Roommate Report: Are you better off moving in with a friend--or a complete stranger?

By Alyse Whitney  | January 13, 2014 - 12:03PM

In movies and on TV (especially those with the unrealistically large Manhattan apartments for struggling waitresses), living with a close friend seems like the perfect situation: you have your bestie’s shoulder to cry on, someone to share every meal with, and you never have to watch a rom-com alone. (Okay, for guys, you don’t have to watch sports alone and there’s far less crying, but I digress.)

But in reality, it’s not all cookies and perfect shared Netflix queues. Just like rooming with a total stranger, you will experience awkward confrontations, learn about interesting living habits, and much more. 

Some best friends can live together easily, while others find (often, too late) that living with an acquaintance--without too many ties to potentially sever--is best. (Either way, you'll want to be a decent, respectful roommate and probably should, at some point consult our Guide to a Successful NYC Apartment Share.)

I’ve lived with a mix of strangers and friends since college and have found that personally, it’s better to live with a stranger who turns into a friend, striking a great balance. That may not work for everyone, so I’ve outlined a few things to consider when deciding whether to move in with a friend.

Are you willing to put your friendship at risk by moving in together?

Yes, it sounds dramatic, but it’s true. Just like when dating a friend, you have to consider what would happen if your relationship implodes. Are you willing to move out, or force your friend-turned-roommate to pack up and go? If things get tense and you have a fight that cannot be resolved, are you ready to see your friendship dissolve?

Chances are, neither of those scenarios will happen, but it’s always best to prepare for the worst. 

Do you like to have down time alone, or are you constantly socializing?

When living with a stranger, you're likely to get more personal space than you would living with your best pal. Though the idea of being together all the time and never having to be alone is great, think about whether you thrive when you have some time to unwind solo at the end of a long day.

Sometimes when living with friends—especially chatty ones—you always feel like you’re “on,” needing to entertain and socialize as soon as you walk in the door. Though friends can be understanding (especially ones who are more acquaintances than besties), they may not always understand that you just need an hour to gather your thoughts or catch up on Divergent.

Strangers, on the other hand, are more likely to give you some space, and as you get to know each other, you’ll understand each other’s routines and how social you like to be. 

Will you have a third roommate, or will it just be you and your friend?

If there’s a third person in your apartment (or even more — say a loft of five people, this is New York City after all), it may be easier to live with a friend and a stranger. That balances things out most of the time, though it’s tough when it feels like two against one or that two people are closer than others sometimes.

However, if you’re indecisive about who to live with, this could be a happy medium. You will still run into problems with seeing your friend in his or her least appealing hour—perhaps leaving dirty dishes in the sink or not taking out the trash—but you both have common ground with a stranger, all getting to know the other person and making things feel less about just the two of you. This doesn’t always work, but it can alleviate some of the intensity and tension of cohabiting with just a friend. 

Will you feel awkward confronting a friend if his/her behavior is annoying your or he/she is delinquent on the rent?

Sometimes the closer you are with someone, the harder it is to confront them on matters of money or just general roommate etiquette. Issues like late rent and too-loud-sex often come up with roommates, and if you're considering living with someone whom you feel you might be hesitant to confront because of your shared past, you may want to reconsider your choice.

On the other hand, how comfortable are you living with someone you barely know?

The answer to this question depends on the kind of person you are. Of course, there are plenty of tricks to finding normal, trust-worthy strangers to live with (e.g. asking specific questions about the person, meeting face-to-face and going with your gut), but if the very idea freaks you out, you may be better off sticking with friends, or friends-of -friends.

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3 simple rules for splitting the rent fairly

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