Sometimes having a list is the best way to make a decision, especially if you’re at the stage of making a decision to make a decision. Listing the mini decisions that must be made individually will help you envision the outcome and decide what the big decision will be. When you’ve got your list of mini decisions to make, you can tackle them one by one. When you’re finished, you know you’ve covered all the bases, at least all that you can imagine, and therefore you can feel pretty comfortable that your decision, once you’ve made it, is well considered. So, what makes a good checklist for seeking, and deciding on, a roommate?
1) Decide If The Time Is Right
Step one is deciding that the time is now to expand your horizons and your options and seek out a roommate. That’s a big transition, and it can be very freeing as you consider all of the benefits of living with another like-minded woman from your own boomer generation. Interestingly, sometimes this first consideration can bring you from a mind-set of “I’m not ready” to “It’s obvious – now is the time.” Consider your financial situation, your loneliness factor, what could or would be good about living with a roommate, and what would be your ideal situation. In other words, picture living with a roommate without telling yourself, just yet, that you’re going to make that leap. It’s a mind-freeing exercise.
2) Choose the “make or break” criteria first
If you were to live with a roommate, would it be someone who smokes or doesn’t smoke? Works out of the home or is in the home all day? Pets or no pets? Think of these factors as the ones that would make you say, “oh no, what have I done?” if your new roommate was walking up your walkway with her first load of belongings to move into your home – someone who reeks of smoke, for example, or who has a St. Bernard in tow.
3) Think about the money
What would you consider fair, and comfortable, in sharing expenses? Do you feel you should split rent or mortgage payments and utilities 50-50? Or do you think you should pay a little more, especially if it’s a mortgage, since you own the house – or should your roommate pay more since you’re handling all of the paperwork and supervising all of the repair and maintenance over time? There’s no right answer. Just decide what’s right for you – before you start talking with potential roommates.
4) What kind of background checks will you do?
Again, this is a decision to be made before you start interviewing roommates. Find a service that will check criminal history and credit records, and learn how to legally obtain permission to check a person’s background and financial stability. Also get or prepare a form that asks for references so you can talk to past landlords or roommates before deciding whether to have someone move in with you.
5) Create your own set of rules
Think about the things that a roommate might do and whether those things would be OK with you or not. Would it be OK for your roommate to plant things in your garden? To cook using ingredients from your pantry? To watch TV after 11 pm? To add her own photos and decorative items to your common living spaces? Draw up a list of rules that you will review with your new roommate before you sign an agreement or allow her to move in.
6) Designate the areas you will give over to your roommate
Which bedroom will be hers? Will she have a bathroom to herself or will you be sharing? Which cabinets will you clear out for her use? What about space in the kitchen, or the living room bookshelves, or storage areas? Map these out.
7) Decide how you will go about searching for a roommate
Will you consider your own group of friends? Will you ask your friends if they know of anyone looking for a roommate? Or would you prefer to do a search that allows you to view a potential roommate’s habits and interests without feeling pressure to invite them to become your roommate because you already know them or someone has recommended them to you?
8) Decide how you will get to know your potential roommate
Will one meeting be enough before you’re ready to do a background check and call references? Or will you make it a point to spend more time together, like sharing some outings or meeting some of each others’ friends, or even spending a weekend together, perhaps at a rented house for a mini vacation? Figure out what constitutes the minimum threshold of “knowing” someone and knowing how they go about their day-to-day life so you have a good idea of what it would be like to live with that person.