With housing prices the way they are in cities across the world (read: expensive and climbing), it’s almost inevitable that most of us will live with roommates at some point.
Roommates have their benefits: someone to come home to at the end of the day, split bills with, and steal food from when you forget to do the grocery run.
Joking — don’t do that last one — that’s what we would call a “bad practice” for shared living.
See, that’s the thing. Although shacking up with a friend or stranger has its perks, it can quickly descend into a nightmarish situation if one or both parties don’t abide by some common sense etiquette rules.
The reason living with roommates so often gets a bad rep is precisely because these common sense rules are ignored. Making noise after hours, letting significant others sleep over too often, and stealing yogurt tubes can seriously sour the vibe in the home.
But if you can all abide by a few best practices, you’ll likely find that you love your living situation. You’ll be able to focus on the great things — like saving dough — and will stop fantasizing about solo living and being able to watch television in your boxers (a serious no-no when you have a roommate, by the way).
Zoocasa compiled 13 best practices to follow when living with a roommate.
1 – Choose roommates based on schedule
The key to a happy home is to be careful with whom you choose to live; this will eliminate many problems down the road. When searching for a roommate, it’s a good idea to get a sense of their schedule, which is often the most frequent cause for conflicts. But there’s no one-size solution for everybody; you have to think of your personal preferences and your particular situation.
For example, if you work a 9-5 job, it’s best to find roommates with a similar corporate schedule. Of course, there are exceptions — like if you only have one bathroom and are a heavy sleeper, you may actually prefer someone who works as a bartender so you’re not doing the morning rush at the same time.
Know yourself and what works best for you.
2 – Respect personal space
Living with a roommate is completely different than living with your family or a significant other. With a roommate, no matter how well you know them, you must respect their boundaries. That means not touching their stuff, knocking on the door instead of barging in, and never going into their room when they’re not home.
3 – When you steal food, replace it
Okay, okay, the best practice for sharing a space is to never steal food, but that’s not realistic. Every roommate at one time or another has taken some snacks, usually when they are inebriated, or there’s a snow storm outside, or they’re just really, really lazy. Don’t make a habit of it, but if you do take something, first, ask, then replace as soon as possible with the exact same item. Nothing is more annoying than someone stealing your name-brand plain yogurt and replacing it with a no-name fruit version.
4 – Be extra tidy
When you live by yourself, you can choose to live like a slob, but don’t make someone else stare at your piles of paper and stacks of dishes. When you make a mess, clean it up. That day. Never leave dishes in the sink for more than 24 hours, and don’t leave your junk in the living room. It takes extra discipline, but it’s worth it. And if you insist on heaping clothes on your floor, then shut your door.
5 – Make a chore schedule
Chores are probably one of the biggest causes of roommate fights, and for good reason – everyone has a different tolerance for mess so find a fair way to share tasks, and stick to it. Either switch week on or week off for dusting, vacuuming and bathroom cleaning etc., or keep the tasks the same every week for each person. A chore wheel is a great idea in theory, but it rarely works for longer than a month in practice.
And how frustrating is it if someone agrees to take out the trash, then forgets and you have to wait an entire week for pick up again? If you find that one of you isn’t doing the assigned chores than pay for a weekly cleaning service to pick up the slack. Throwing cash at this problem can save your roommate relationship.
6 – Overnight guests — always ask your roommates first
Many people are uncomfortable when they have someone of the opposite sex sleeping over, so always ask before you do it. Some roommates are chill, and some feel awkward coming out of their room in a robe in the morning and finding some guy in underwear in the bathroom. So ask your roommates how they feel, and don’t be shy to tell them how you feel about this.
By the way, this extends to guests of the same-sex too. You may be super excited that your old college roommates are in town for the weekend, but your roommate likely doesn’t care. Run it by them first before you agree to let them stay over.
7 – Long-term guests – don’t do it
A significant other who starts spending a few nights a week there should either offer to pay rent, or offer to do chores. It’s unfair to slide an extra person into a living situation, no matter how much you love them. It can build up a lot of resentment with your roommate, so as soon as you get into a relationship, figure out a compromise, like sleeping at their place at least a few times a month. It’s easy to fall into the hazy well of love and kind of forget that other people exist, so make an extra effort to be considerate.
8 – Split costs with your roommates promptly
Always pay your roommate promptly for any shared bills. It can be awkward to ask for money, so make sure you’re paying them in a timely manner, by cash, cheque or fast transfer.
9 – Be quiet when they’re sleeping
Always be respectful and conscious of when your roommate is sleeping, whether it’s overnight or a day-time nap. Tip toe around quietly, and tell your guests to shush. Don’t start vacuuming, or decide this is the perfect moment to put together IKEA furniture. We all need our seven to nine hours to avoid crankiness!
10 – Communal furniture
Treat your communal furniture gently. If you spill something on the couch, clean it up right away. Don’t stack heavy objects on the coffee table, or light candles near a low ceiling.
11 – Be on the same page about pets
Never bring in a pet without asking first. That means do not agree to adopt your co-worker’s kitten without seeking permission. Some people cannot abide by stray hair, or are allergic. Don’t think that by just keeping your animal in your room it’s okay — it’s not. And if your roomie does agree to a pet, don’t start pushing it off on them, like asking them to walk it or take care of it when you’re away for the weekend. Assume total responsibility.
12 – Find a middle ground on temperature
Temperature is always a hard one. Especially when Singapore is so hot, some people want their common areas to be air conditioned 24/7. But as you know that is an expensive option to take. It’s always best if you find a roommate who has the same temperature as you, but that can be hard. The next best thing to do is compromise. If you’re always too hot, ask if you can lower the temperature a bit. If not, ask your roommate to buy you a personal fan and carry it around with you. Whatever you do, don’t stealthily change the thermostat on your roommate. Instead, agree to a temperature you can both live with and stick to it.
13 – Don’t try to be besties
Although you may happen to be living with your best friend, more often than not a roommate is a distant acquaintance or a stranger from the internet. Don’t try to force a friendship. Of course, always treat them civilly and kindly, but let the relationship develop naturally. Don’t be offended if your roommate doesn’t want to be best friends, doesn’t want to accompany you to parties and shuts the door to their room to watch Netflix on their laptop.
Above all else, the most essential “best practice” to remember about living with roommates is respect. Sharing a space is a very vulnerable thing, and you always want to be considerate of another person’s needs. Remember that everyone has different tolerance for mess, pets, overnight guests and how they want to live in their space, so a little communication can go a long way.
Zoocasa.com is a leading real estate company that combines online search tools and a full-service brokerage to empower Canadians to buy or sell their homes faster, easier and more successfully. Home buyers can browse real estate listings across the nation, including Vancouver real estate, Toronto houses, and Calgary condos, on the website or the free iOS app.