Ah, roommates. Sometimes you can’t afford to live without ‘em—but it’s not so easy to live with them. I’m a big advocate of a roommate agreement, through which everyone in the apartment sets up policies about utilities, pets, parking, etc. But even before you get to that point, there are a few questions you might want to ask, whether you’re doing a year-long share or just summer weekends:
What’s the Guest Policy?
You may assume that you’re each paying for a bedroom and that friends might occasionally stay over—only to discover that one of your roommates has a steady who hangs around all the time, acting as a ghost roommate and drinking all the milk. The political way to inquire about this might be, “I had this happen in my last place and we were all a little surprised … how do you expect us to handle visitors?”
What’s the Deal With the Common Areas?
If you’re living with a basketball fan, you deserve to know that you’re not getting near the TV during March Madness. If you’re living with a cook, it’s good to know that you’ll have to fight for kitchen time. (Although I can say, based on a decade of experience with roomies, it’s always good to live with a cook.)
Where Did the Couch Come From?
When you’re applying to live on someone else’s turf, try to find out if one roommate has brought all the living room furniture—and if it all disappears when she moves out. (Conversely, if you hate the couch, try to discreetly find out if you can help replace it.)
What Happens if Bedbugs Show Up?
You want to make sure you’re moving into a bedbug-free home, of course, but the little peskies can come over from a neighbor. You don’t want to be the crazy roomie who’s afraid of everything, but you also want to get a sense that if there’s a problem, everyone will band together to handle it.
Who’s the Night Owl?
I had one share that crashed over my roomie’s habit of instant messaging at one in the morning … and not turning off the chime. You may not want to have set “lights out” rules, but it’s good to have a general idea if you’re living with someone who thinks it’s okay to make noise past midnight. Of course, the flip side of this means you need to think about whether there are any serious morning people. For example, if a potential roomie is going to get up at six a.m., whistle, and exercise loudly, you should ask yourself, “Am I going to stab that person?”