you say yes to the address with a potential roommate, consider these tips to guide your decision-making. It just might save your friendship, your wallet, and your sanity.

1. Consider whether you want to live with friends or strangers.

If friends are an option, living with them may sound like a no brainer—why wouldn’t you live with people you already know? But even if your friends want to live with you, it’s worth considering finding roommates with a few more degrees of separation.

Living with someone can put a lot of pressure on your relationship. Chances are, you’ll be spending extensive amounts of time together and dealing with the many challenging situations that come with cohabitation. Make sure any friend you live with is someone you can actually handle living with—and if not, it’s probably not worth risking your friendship.
How to Pick a Roommate - roommates arguing

2. Don’t be polite.

Living situations are not something to be polite about. If someone asks to live with you and you know it will be a bad fit, it’s important to hold your ground. One awkward conversation might just save you years of compromised mental health.

If you’re fearful of causing conflict by saying no—especially to someone you intend to remain friends with—here are some excuses you can use:

  • I want to live in a different neighborhood
  • My commute will be too long if I live in that neighborhood
  • I’m introverted and would rather live alone
  • I don’t want to commit to anything just yet, so you should probably go ahead and look without me
  • I’m not sure how long I’ll be living in [insert location] so I can’t sign a lease that long
  • My finances won’t allow me to spend that much on rent
  • You have a cat, and I’m actually allergic
  • I’m super picky about my living situations and don’t want that to get in the way of our friendship (i.e. it’s not you, it’s me!)

Whatever excuse it takes, use it. If you have a bad feeling about living with someone, your intuition is probably right.
How to Pick a Roommate - messy kitchen

3. Find roommate(s) who you can communicate effectively with.

Open communication is essential. Co-habitating with someone (or several someones) will force you to face hard conversations around cleanliness, noise-level, socializing, budget, and general annoyances. And passive aggressive sticky notes are not recommended.

If you don’t feel comfortable speaking up to your roommates about things that are bothering you, you’ll be forced to live in resentment for several months, or sometimes even years. Make sure you select roommates who are receptive to and willing to have tough conversations.
How to Pick a Roommate - women talking on couch

4. Determine whether your habits and personalities are compatible.

In college, it was more socially acceptable to live in a pig-sty, decorate your kitchen with empty handles of Smirnoff, and party until 3am. But once you’ve graduated, you’ll probably want to move on from some of these habits.

When evaluating potential roommates, it’s important to consider if your lifestyles will be compatible—or at least tolerable.
How to Pick a Roommate - two women chilling in an apartment

5. Consider the number of roommates and your dynamics.

Since we’re discussing how to pick a roommate, it would be impossible for us not to mention how to pick multiple.

It’s natural for post-grads to jump into houses full of people right after college. We get it—rent is expensive and you don’t want the party to be over just yet. However, it’s important that you think through the dynamics of living with multiple roommates before committing to that decision.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Will cliques form?
  • Are you exhausted by constant social situations?
  • Do you know all of these people personally, and do any of them have a history of being toxic friends?
  • Are your roommates going to treat every day like a Fraturday?
  • Will my entire friend group fall apart if this living situation doesn’t work out?
  • Do you feel like you’ll get roped into not-so-great habits (like drinking more, staying up too late, etc.) by living with this group of people? Group-think is real!

How to Pick a Roommate - gathering of roommates over wine

The benefit of having multiple roommates is that their annoying habits won’t feel as potent. For example: if one roommate in a five-person house isn’t super clean, it’s likely that the other four will pick up the slack. However, if one roommate in a two-person apartment is messy, it’ll drive you insane.

It’s true that having just one roommate negates the potential for cliques to form and leads to a less chaotic household overall. But, the downside is that it can put undue pressure on the living situation—especially if your roommate is a friend who expects you to do absolutely everything with them.

When selecting who you share a two-bedroom with, consider whether you’re able to spend extended periods of time alone with this person. If they are a friend, ask yourself if your friendship is strong enough to withstand those typical roommate annoyances. If not, living together might just pull the trigger on a friendship breakup.
How to Pick a Roommate - roommates angry at each other

Ask Yourself These Questions About Your Potential Roomie Before Signing a Lease

  • Are they messy or a neat freak? How does that jive with you?
  • Are they financially secure (i.e. can they pay the rent)? Moreover, are your housing budgets aligned?
  • Where do they work, and can you find a convenient neighorhood for both of you?
  • Do they have similar lifestyle habits and routines? Are they going to be raging while you try to sleep, or will they yell at you if you come home drunk at 2am?
  • Do they have a significant other who will be over all the time? Or, might they always be hanging at their partners’ place?
  • Are they introverted or extroverted? How much time do you think you’ll spend together?
  • Do they have pets?

How to Pick a Roommate - cat and dog on grass

Your roommate doesn’t need to be on the same page as you for all of these things, but it’s important that they at least respect you. If you’re more introverted than them, will they give you your space or suck your energy? If they like to party and you don’t, will they make sure to be quiet when coming home at night or wake you up by drunkenly knocking over everything in the kitchen?

Opposites can live together happily, but only if there’s an undertone of respect. Make sure you’re either on the same page or can honor each other’s differences.
How to Pick a Roommate - roommates playing video games

Final Thoughts on How to Pick a Roommate

Your living situation affects every aspect of your life—and therefore is one of the most important post-grad decisions you will have to make. Picking roommates will ultimately have an impact on your ability to sleep, focus on work, the appearance of your living space and your overall mental health. Nothing will make you more anxious than going home to a roommate who treats you poorly.

In college, living with bad roommates was tolerable, if not expected to some degree. After all, having a nightmare roommate story feels like a right of passage (and a dang good conversation in the dining hall). But beyond the complaining collateral, you could always escape to the library or a friend’s dorm for reprieve. It was easier to evade the situation when needed.

As an adult, it’s harder to run from your problems. Especially when your problems leave crumbs all over the counter and invite strangers over to party at 2am on a Tuesday. You quite literally have to see your roommates everyday… talk about a pressure cooker.

Beyond the obvious pains of moving out when a situation goes awry, breaking a lease can be pretty challenging in most cities. Not only will it likely cost you thousands of dollars, but some landlords even make you pay the rent until they find a new tenant. Carefully picking your roommates will save you from losing precious money, sleep, and most importantly, your sanity.

By Jess Lohr

Jess is the co-founder of Adultescence, a podcast, blog and social media brand for twenty-somethings making the transition from life in college to adulthood. She writes about dating, friendship, money, and career. She also specializes in consumer insights, and is passionate about helping brands infuse the voice of their customers into their marketing, product, and CX strategies.

In her free time, you can find Jess spinning at The Handle Bar, obsessively consuming personal finance content, and playing with her adorable (but chaotic) puppy, Luca. You can follow her on Instagram @jesslohr or on LinkedIn.

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