Feb 212012
Authors: Jordan Kurtz

The house-hunting stampede is upon us, and one of the most critical aspects of this process is roommate selection — unless you want to live alone.

There are a few key elements that should be taken into consideration during the roommate-selection process in order to avoid living in a less-than-pleasant situation.

“Before selecting a roommate, it is vital to pause for a moment and think about what is important to you in a roommate,” Off-Campus Life Director Jean Ortega said, adding that you should think about what characteristics the ideal roommate would have.

Ortega also said that a certain amount of introspection should take place as well. “Be honest with yourself, too,” she said. “What idiosyncrasies do you possess that might be hard to put up with? What can you live with in others, and what is a deal-breaker?”

A crossroad that most students face at one point is the decision of whether to live with friends or not.

“It depends on your preference,” assistant professor of psychology Jennifer Harman said. “If you like to have a roommate as a friend, you know someone that you can do things with and your roommate is more than someone that you share space with, then the traits you would want in this person are obviously more like you.”

Senior horticulture major, Lance Oles said he prefers to look for people he can coexist with rather than be friends.

“Just because someone is your friend doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to be able to live in the same environment together,” Oles said. “Everyone has different habits and environments that they feel comfortable in. So in my opinion, compatibility is more important than how good of friends you are.”

Harmon said one of the most important things that roommates must be able to do is openly communicate. This means that everything, from household finances to guest policy to cleanliness, should be an open book for discussion. And if there is trouble talking about certain things, then that is probably not the right person to sign a lease with.

“As long as people can communicate about the ground rules before they move in, it might be a lot easier to manage after they move in,” Harmon said. “Sometimes it’s hard to know what those rules are if you have never rented an apartment before.”

The financial situation must be discussed because once a lease is signed, it is a legally binding document that holds the signees accountable for that given amount. Ortega also said that cleanliness is important to consider, because one person’s clean is another person’s mess. Privacy and personal items are important topics as well. For instance, some people do not care if their property/food is used as long as it replaced, whereas others may go from zero to rage in 0.0 seconds flat if they feel violated.

Another group of issues to nip in the bud is parties, noise and guests. These issues rely heavily upon personal preferences and everyone is different, so the best option here is clear communication.

Ortega said one way to keep each other accountable is to sign an agreement. This agreement should stipulate what household rules and guidelines should be followed. In the event of a dispute, this agreement can be referred to.

“Best friends can quickly become worst enemies if you don’t take steps to safeguard your relationships as roommates,” Ortega said. Controversy may arise between friends who are roommates because the necessary questions and topics of discussion that normally take place in the selection process are neglected, because friends assume everything will work out.

Harmon said that, if possible, try to get a sense of a potential roommates’ track record. Having an idea of the experience of this person’s former roommates can shed some light on what to expect if living with this person becomes a reality.

“I had a roommate last year that I was good friends with for awhile before we decided to live in the same place. After a few weeks, you could already tell that it wasn’t working out well,” Oles said. “We had completely different living habits, different views on what was considered ‘clean enough’ and different opinions on privacy and personal space. By the time the lease was up, he moved out, and we had hardly spoken a word to each other for the last three months of the term. We continue to not be on speaking terms.”

This process is a mind-bender for most folks without a doubt. Refraining from allowing personal biases to cloud judgment could be a blessing in disguise, because that friend may not be a friend after living together. But on the flip side, a new friendship can develop if personality traits match and communication is evident.

The Off-Campus Life website has a section titled “The Art of Roommating,” which includes tips about choosing roommates and a “Roommate Agreement” that is available for download. It can be found at http://ocl.colostate.edu/1helpful-resources.

Collegian writer Jordan Kurtz can be reached at news@collegian.com.

Things to Consider When Selecting a Roommate

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