What to ask when finding roommates

Redfin featured At Home Housing as an expert in their recent article on finding roommates on Redfin. I shared this comment about what to ask potential roommates:

“Are you interested in being a member of a community, or do you just need a roommate?  

People can have very different ideas about what living together means. Community-focused housing includes weekly or monthly meals together, shared activities, discussions, decision-making about the home, and getting involved in the neighborhood. Many people have never had these activities or conversations with their roommates. It may be difficult at first, but it allows everyone to gain more skills and communicate better, leading to fewer misunderstandings that can lead to people moving out. Discovering their views and articulating your perspective on community is an important way to understand whether the home is a good fit.”

Recommendations from others included finding someone who shares your schedule and preferences. I think that these recommendations should be taken with a grain of salt; don’t write off people too quickly. In our house, we have meat eaters and vegetarians, some neat and orderly and others who don’t mind a mess, people who wake up at 5am and those who stay up till 1am. We have been able to have discussions and find compromise on these types of issues. I think it can be limiting to try and find roommates who have the same preferences as you. The biggest factor in our case was wanting to be part of a community. That makes all the difference on whether you can come to agreements, and not cross things off as deal-breakers at first glance. It’s the difference between thinking as individuals who have their own requirements versus creating a shared vision of the space together.

I agree with the recommendations to talk about daily life, habits, and styles. But if your list of requirements is too long, you may be setting yourself up for a contentious relationship, and missing out on opportunities for growth. I’ve learned so much from community living, including changes in the things I thought I needed. Decide if your goal is to have those relationships with your roommates, and let the rest follow.