4 Tips for Selecting a Roommate

The Washington, D.C., metropolitan area is ranked the 10th “most expensive jurisdiction” to rent a two-bedroom apartment in a recent study by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (when using what they call the “housing wage.” The formula they use is a little complicated, but if you need more info, have at it). And among big-city metro areas, it ranks second only behind San Francisco.

Deejaying a house party

Pay it forward: The next time you’re out at the club, drop a buck in the DJ’s tip jar. He may very well need some help making rent this month.

So, renting an apartment here on some of the ridiculous salaries offered by companies looking to work you to death, you may very well have to get a roommate. I’ve had ’em, you’ve had ’em, we’ve all had ’em. Here are some tips I’ve come up with to make the process of selecting one easier. Yes, they’re all pretty much commonsense, but we’ve all been young or stupid once.

1. Know where to look –This may seem obvious. There are plenty of articles on the Web pertaining to finding a roommate (with one site even specializing in the task). Of course in 2012, the first thing everyone will say is Craigslist, and this is indeed a good place to start. Yes, the Internet seems made for roommate shopping. Also, be sure to check out local bulletin boards at schools, the kitchen at work or at coffeehouses and certain supermarkets. If all else fails, talk to your friends and put out Facebook/Twitter feelers. It can’t hurt. Let social media work for you.

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2. Get to know the person a little – This may also sound a bit obvious, but remember, this is the person who you’ll be living with, not hanging out with, accompanying to clubs, bars and shows, taking a class in ceramics with… this isn’t even some guy or gal you get to go visit à la the family once in a while, stay for a couple days and skedaddle out of there. No, this person you’ll see practically every day, so you two (or three) better get on or you’ll have the Bani/Dennis blues. Believe me, you don’t want those, unless you’re a fiction writer in need of inspiration. (I pay roommate! I pay roommate!).

I’d suggest more than a phone interview or e-mail/IM conversation. I’d say meet for lunch or a drink. If Mr. Wonderful on the phone shows up a hairy beast who tries picking up anything in a skirt while scarfing his tuna-on-rye like a starving tiger, all before polishing off his third Budweiser, you’ll thank me.

3. Make sure your lifestyles/schedules are compatible – No matter how you get along on the surface, sometimes deeper issues will emerge and spoil a roommate situation. For instance, if you’re a Second Amendment advocate and your roommate is a peacenik who helped lead a “get the guns off the street” drive, something tells me you’ll argue at some point. Or, if you end up with a staunch Christian or other religious adherent as a roommate (who doesn’t flout their beliefs so you really didn’t know beforehand) and you go to as many death metal and/or hardcore punk shows you can get your combat boots to – even going so far as inviting some “really cool dudes” back to your pad to blast the latest Gojira release, somehow I think your roomie is not going to like that.

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Or how about something as basic as when you need to get to work/school? This won’t affect men as much as women, because we know how many women like to primp and prep in the morning (or Lord knows what you do in the bathroom). So let’s say you and your roommate Sheila both need to get to Union Station at 9 a.m. to make sure you get to work by 9:30 a.m. Easy enough, right? Sometimes … Nothing is worse than a moody roommate who was rushed in her bathroom preparation because *&$@# Jenny would not get out of the bathroom until 8:30! Sometimes scheduling issues are as important as anything else is when it comes to selecting a roomie.

4. Make sure the person has a steady income – You don’t need to exchange tax returns, but if someone says they’re a “freelance writer” or “DJ,” I think it behooves you to find out a little more about what they do to earn a living before you sign on the dotted line. You have to make sure they can come up with the dough every month, not most months, not, “I’ll owe you for last month dude. I’m tired, going back to bed. If Caitlin calls, take a message, OK?” Every month means every month.

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Scott D

Scott D

Scott is a local writer and has been with the Apartment Showcase blog since its inception in 2010.

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