THE BLOG
09/23/2015 07:57 am ET Updated Sep 23, 2016

How To Choose A Roommate For Your Shared-Living Arrangement

Ready to join the movement of mature adults sharing housing? You'll enjoy an affordable living situation and have the opportunity to make friends for life! But once you have emails pouring in from people eager to create a comfortable and interesting shared-living arrangement with you, how do you choose a lucky housemate?

Consider the Kind Of Living Arrangement You Want to Have

Each shared home develops its own culture and style, and each member makes the house feel like home. But the style of the home is always unique.

Sometimes, a shared home is adults comfortably living together and maintaining a certain independence: cooking and eating separately, holding informal house meetings, and keeping busy schedules with an occasional dinner together, a movie, or a birthday party.

In other situations, it is a group that desires a more family-like atmosphere, often called "co-housing." These groups share kitchen duties and plan dinners together. They hold regular house meetings, make joint decisions, and plan shared activities.

It's important for the members of the household to have a similar vision of culture and style, so consider the style of living arrangement you'd like to have when you begin interviewing roommates.

Connecting With Your Potential Housemate

If you like the way the person presents herself in the email application, reply with something like this: "I am looking for a woman between the ages of X to Y who is a non-smoker with no pets. Tell me a little more about yourself." When she replies, ask for a phone number and set up a time to call her. (Don't give your address yet!)

Get to know the applicant on the phone. Cover your basic issues such as smoking or pets and then see whether you two can communicate easily and whether you like her personality. Trust your intuition. If you don't get a good vibe over the phone, politely tell her that you don't think this is the right match. You do not have to give a reason.

If all goes well, invite her for a face-to-face interview in two to three days. (If you aren't comfortable interviewing alone, ask a friend to interview with you.)

During the in-person interview, have a list of questions that will help you assess her personality and circumstances. Look for any cultural or lifestyle differences that you think might be difficult.

Traits to Consider During the Interview

Be honest with yourself about whether you think you could get along with the potential housemate's personality. If she's assertive and outgoing but you're quiet and bookish, this probably isn't a good match.

Age: People in different age groups may have different lifestyles. So, as a rule, we suggest looking for roommates within 10 to 20 years of your age.
Neatness: Most roommates are clean and tidy. But some clean obsessively while others embrace the philosophy "don't sweat the small stuff." Find someone whose neat meter is close to yours.
Deal Breakers: Be clear about your desires concerning smoking, pets, firearms and alcohol use in the home. These are deal breakers if the potential housemate has widely different views or needs.
Religion: If you have a strong affiliation with a particular religion, examine how important it is to you to have someone with a similar affiliation. You can't discriminate in housing based on religious preferences, but you have a right to choose carefully when you are living in the same spaces.
Cultural Differences: Think about whether your customs may seem strange to others. In some cultures, it is common to speak loudly and to sound like you are arguing (when in fact, you aren't!), and in other cultures, people have a quieter way of talking to each other. Would your cultural habits be difficult for someone from another culture?
Food Choices: Eating habits should be considered in some situations. What if you are not a meat eater, and someone cooks bacon every morning? Could you tolerate the smell and the occasional bacon grease?
Work: What if you have a housemate whose work requires that they leave early in the morning or come home late at night? If you are retired or not employed, you might look for someone who is in the same situation and who might become a companion or a best friend.
Social Preferences: Consider whether you're a good match in terms of how much you both like to socialize. Do you invite people over to the house frequently, and would it be OK for a housemate to invite people over often? Some housemates may prefer a quiet house, while for others it may feel like a tomb.

Know yourself! This is your home and your living environment, so it's okay to take your time looking for the perfect housemate.

Bonnie Moore, 70, is the President and Founder of Golden Girls Network, the only nationwide network that helps mature adults find roommates and access the resources they need to make shared living work. She is also the author of How to Start a Golden Girls Home.

*This article first appeared on the Golden Girls Network blog. See the original article by clicking here.

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