Finding a roommate would be so much easier if only baggage-laden people came with giant light-up signs above their heads: "Don't pick me! I will use your living room to host nightly EDM parties!" Or, "I'm allergic to paying rent!"
Alas, such signs don't exist. But there are ways to suss out if a potential roommate—whether a buddy from college or a virtual stranger off Craigslist—is bad news.
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“Any form of serious incompatibility that would predispose conflict about how to share the abode would be a red flag,” says Robin Owsley, co-owner of roommate search site RoomieMatch. “It’s probably going to be very different for different people, as something that would seriously annoy one individual would be innocuous to another, and vice versa.”
We spoke with roommate-finding experts and regular New Yorkers (who’ve had some rather unfortunate apartment-sharing experiences) to figure out what to watch out for before committing to cohabiting.
- “If you meet them over a drink and they start ordering shots. This’ll be a roommate who likes to party.” —Rory Bolger, an agent at brokerage Citi Habitats
- “If they want to be my best friend. I had a young roommate who was new to the city and was always looking to me to show him the lay of the land. I just wanted someone to share expenses with.” —Jonathan, Upper West Side
- “A credit score of 650 or less should raise a red flag. It could be an indicator that they’re not financially stable.”—Sarah Beth Hill, founder of Perfect Strangers of NYC, a roommate-matching service
- “Does their lifestyle really mesh with yours? Say they’re a vegan who can’t stomach the sight of meat or a borderline alcoholic when you’re in recovery or someone who prefers to be a nudist in their home. Only you know what will be a deal-breaker for you.”—Douglass Leavy, founder of Rainbow Roommates, an LGBTQ roommate-search site
- “Keeping completely different hours can work for some people but won’t for most.”—Matt Hutchinson of SpareRoom, a search site for rooms and roommates
- “Someone who has a serious boyfriend or girlfriend could be trouble. How often will they be staying over? You don’t want a third roommate who doesn’t pay for anything.” —Josh, Williamsburg
- “Even if you can’t quite put your finger on what it is about the person that bothers you—say they can’t seem to look you in the eye or you couldn’t get a good understanding of what they do for work—always go with that gut feeling.”—Rory Bolger
- “If they show up disheveled or in sweatpants when they come to look at the apartment. You don’t want to live with a bum.”—Sarah Beth Hill
- “It’s a definite red flag if someone won’t provide a reference from a previous roommate. I had a roommate who never did her dishes. Ever. It would have been helpful to discuss her cleaning habits—or lack thereof—with someone she used to live with.”—Dena, White Plains (formerly of the Upper West Side)
- “It’s one thing to want a roommate who cleans. It’s another to have a roommate who freaks out when the toilet paper roll is put on the wrong way or there’s a fork left on the table. If they describe themselves as OCD when it comes to cleaning, that could be a problem.” —Sarah Beth Hill
- “If they clam up or become awkward at any discussion about money. Are they open to contributing to the apartment or will you have a cheapie on your hands?” —Rory Bolger