How to Find The Perfect Roommate: The Psychology of Flatsharing

How to find the perfect roommate?

If this question is running through your mind, you have to the right place.

Through psychology-backed  you will learn all the necessary steps to finding a great flatmate.

What Most People Do Wrong

Most people meet once, have a good feeling and proceed to move into a flat (or accept new roommates).

That’s not a good strategy.

Some others believe they are going deeper with questions on what he does and what he likes.
And that might be even worse.

Much better is to inquire and look for compatibility in the key areas that make for a good life in the flat.
At the end of the this article you will know exactly what to look for in a roommate to find the best roommate you can get.

My Experience With Flatmates

Since I moved out of my parents’ house my life has been a continuous experience in flat-sharing.

I have traveled the world and the seven seas sharing flats, and if I’ve learned anything… No, it’s not that everybody’s looking for something -albeit that’s also true-, it’s that who you share your space with matters.

My name is Lucio, I am psychology buff and all of my work is basically about people and human dynamics.
Through studies and personal experience I realized that to find the perfect roommate you should match in the following traits:

#1. Match Extroversion Levels

The very first personality trait you must match is your extraversion-introversion levels.
Extraversion is on a continuum:

ambivert

Few people are 100% introverted or 100% introverted, and people in the middle are often referred to as “ambivert“.

This is all the more important if you are very introverted or very extroverted, because life together will be a hell.
The introvert will think the extrovert is annoying and overbearing, and the extrovert will think the introvert is slippery, “weird” and that he hates him.

how to find the perfect roommate

Basically, when two people at the opposite end of the extraversion level meet, they end up looking like an anxious-avoidant relationship: the extrovert chases for talking and connection while the introvert runs away.

Here is an example of how I, an introvert, immediately spotted that an Airbnb guest of mine was not going to be the perfect flatmate:

finding the perfect roommate example

Imagine you are traveling. You’re going to a new country, a new city, a conference in the pharmaceutical field you love.
Much to visit, much to do, right?
Who is going to say , under those conditions “I can’t wait to spend six nights (!) with you?“.
A super extrovert of course!

And how is an introvert going to react?
By trying to dodge all that connection and chitchat of course!
Look at me trying to avoid too much talk. And notice his reply:

finding the perfect roommate

“Let’s see if we can take then minutes to catch up later”, LOL.
It never dawns on many extroverts that there is an extroversion mismatch and they never realize that the introvert is, indeed, avoiding them. But not because the introvert doesn’t like the extrovert, it’s simply because they need their own space.

Finally, when he leaves me a feedback, look at what he writes:

extraverted flatmate feedback

No comments about cleanness, location, the attraction of the new city or anything.
Just says that “I am willing to talk”.
Who provides such a feebdack? An extrovert chasing down an introvert for connection, of course.

What To Ask:

What can you ask to spot if your future BFE (best flatmate ever) is an introvert or an extrovert?
Here are a few good questions:

  • Do you cook?

Cooking is often more about the shared experience of cooking, talking and then eating. At the very least, it will tell you if they spend lots of time outside their room.
If you’re introverted, avoid people saying yes.

  • What type of flat-share do you like?

Extroverts will mention activities within the flat and things they like together with their roommates.
Introverts will mention their activities outside the flat and will talk about what they do.

Look at Their Behavior

On top of just listening to their replies, notice how the behave.
Extroverts talk a lot. And often they talk a lot about themselves.
If you’re an introvert, avoid gushers. If you’re an extrovert, avoid people who ask lots of question and talk little.

Extraversion & Introversion Are Relative

Extraversion in a flatshare are patterns of relating between people and not not unchanging constants.
You can become introvert to some super extrovert and be the extrovert one to some super introvert.
So it’s best to pick someone around your extraversion level.

#2. Match Attitudes Towards Privacy & Personal Space

Sharing a flat is about, well… Sharing.

Sharing a space, sharing things in the common areas and also partially sharing our personal spaces.
That’s why finding a good roommate often means finding someone who doesn’t differ too much from us when ti comes to privacy.

Example:

I am a slightly tilting towards privacy seeker, but without being a nazi about it.
And I have been living with people far on the “communal” line. I can tell you it’s an issue. These people opened my door without knocking and left their own doors open while studying, playing video-games and one even while sleeping and… Showering.

Some of these people I could absolutely be friends with… But they were not people I could live with :).

finding the perfect roommate

What To Ask

Here is what to ask to make sure that you match your future flatmate attitudes towards communal living:

  • Do you usually close your door?

Anything but “well of course” tells you they probably have a very communal attitude towards spaces.
It means they will also treat your own space as if it were their own… Unless you teach them. Sometimes, repeatedly.

  • Would you mind if I took your stuff sometimes (and you can then take mine)?

Anything but an emphatic “absolutely” tells you they care about their private property.

#3. Cleanliness Levels

Dirty roommates make for terrible roommates for clean people (the opposite holds less true).
As a matter of fact, a very dirty roommate can make living impossible for a very clean person.

What to Ask

Here are the best questions:

  • How clean is the place for you right now?

If you’re looking for a good roommate, leave the place at your average cleanliness level and let them rate it.
If they say it’s very clean, they’re too dirty for you. If they say it’s dirty, they might be too clean for you

  • Is this how you keep the place, on average?

If they are offering the room, ask if the current state of the place is what they’re comfortable with and see if it’s enough for you.
If they cleaned for the occasion, ask:

  • Can I check your room?

Chances are they cleaned and organized the common areas but not their rooms. Check their room for a real litmus test on whether they’ll be great roommates or not.

Note: cleanliness correlates highly with organization and house chores, so you don’t need to prod for all of them.

#4. Check for Noise Sensitivity

Some people ask about circadian rhythms, and albeit that’s a good information to have, it’s not really crucial… Unless you or your roommate have very light sleep.
In which case, watch out.

What really matters instead is how people are bothered -or not bothered- by noise.

For example, when I moved into my current flat I asked a neighbor how it was for him. He told me he was just about to move out because the lady from the last floor was so noisy and annoying.
I prodded for more data.
He said that she would listen to the TV at full blast with the window open and the noise would “bounce back from the building in front” and ruin his whole day.

This guy was on the 3rd floor, talking about a lady on the 5th floor. There was a whole floor in between and he was talking about “noise bouncing back from the building in front?”.
Obviously a highly noise sensitive guy!
I moved in and it’s been for me one of the quietest places I’ve ever been to -but then again I’ve been living in Roma with cars honking all over the places and noisy scooters zipping from left and right-.

What to Ask

  • Do you have a light sleep?
  • Do you find it annoying if someone is up until late / wakes up very early?

A yes to any of these answer can make for a difficult living together if you stay up until late or go out a lot.

#4. Match Noise Attitudes

Does it sound a lot like the previous point?

Nah, it’s similar, but it runs deeper.

Noise seekers fear silence and need their life to be constantly filled with noise.
Many activities they do, they do with a background music. Sometimes they also study with music, which means an almost constant stream of noise during their wake hours.

The worst example I had, was a guy who would sleep with his hairdryer on, which meant 24h noise!

what to ask for a flatmate interview

Noise is highly related to nervous system sensitivity, and people who are very sensitive to noise also tend to be very sensitive to light, commotion, lots of people, stress, pain, caffeine, emotions etc. etc.
Also read:

What to Ask

  • How important is silence to you?

Watch Out For Personal Loudness

Watch out particularly for a loud tone of voice.

It’s often an easy give away for people who are used to scream to be heard above their background noises 🙂

Not that the attitude towards noise is also influenced by the introversion/extroversion personality type. Research showed that introverts prefer quieter places while extroverts like noisier environment (Quiet: The Power of Introverts).

5. Beware of Love & Attraction

I used to be quite open and liberal about the sexual orientation of my flatmates.

But after this awkward experience, I’m not too sure that’s a good idea:

gay flatmate makes a pass on straight flatmate

Indeed familiarity and repeat exposure tend to increase liking (The Like Switch). That means that if there is an even minuscule amount of liking, then living together will likely amplify it.
As a matter of fact, I believe that living together is one of the easiest ways of developing feelings.
Which can also eventually lead to (unreturned) love and lots of troubles.

As much as that might sound unfair, if you’re straight you might want to consider avoiding non straight men.
And if you’re in a relationship, you might want to avoid members of the opposite sex.

Ultimately, that’s up to you. Just be aware of the dangers though.
Personally, I won’t let one bad experience change my “LGBT friendly policy” and I’m still open to any gender.

6. Avoid Living With Owners

When you’re a paying flatmate in someone’s house you are officially buying your own space.

But unofficially chances are that you will always feel like a guest.
And that the owner will always feel like an owner.

Especially for long term rents, it’s best if you don’t rent with the owner in the flat.

Bad Questions to Ask Potential Roommates

Many people -and most guides online- focus on personal questions.
Things like:

  • likes and dislikes
  • hobbies
  • profession
  • aspirations

That stuff is important when you want a friend, but matters little when it comes finding a great roommate.

If someone is a lawyer, it says very little about how you’ll get along.
If they’re passionate about arts, it won’t make much of a difference in your flatsharing life.

But if he’s a super extrovert lawyer who wants to talk to you about his latest art gallery discovery when you’d rather enjoy your food by yourself… Then that’s an issue.

These typical “flatshare interviews” tells you nothing about the person.

Summary

It’s crucial to understand that finding a good roommate is not the same as finding a good friend.

Most people -and online guides- focus on questions and aspects that help you find friends, but that have little significance when it comes to sharing a flat.

This guide will help you find good roommate.
Up to you then if you want him to also be a friend (or more :).

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