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Choosing A Roommate: Unexpected Dos And Don’ts

Owen Wilson has starred in nearly every movie by the legendary director of Isle of Dogs, Wes Anderson. One of the reasons for their enduring closeness was their rooming together in college. 

In 2015, about 30% of Americans aged 23 to 65 lived with roommates. This is up from 21% in 2005.

When you choose a roommate, what do you look for? This answer is not the same for everybody. In fact, many folks looking for roommates just want a human being with a reliable check for rent every month. Some would actually prefer it if they never saw their roommate. Are you a college freshman looking for a dorm mate for your first year in a totally new life? Or are you an adult looking to split the bill?

This article will cover some counter-intuitive rules of thumb for each type of roommate-seeker.

Friend Roommates

Keep a Working TV in the Common Area

This tactic is a permanent level-up to the probability you and your roommate will become friends. A TV in the living room will provide the house with an agreeable source of background noise for bonding while doing other things. 

These are some combo moves you can make to really kick your friendship into gear:

  • Connect TV to a video game console
  • Ask your roommates to chip in a few dollars a month for popcorn and movie night
  • Generously offer to bless the house by providing your own Netflix account 

Get Your Roommate a Small Gift

Cookies, books, or a case of beer early on in the roomie relationship can permanently cement the warmth of the dynamic. Gifting is a common practice in many cultures and will be seen as sweet and generous. This may or may not be relevant to what you want, but generosity is also seen as a leadership/alpha male quality.

 These are some of the best gifts for book lovers:

  • Poetry from The Future by the Lozano Brothers
  • Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss
  • The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

Acquaintance Roommates

Ask Beforehand if They Consider Themselves ‘Living Room People’ or ‘Bedroom People’

What is your philosophy for living at home? Are you a bedroom person or a living room person? That is one of the first questions college dorms ask you when you register for roommate matching. Whichever it is, you will want your roommates to answer similarly. If you have the chance to interview them before leases are signed, we highly recommend this question.

Ask Yourself What You Want

This might seem like a no-brainer, but for folks who aren’t looking for anything specific in their roommate, it can be a good starting point. Are you okay living with a stranger as long as he/she/they help with the bills? If so, then be sure to remain cordial, but now you know from the get-go how things are going to be. This will allow you to manage and set expectations to your liking.

Stranger Roommates

Make Sure They are Dependable!

The gravest issue in these breezy sorts of roomie relationships are often money problems. Be extra careful with whom you pick to live with you if this is the sort of dynamic you want. A schemey roommate may try to wiggle out of paying rent or utilities. These situations can deteriorate in every sense. Not only does it make for very awkward kitchen sharing, it can unfortunately degrade to shouting matches and even forced eviction.

To avoid these worst-case scenarios, the best references you can request of a roommate are former roommates or landlords.

Ask to Speak with Former Roommates or Landlord for Hygiene Reasons

This is a biggie. There are a lot of slobs out there. The major red flags you need to be wary of are leaving dirty dishes in the sink, bad smells coming from their room, and bug infestations. 

Luckily speaking with former roommates before signing a lease is an easy way to prevent yourself from falling into a year of stank misery, assuming you are looking at an out-of-college-dorm situation where your roommate actually has a history and you have control over who will live with you.

Roommate hacks:

  • To prevent cockroaches in states with roaches, all you have to do is be cleaner than your next-door neighbor.
  • If you are not used to using a dishwasher, get over it.
  • Plastic utensils leave zero cleaning to do after a party or event.

Finding a roommate online

RoomMatch.com is one of the best websites to make sure you find roommates that match your lifestyle. RoomMatch will guide you through their match-up quiz and then show your match percentage with potential roommates. It makes scrolling through room listings or roommates much more efficient.  


Sharing a home with others can be the best thing in your life or a black hole of misery. No exaggeration, for many people it’s the single biggest factor in how happy they are for that length of time. 

When you are interviewing housemates, it may be appropriate to adopt a pseudo-dating approach. Take this as if you were committing to a long-term relationship … because you are.

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Choosing A Roommate: Unexpected Dos And Don’ts

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