Leases, Landlords and Liabilities - Part 2 (Roommates)Go Back To Guides
Leaving college after four or five years is never an easy step to take. The thought of moving to a new area, finding suitable housing, and choosing the right person to share that housing with intimidates most new graduates. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the whole process, you’re certainly not alone.
It’s a good idea to start talking about your post college plans and options in the spring semester of your last year on campus. I can assure you that most of your classmates are faced with the same dilemma as you. They probably don’t have jobs waiting for them, they don’t want to return to their parent’s home, and they’re not sure whether to hang around the college town or venture out into a new area. If you get the word out among your friends, you’ll probably find other graduates interested in moving to the same city you’d like to live in. Many new grads find compatible roommates by networking and discussing their plans for the following year with others who are in a similar situation.
If you’ve lived in a dorm, you already know exactly the kind of person you’d like to avoid having as a housemate. So now you should consider the traits you’d like your ideal roommate to have. Try to prioritize them: How important is neatness? Is responsibility high on your list? Would it matter if the person had friends sleep over often? How high is your tolerance for loud music? Sometimes sharing your criteria for a roommate with a group of people helps you get in touch with your own strong feelings and degrees of tolerance.
If you are moving to a new area, need a roommate, and don’t know of anyone who wants to share an apartment, where do you turn? Most large cities have agencies that help people find suitable roommates. There is always a fee for this service, but the agency usually screens applicants and will try to find someone who is compatible. It’s important that you keep your list of priorities in mind when interviewing your potential housemate. Don’t be afraid to ask any questions you may have about the person’s lifestyle, their phone habits, or how often their friends will visit. What is your initial impression of this potential roommate? Do you think he or she will fit in with your lifestyle?
It’s really important that you talk about the rules of the household that are important to you. People’s responses to your questions should give you some indication of whether their personalities and values are compatible with yours. Sometimes your gut reaction to a situation will help you make the right decision
If you are successful in finding a roommate, it is essential that both of you sign the lease provided by the landlord. If, for any reason, your roommate moves out before signing the lease, you will be responsible for paying all of the bills. It’s important, too, to discuss the financial arrangements concerning phone usage, groceries, and any other household expenses incurred. Once again, having a checklist and establishing rules before you settle in will make life a lot easier later on.
I know a number of recent grads who have had great roommates. I also know a few who have horror stories about their experiences. If you find yourself in the latter category after a few months on your own, start thinking of a Plan B, and implement it as soon as possible. Consider the negative episode a valuable learning experience!
Excerpted from Reality 101: The Ultimate Guide to Life After College, by Fran Katzanek.
New York: Simon & Schuster (Kaplan Books).
Copyright 2000 by Fran Katzanek.