Financial Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Roommate

Tax Planning

Splitting bills with a roommate can be a pretty sweet deal. I’ve known people who attended graduate school without going into debt or steamrolled through their student loan payments because they shared their place. Unfortunately, finding the right roommate can be tricky.

Interviewing potential roommates about their finances (and other habits) is a smart move. Even though you may feel awkward asking so many questions about finances and more, you’re really doing both yourselves a huge favor. Better to know up front if you two are compatible or not before you share a space (and bills).

Here are four crucial questions to ask a potential roommate.

Have You Ever Rented Before?

While being a first-time roommate doesn’t have to be a deal breaker, you both need to know what you’re getting into. Even though you may have to show them ropes, clearly spelling out what to expect, it’ll be up to you to define things.

If they have shared a space before, ask them if they have references or some way to prove they’re financially responsible. You don’t want a deadbeat or a someone who has a habit of being late with their part of the rent. Whether or not your roommate is new to the game, you should also ask…

Can you Put Down a Deposit?

Might seem pretty upfront, but it’s good to know beforehand if your potential roommate has:
  • the ability to save
  • has thought ahead about shared expenses
Even if you have a solid financial cushion to cover deposits, it would be beneficial to have your roommate put some skin in the game.

How Long Have You Been at Your Job?

This may not be relevant as people move to other states for their jobs. However, it pays to dig just a bit deeper and see how stable things look on the work front. Are they pretty solid when it comes to their job or business? You don’t want to be stuck with several months of rent because your roommate is having a hard time keeping work.

How to Do You See Us Splitting Common Expenses?

Rent is a big chunk of change, but it’s not your only expenses. Talk it over and see how they view splitting heating, cable/Internet, and water bills. There are also some common supplies like toilet paper, coffee, and garbage bags that you need to figure out. You can also determine if you’ll be splitting meals or keeping things separate.

You may find that your roommate is an excellent cook and makes big helpings. (Win-win in my book!)

Your Thoughts and Roommate Stories

This isn’t a complete list (after all you have to consider habits like how often they clean, if they love hosting parties at your space, and if they have pets to see if you’re compatible), but these questions can go a long way in filtering out financially unprepared roommates.

I’d love to get your take – what questions do you ask potential roommates? Any advice for those on the search? Any great stories?

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