One of the most important steps in finding a roommate is deciding that you’re ready to do so. This step, however, often gets trampled over in the decision-making process. So, I advise women who are contemplating the roommate option to take careful steps and consider the following five tips.
Stop and ask yourself if now is the right time, and if so, why? Are you panicked about money? Are you going through a rough patch – a divorce, boyfriend issue, problem with a group of friends? Issues like these can be a sign that it’s time for a change for sure, or they can be just the impetus you’ve needed to make a change for the better.
But evaluate your reason and make sure that it’s in the background, not driving you willy nilly to make rash decisions. Decide exactly why you’re ready for a roommate, and then commit to planning out your steps with thought and care. This is a big decision.
On the flip side of examining your own motives and situation, do cast a critical eye on the story that your potential roomie tells you. You might very well be pressured, intentionally or unwittingly, by someone who tells you a story of desperation. Maybe it’s something to consider, or maybe it’s a sign that this person is going to bring trouble in her wake.
Don’t confuse compassion with being a sucker. This is your home you’re talking about. You must be sure that you’re not bringing strife, discord, crisis, or other unpleasantness inside your personal haven.
Sit down and write out ground rules: use of kitchen, cleaning responsibilities, having friends and family over, TV use after a certain hour, smoking or not, use of shared space, expenses that will be shared or separate, sharing or segregating food.
Be very specific. And be prepared to review those rules with a potential roommate and to require that your new roommate sign a copy of those rules before moving in. One easy way to start a comprehensive list of rules is to complete a member profile on Roommates4Boomers, the roommate-matching service for women over 50.
You will answer a detailed set of questions that will help match you with potential roommates with a high degree of compatibility, much like dating sites do. That set of questions will give you a very good start to your list of rules and requirements. Roommates4Boomers is free to join, by the way. You pay a fee only when you find a match who you want to contact.
No matter how uncomfortable, ask your potential roommate to fill out a form giving you permission to run a credit and background check. You just never know with people. Don’t feel sheepish. You have a right to protect your safety, your financial security and your quality of life at all times, especially within the confines of your own home.
If someone balks at giving you the right to check their background, don’t listen to their reasons why, don’t be intimidated and don’t fold. Consider them a FAIL and cross them off your list. Immediately. And when they do sign, do the checks. Don’t simply consider the person’s willingness a “good enough” sign that they’re on the up and up.
It may seem overly formal and even paranoid, but this really is one of those situations where you would be doing yourself a giant favor if instead of downloading a lease form from the internet and calling it good, you took that lease to a lawyer who practices in the real estate arena and asked him or her to review it for sufficiency.
The form might be all-purpose and lacking provisions that are very important in your state. Or it may simply be poorly drafted with loopholes you don’t realize. Have a professional look at the lease form. It’s a one-time expense that could save you far more in expenses or lost income down the road.
Are you trying to find a roommate? If so, what are your biggest concerns? Are you living in a shared housing arrangement? How has the experience been for you? Do you know a friend or loved one who lives alone and is lonely, yet is resistant to the idea of having a roommate? Have you tried to help her take the first steps to at least explore the possibility? Please share your thoughts.