Choosing the Right Roommate for You

It’s nice to have a roommate to help you get through life’s occasional difficulties.

When people have decided or are deciding that they’d like to live with a roommate, they often forget to consider all the different types of opportunities available. In this section, you’ll read about how to choose the one or more roommates you can comfort ably live with, and just as important, you’ll be able to consider many of the varied types of living arrangements available. By combining the type of living arrangement with a roommate who fits your pre-selected criteria, your likelihood of a successful match is greatly increased. We’ll start your search for “the perfect roommate” by briefly covering some of the more common roommate combinations.

Women (Heterosexual)

This is probably the most popular shared living arrangement, one which has been made famous by movies and television shows such as “Laverne and Shirley.” Of course, if the experience was really as crazy as these shows portray, who could stand living together? Fortunately, this is not generally the case. Female roommates often become close, some times sharing makeup, clothes, and friends. So, if you are a female, you may want to make sure your roommate-to-be fits your clothing size! This is probably the most comfortable first-time roommate living arrangement for women, so consider it if you are a woman new to the roommate game.

Men (Heterosexual)

This is the second most common roommate circumstance. Young men will sometimes taste this style of living when they are sent to summer camp, or when they first go away to college. Whether they’re just out of school, beginning a new career, or simply interested in saving money or having companionship, young men live with each other. Al though male roommates generally do not become as close as female roommates, there do seem to be fewer difficulties with jealousy over girlfriends than female roommates seem to have sometimes over boyfriends. Usually a certain amount of male bonding develops—watching or attending sports events, or going out drinking.

Male and Female (Heterosexual-Platonic)

This is an unusual pairing that’s becoming more acceptable. Over time, a close brother/sister relationship may develop between the roommates. There is a distinct advantage in having a member of the opposite sex on hand for advice, opinion, and ideas, as when questions regarding boyfriends and girlfriends come up. Sometimes, male-female room mates teach each other skills they might not other wise learn; and a woman may feel safer from bur glary and assault when living with a man. To prevent a platonic relationship from becoming romantic, it helps to pick roommates you like but aren’t attracted to. Remember, it’s usually easier to find a date than it is to find a good roommate.

All Men or All Women (Homosexual)

Gay men or gay women may gain strength from living with others who share their sexual preference. The networking that sometimes occurs because of roommates will work here, too. And, as in any room mate situation, it’s best to keep the relationship platonic to preserve the stability of the living environment. Sometimes a gay man or woman will become roommates with a gay couple; this would be another source of support and companionship.


An interesting choice for a Couple who wants a roommate could be to live with another couple. Whether the couples are married or not, living together can provide a special closeness that other home-sharing arrangements wouldn’t. Each partner will often become more independent. When you compare your own behavior with that of your opposite number, bad, destructive habits that might break up your marriage can often be spotted and abandoned, though if a relationship is having problems, it’s probably not the best idea to share quarters with another couple. But if the relationship is basically sound, living with another couple may make it even better.

Group House Roommates

This is probably the least expensive living arrangement available. Group house sharing usually involves between six and fourteen people—and the possibilities are endless. Sometimes group houses will be formed by people who have the same religious or political beliefs. You may also want to live with people who are of the same profession or of the same minority. You can always start your own (see Section 6, Group House Living). Single-parent group houses, whether male or female or mixed, and multi family households; where complete families live together, are exciting new living alternatives. There are also multi-interest group houses, containing, for example, a writer, a banker, a legal secretary, a plumber’s assistant, a hairdresser, and a nurse.

More ambitious individuals might wish to run a for- profit group house. As explained later in the guide, this can be done successfully without even owning the property. Five or more incomes go further than one or two, so a group might wish to get together and buy a house.

For those with larger incomes, an exceptionally luxurious home can be rented, with money left over for domestic help and fine food and drink. And last but not least, an individual may choose to live in a group house that is run in a traditionally communal manner. And let’s not forget that special group housing that is ever present—student house sharing.

Salaried Roommates

There are live-in nurses, traveling companions, housekeepers, maids, cooks, nannies, chauffeurs, errand runners, private secretaries, and gardeners. People get free rent and are sometimes paid, too, if they house-sit, boat-sit, or manage an apartment house. Many times this type of live-in arrangement would suit a student perfectly, because of the flexible hours. The right sort of live-in job could also help a student make contacts that could launch him or her into a desired career upon graduation. There’s no telling where a live-in job might lead. So if you hate paying rent, be sure to examine the many paid roommate situations discussed further in this guide.

Roommate Profits

There are other ways to make money with room mates besides working in exchange for room and board. Perhaps you are ambitious and would like to run your own for-profit group house. It’s possible to make a Comfortable living doing nothing else. How would you like to own an apartment? Or be a part owner in a condominium or town house? Why not be part of a group who buys a group house? You could be one of three families who buy a vacation mountain cabin for summer and winter visits.


If you live in a town that has a population of 300,000 or more, you might start your own room mate-finding service. It can be done for less than $2,000 to start. Not only would you get a chance to make money while helping others, but if you still needed a roommate, he or she might walk right in the front door.

You may already be a property owner. In that case, you can rent out one or more of your rooms to students or others. Perhaps you have an unfinished basement or attic. If so, consider tuning it into studio or one-bedroom apartments. This sort of addition would undoubtedly add value to your house if you ever sold it, or increase your equity so that you could borrow more money on the property if you needed to.

Consider All Your Roommate Alternatives

It’s probably a good idea at this point to consider all the options you have just read about. Most are covered in detail in other sections of this guide, and you’ll find additional information in the Suggested Reading section. Before continuing with this section, take some time to skim the rest of the guide to give you a more complete idea of your choices. After you have done that, then return to this section and continue reading. Once you’ve decided on the type or types of housing arrangements you’d be comfortable with, then you are ready to decide what sort of roommate is right for you.

The Right Roommate for You

This section of the section will help you discover the exact type of roommate you’d most enjoy sharing quarters with. Even if you’ve had dozens of successful roommates, your chances for continued happiness will increase greatly by taking the following quiz and filling out the questionnaires in this section of the section.


The following test is simple and not scientific in nature. It should, however, give you a reasonably good idea of the type of roommate(s) with which you’d be most comfortable. Opposites might attract, but in actual fact, the closer your living style is to that of your roommate, the better your chance for success. That doesn’t mean that a gregarious type won’t fit well with someone Introverted—it has happened. But devout Mormons should think twice be fore rooming with the president of a local Hell’s Angels’ motorcycle club.

Keeping this in mind, take this short and simple quiz. There are no wrong or right answers, but your responses will give you an idea of who’s best for you.

The Quiz

1. When I spend money for my own food or other personal items, I would prefer it if my roommate(s):

(a) Never use anything I purchased for my own use.

(b) Use anything of mine as long as they ask first and replace it.

(c) Use anything of mine anytime they feel like it.

2. When rent or utilities are due:

(a) I expect my roommate(s) to have the money for their share without being asked twice.

(b) If my roommate(s) don’t have the money or forget, I’ll front the money and they can pay me back.

(c) I’m terrible with money—I need a roommate who can handle finances for both of us.

3. When my roommate(s) bring over company:

(a) I’d like to know ahead of time, because privacy is very important to me.

(b) Occasional guests are all right, but I’d prefer knowing about overnight guests ahead of time.

(c) My roommates’ Mends are my friends. They can bring over anyone anytime, even over night guests, without telling me beforehand.

4. When my roommate(s) leave theft clothes and personal items in the living room and bathroom:

(a) I expect my roommate(s) to be neat and tidy, and I never want to have to pick up after them.

(b) Nobody’s perfect. If my roommate(s) are occasionally untidy, that’s expected. I might occasionally slip up, too.

(c) I’m not very neat myself. So what if our place is really messy? At least we’ll be comfortable.

5. My roommate and I wear the same sized clothes:

(a) I don’t want anyone borrowing my clothes; accidents do happen.

(b) It would be fun to share clothes sometimes. But the borrower has to ask first and promise to take care of cleaning or any damage.

(c) Great. I love to share clothing.

6. Your roommate(s) want to throw parties frequently:

(a) A few parties a year would be nice, but many more than that would be too much trouble.

(b) I’m pretty social, so entertaining frequently sounds great, as long as there’s a mixture of both our friends.

(c) Let’s party! The more often the better. Once or twice a month wouldn’t be too much.

7. My roommate loves to listen to loud punk rock and Scottish bagpipe music at 6 A.M.;

(a) As long as she uses the stereo in her room and keeps it low or uses her headset, it’s okay.

(b) If I’m also awake, and it’s not blasting too loud, there’s no problem.

(c) Hey—I love all music. Turn it up full blast.

6. When the mail comes, my roommate(s) always grab it first:

(a) If they don’t stop misplacing my bills and reading and wrinkling my magazines, I’ll go crazy.

(b) As long as my mail winds up in my hands in a day or two, that’s fine.

(c) If my mail finds its way to me any old time, it’s okay by me. Better late than never.

Now add up your score. Give yourself one point for each question marked a, three points for each question marked b, and five points for each question marked a Then read what your total scores mean.

Type A—”No Problem”

30 to 40 points. You could probably get along with any other relaxed, laid-back roommate. Be careful that you don’t wind up with a very conservative, uptight, straight sort, or you might possibly kill each other within two weeks. Definitely look for another roommate like yourself, or someone who can put up with your “What? Me worry?” attitude.

Type B—”We Can Work It Out”

15 to 29 points. You seem to be even-tempered and fairly tolerant. You have the most flexibility of all. Probably you could happily live with Type A or Type C. In actuality, you may find yourself in great demand as a roommate. Keep this in mind when choosing others. Of course, the ideal for you would be another Type B. If you found the right one, it could be a roommate marriage “made in heaven.”

Type C—”Bah, Humbug”

8 to 14 points. Listen pal, you need to lighten up. It’s quite possible that you shouldn’t be living with a roommate at all. You might offer to pay more than your even split because you are so annoying to live with. The best you can hope for is to find a very understanding and compassionate Type B. Mean while, buy a copy of Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People and read it from cover to cover.

National Shared Housing Resource Center

Whether you’re new to living with a roommate or have been doing this sort of home sharing for years, it’s a good idea to find out what the SHRC has to offer, This nonprofit corporation is a dedicated re source center for anyone who’s interested in successful roommate and/or house-sharing living. Although their organization’s main emphasis is on intergenerational house sharing, many of their materials are applicable to any type of roommate situation.

You’re bound to find one or more of their publications very useful.

The following are three excerpts from the helpful booklet, Is Home-sharing for You? A Self-Guide for Homeowners and Renters, published by the SHRC. They have been kind enough to give me permission to reprint the information.


Why do I want to home-share with someone?

Is my home or apartment suitable for sharing? For example, is there a private room for a housemate? Is there an easily accessible bathroom? Is there adequate closet or storage space? Are there structural barriers, such as stairs, that might limit who can live in my home?

Is the space I’m making available really ready for another person(s) and their possessions? If not, what must I do to make it ready? Will the space be furnished or unfurnished? If a person needs an Unfurnished bedroom, am I willing to store my things?

How much rent do I need in order to satisfactorily reduce my housing cost burdens?

Would I like some help around the house? If yes, how much assistance do I need?

L expect a service, should I reduce the rent, offer free rent free room and board, or free room and board plus compensation for the services a house- mate would provide? Am I prepared to adjust to some household changes in return for the additional income or help that I am asking? To what degree do I want to share my kitchen, living room, and other common areas?

What household responsibilities do I wish to share? For example: housework, cooking, shopping, driving, gardening, trash removal, handiwork, laundry.

What are my housekeeping standards? For example, how clean should common areas be kept?

Am I willing to provide any services? For example: cooking, laundry, driving, etc.

What is essential to me in a housemate:

—Do I prefer a female, a male, or a couple?

—Do I have an age preference?

—Would I consider living with children?

—Do I have a racial or religious preference?

—Do I object to smoking or drinking?

—Would I consider living with pets?

What kind of relationship do I want with my housemate? Do I just want a tenant/landlord relationship, or do I want a friendly companion with whom to share my life?

Do I have specific interests I would like to share with my housemate?

What are my shortcomings that might present difficulties to anyone living with me?

What qualities do I have that would contribute to a shared arrangement?

What can I do to ensure that my home can be come our home when shared with another?


Why do I want to home-share with someone? What kind of neighborhood do I want to live in? Do I need a furnished or unfurnished space? How much rent can I afford?

What is essential to me in a housemate?

—Do I prefer a female, a male, or a couple?

—Do I have an age preference?

—Would I consider living with children?

—Do I have a racial or religious preference?

—Do I object to smoking or drinking?

—Would I consider living with pets?

What kind of relationship do I want with my housemates? Do I just want to rent a room in a home, or do I want a friend and companion with whom to share my life?

Do I have specific interests I would like to share with my roommate?

What kind of living space do I need? How much private and common space do I need?

What household responsibilities do I wish to share? For example: housework, cooking, shop ping, driving, errands, gardening, trash removal, handiwork, laundry.

What are my housekeeping standards? For example, how clean should common areas be kept? Am I interested in providing services (housework, cooking, driving, gardening) to my housemate for an equitable financial arrangement?

What do I consider an equitable exchange? A reduction in rent, free rent, free room and board, free room and board plus compensation? Are stairs a problem for me?

Do I need some assistance from the person with whom I will live?

Am I prepared to adjust to a household change in return for rent saving services, security, or companionship?

What are my shortcomings that might present difficulties to anyone living with me?

What qualities do I have that would contribute to a shared arrangement?

What things can I do to make my new house-sharing arrangement feel like home?

Roommate Traits You Can Live With

Even before you start to interview potential room mates, by phone or in person, it’s a good idea to decide what type of personality traits you can live with, not to mention those traits or situations you can’t tolerate. If you are looking for someone to move into your apartment or house, you usually have more control over the situation, but generally when you find a potential roommate that you just seem to click with, you’ll willingly compromise some of your preferences.

The first step is to take two blank sheets of paper. On one, write “Roommate Wants.” Then list all the things that are important to you in a roommate situation. See example below:


1. Must like cats.

2. Have a good sense of humor.

3. Doesn’t mind classical music.

4. Likes to cook a lot.

5. A member of the same sex.

6. Isn’t too messy.

7. Enjoys throwing parties.

8. Has a car and drives, since I don’t.

9. Is even-tempered.

10. Wants to become friends as well as roommates

11. Likes to exercise or jog.

12. Has a good, steady job.

13. Enjoys theater and movies.

14. Likes to eat out at French restaurants.


1. Smoker.

2. Uses lots of drugs.

3 Very introverted.

4. Possesses strong racial prejudice.

5. Owns a dog.

6. Has no furniture of his or her own.

Then, on the second blank sheet, list those traits or situations that you won’t accept. For example:

It’s also a good idea to take a third blank sheet of paper and make a list of the different types of living- together combinations that you would enjoy. Here’s an example of how your sheet might look:

Acceptable Living Situations

1. Women (heterosexual).

2. Myself and a straight couple.

3. Group house.

4. Light housekeeping in exchange for room or room and board (see section on salaried roommates).

By keeping all your lists close at hand when you start the next phase in your roommate hunt, you’ll find your chances of success greatly improved.

Points to Remember

1. Study, then decide and make a list of the room mate combinations you’d prefer.

2. Take the roommate quiz to give yourself a better idea of what type of roommate you’ll feel most comfortable with.

3. If you are looking for a roommate and already have your own apartment or house, answer the corresponding questionnaire.

4. If you are looking for a place to share, then fill out that corresponding questionnaire.

5. Make up a list of “Roommate Wants” so you’ll have it for reference.

6. Make up a list of traits or circumstances that are unacceptable.

7. Next, make up a list of “Acceptable Living Situations,” based on the first part of this section.

8. Refer to these lists when you start the next phase of your roommate search, in the next two sections.

If all this seems like a lot of work, it doesn’t have to be. You don’t have to do all these things at one sit ting. In the long run, a little time spent now can save you lots of time and money later—not to mention the annoyance of having to live with the wrong room mate. Or just follow some of the suggestions from this section—any of them will greatly increase your chances of roommate success, Of course, you can ignore these suggestions, but all have been proved successful and are highly recommended.

PREV: Introduction to Roommates
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