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October 27, 2004

How To Choose A Roommate

I'm 32 and I have roommates. This isn't exactly what I was expecting.

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful
And you may ask yourself, "Well...how did I get here?"

How did I get here? Once Hoboken was a mecca for the youth of the Tri State area - move into town once out of college, get a cheap brownstone to live in and shack up with some post-college roommates.

I have either been extremely lucky or a good judge of character over these years because I have lived with some great roommates. Kind, considerate and interesting people. To be honest, in many ways I enjoy the social interaction of living with roommates. On the other hand, there are some downsides to roommates, too.

I'm a transplant from Philly and the only person I knew up here was Brad. Brad did the typical NYC Shuffle, moved to NYC, did the single thing, met a wonderful woman, got married and is now happily living in suburbia. Brad was the childhood friend, someone I grew up with and at the end of our 7 month stint living together we realize one important fact:
Brad and I should never, ever live together again.

It was strange, because we were best friends. Best Friends should be able to live togther, right? Wrong.

Here are a few guide lines for those out there ever thinking about moving into Hoboken and planning on choosing your new roomates:

Rules to choosing a new roommate:

Is this a person you can see yourself having a beer with?

  • When Mr. Cheng answers your ad, saying he just moved here from China with just the clothes on his back and a penchant for liberal government views a few warning flags may go up. But some foreigners are cool - Jon from England was a great roommate and good friend, plus he didn't know anyone over here and now I have a place to crash the next time I visit London. :)
  • Or the one perspective roommate who mentioned how she was an insomniac who sometimes would burn off nervous energy by running on her treadmill at two in the morning.
  • I have my geekish tendancies. But I dress well, workout and shower - don't let super-nerd move into your apartment. I lived with one guy who didn't shower very regularly and also didn't go out very often - so you had a stinky guy on your couch all the time.
  • I was in a fraternity, but I don't think I was the frat boy - you know the type. Always looking for a party and drank the bong water too many times. These guys are a nightmare, they eat all your food and will invite their friends back to the apartment at 2am on a Tuesday morning.
  • Oh, there was the ex-lawyer who was "writing a screenplay" but had "plenty of money to cover rent"...that sort of brings me to the next point...

    You need a J-O-B to live with ME.

  • I'm sorry, but only choose people with full-time jobs. I'm sure there are plenty of responsible, hardworking baristas from Starbucks hoping to live in Hoboken but just tell them to move in with their wealthy pal who is working at J.P. Morgan and mooch off him for a few months while they look for a real job.
  • Full time jobs at a company you heard of. Wall Street people aren't bad - They work long hours (never home), and usually get paid decent money (they pay their rent and shared bills on time). I had one who was a "ticket agent". I asked what was the name of the company - she "couldn't tell me". But she could get the best tickets for any sports or concert at any venue in the city. She sounded too shady.
  • Mommy and Daddy aren't an employer. Stay away from the roommates who are in college that have Mommy and Daddy paying their bills. Usually these people have no concept of how to be a good roommate. They are spoiled, selfish and bratty.

    Think with the BIG head, not the LITTLE head

  • I was living with two roommates who decided to "date" each other. Big, big mistake. I tried, in vain, to warn them that it was a bad idea. Of course they didn't listen. What happened i'm sure I will detail in a future post - but suffice to say - never, ever, under any circumstance date a roommate. If you want to date - have one MOVE out & then date.
  • It's generally not a good idea to let the ones in to your house who have a 24/7 boyfriend. Because they become your new 24/7 "extra" roommate. Set the rules before they move in on how often someone can be your newest visitor.
  • You can tell a lot about a person by the company they keep. If someone stops to look at your apartment and they have a dirtbag boyfriend - next, please. But, then again, if they have a nice mother or good brother helping them find an apartment, that is usually a good sign.

    When all else fails - just choose someone who has similar qualities and an outlook in life. Choose someone who you think mirrors yourself or the people in your life. Is this foolproof? Well, no. There are things you can do, however, to keep everyone happy when you are living with a stranger.

    Rules to a good roommate:

  • Be considerate. Clean your dishes. Pick up your clothes. Be tidy. Don't like to clean the litter box - pay your roommate $30 a month to do it for you (yes, I did this). Do you have a special other - don't bring that person into the apartment all the time to "sleep over". A good rule of thumb is a overnight visit twice a week. If you have a boyfriend or girlfriend who is over 4 nights or more a week - that is unfair to the other roommates. Maybe have them kick in some rent while you are at it.
  • Be quiet. This isn't a dorm room. No blasting your music or TV - the subwoofer travels easily thru hardwood floors and to the upper floors of condos and brownstones. One of my roommates reminded me that squeaky beds can be heard thru hardwood floors, too.
  • Be responsible. Pay your rent and bills on time. The last 10 years I have held all the cable & electric bills in my name. I usually pay them right away and then collect what is owed to me by my roommates - time and time and time again they always forget to pay me. I think if I calculated over the years the money I have lost to roommates who didn't pay me would easily be in the hundreds of dollars. Its partially my own fault, I don't hound my roommates to pay me back - I just leave the bill out, and expect them to do the math. John, if you are reading this - you still owe me 2 months of bills, buddy.
  • Be kind. A lightbulb is out - how about buying a new pack and fixing it? Notice that the bathtub is dirty - maybe clean it? Cooking dinner - maybe see if your roommate wants some. Its the little kind actions which will endear you to others.

    I'm starting to get to that point in my life where I am ready to live alone. Its been 10 years of living with roommates, and quite frankly - that is enough. I keep saying how I want to buy a condo, but sadly i'm really priced out of the Hoboken market. The idea of renting a place that would double my monthly payments isn't motivating me to move out any time soon, either. "Plenty of places in Jersey City!" - if I hear that one more time, i'll puke. I live in Hoboken cause I love this little town, plus I don't want to change my url to philly2jerseycity.com.

    No, here I remain with roommates unless I hit the lottery sometime soon and can afford the 800 square foot $350,000 condo that is the entry level apartment in this damn town. Oh, i'm sure they are plenty of cheaper properties if you like something built when Chester A. Arthur was alive.

  • Posted by Furey at October 27, 2004 10:07 AM

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    Interesting post... Of course, I picked my roommate using those same criteria and we had to break our lease. So here's one more critical thing to take note of:

    If your potential roommate is super-impressed or super-unimpressed with what you do, she's probably psycho and you don't want to live with her.

    FTR- I'm a call girl. ;-)

    Posted by: Mel at October 27, 2004 12:49 PM

    People can only live on theyre own when theyre comfortable with who they are. People who have roommates for long periods of time are usually just using them to lean on in case of the absense of friends. With all your rules how do you get anyone to live with you longer than 3 months. I bet people know your judging theyre friends when they walk thru the door. Snob. Ugh.

    Posted by: Bertie at October 29, 2004 12:52 PM

    You also have to consider, Bertie, that rent in Hoboken is extremely expensive to get a 1 bedroom, is at minimum $1,300 a month. To get a nice one, with air conditioning, recently renovated, washer/dryer & some extra perks can cost from $1,800-2,200 per month for a 1-bedroom.

    So the #1 reason why I live with roommates is to save money. I'm kind of curious to which rules you are against?? So you are saying that being considerate, kind, quiet and responsible is too much to ask? I'm all those things, and my current two roommates are, also.

    Posted by: Furey at October 29, 2004 1:31 PM

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