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Need a Roommate? How to Find One and Make It Work

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Need a Roommate? How to Find One and Make It Work

With Seattle rents on the rise, more people are sharing housing. Don’t miss these tips for finding roommates, sharing chores, paying bills and more.

November 9, 2017

Renting an apartment in Seattle is tough on the wallet. The average cost of a one-bedroom unit is nearly $2,000 per month, while the national average is around $1,200 per month according to online real estate site Zillow.

Zillow, an online rental website based in Seattle, uses active listings to find the average rent prices in Seattle for a one-bedroom apartment. One bedroom rentals in Seattle are about $600 more than the national average. (Source: Zillow)

So it’s no surprise that Seattleites are now spending 35 percent of their annual household income on housing, according to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A common solution for young adults who want to stay in the city but can’t afford an apartment on their own is to live with roommates. In 2012, 32 percent of working adults “doubled-up” (or more) and embraced co-housing, according to Zillow.

However, the reality of living with roommates comes with its own laundry list of challenges. Should you live with a friend or a stranger? How do you handle conflict? Who delegates household chores?

Living with “bad” roommates takes its toll, according to the New York Times, with symptoms that range from from weight gain and stress to depression and substance abuse.

Here are a few tips for making the transition to co-housing a smooth one.

Finding the perfect roommate

For students or young adults living in Seattle, there are numerous online resources for finding roommates.

Mara Shuster is a senior majoring in sociology at the University of Washington. Shuster has lived in a three-bedroom unit with the same two roommates for about two years. Shuster said she and her roommates have more of a “laid back roommate style.” Photo by Kpojo Kparyea

When looking for a roommate, University of Washington student Mara Shuster chose to forego the online search and move in with her friends that she met during her freshman year of college.

“It’s just really awesome to always have a friend around to watch a show with,” Shuster says. 

Shuster, now a senior at the University of Washington, has lived with her two roommates for three years. But she admits that this approach isn’t for everyone.

“It doesn’t work for everyone to live with their best friend.”

Divvy up bills and shared costs with apps

  • Mobile payment sharing apps like Venmo and Square Cash let roommates split apartment bills. App users can link their debit card or bank account to their Venmo or Square Cash account. It also allows them to make and request payments from anyone using the service.

  • Your banking institution likely has a similar service through its mobile app that is worth checking out.

Household chores

  • Set expectations early on — not everyone has the same priorities when it comes to cleanliness. The earlier you communicate with roommates about your expectations and cleaning habits, the earlier you can find a dynamic that works for everyone.

  • Create a schedule. This can take the form of a chore chart, a chore app, Google spreadsheet or a cleaning guide. The point is to clearly itemize and prioritize what needs to be cleaned and when.

  • Meet, delegate and agree. Everyone should walk away with a clear understanding and agree on what is expected of them and the consequences of not meeting the agreed-upon expectations.

University of Washington junior Tim Manalo rents a two-bedroom apartment in Fremont for $2,000 a month with a roommate that he met through a friend. Photo by Kpojo Kparyea

University of Washington student Tim Manalo created a chore chart with his roommate in the hopes that it would help resolve conflicts when it came to cleaning the apartment. Manalo rents a two-bedroom apartment in Fremont with a roommate for $2,000 a month.

“She doesn’t handle confrontation or conflict really well,” Manalo says.

Manalo created and assigned chores for the apartment on a whiteboard. He took care of the garbage, living room and hallway and put  his roommate in charge of the kitchen and the bathroom.

Manalo’s chore list did help with the delegating cleaning initially, but not for long. Manalo says his roommate eventually stopped cleaning.

University of Washington student Kody Sanders shows the payment sharing app Venmo on his phone. Sanders uses the app for bill payments with his four other roommates, who he shares a four-bedroom house in the University District with for $3,500 a month. Photo By Kpojo Kparyea

Kody Sanders, a senior majoring in civil engineering at the University of Washington, has a different method with his four roommates. They live in a four-bedroom house in the University District where the rent is $3,500 per month.

“We are in a small house, so it’s kind of a pick-up-after-yourself mentality,” Sanders says.

Though, sometimes that mentality doesn’t work for everyone. Sanders says that when one roommate left his dirty dishes in the sink, another one took the dirty dishes and left them in the roommate’s bedroom.

Dealing with conflict

So what do you do when your best attempts at communication and organization fail?

  • Respect boundaries. Remember that roommates are not family members who have to put up with you. Borrowing items and food without asking are not okay.

  • Privacy is different for everyone. Not everyone is an extrovert who loves having their apartment filled with their friends. Ask roommates before inviting others over and establish a “quiet hours” rule to allow for sleep and some peace and quiet.

  • Communicate. Try to address issues right away, if possible, with your roommate(s).

  • Give yourself permission to move on. If you are in a situation that is affecting your day-to-day quality of life, or compromising your physical and/or emotional health, remove yourself from the situation immediately.

Shuster’s advice for conflict with roommates is to communicate early on and not let things build up.

“Be super upfront and don’t beat around the bush,” Shuster says.

Being respectful during disagreements is key, Shuster says. She had a previous roommate during her sophomore year who did not follow this rule.

“She would yell at us when we had guests over,” she says.

Things are different with her current roommate.

“Usually we will just text each other ‘hey, is it okay if we have some people over tonight?’” she says. “If they are kind of busy or want to go to bed, we’ll put a time limit on it or go out.”

Manalo didn’t have the same success with his roommate. The one-year lease for the apartment he rents with his roommate ends in January. Manalo plans to move to a different apartment without his roommate.

With no end in sight to skyrocketing rents, co-housing has established itself as one of the only viable ways to live in the city for many Seattle students and residents. Residents must adapt their habits to mesh smoothly with the non-relatives they choose to live with and make sure those bad habits they’ve adopted over the years don’t ultimately lead to being kicked to the curb.


Kpojo Kparyea

Kpojo Kparyea is a journalism student at the University of Washington. She writes articles for The UW Daily and currently co-hosts a radio show, Broke and Woke, on Rainy Dawg Radio. Her other interest include reading excessive amounts of young adult books and spending endless hours on YouTube and Netflix.

More stories by Kpojo Kparyea