Who Makes the Best Roommates?

Some people make better candidates than others

Woman preparing food while talking to friend.
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When looking for a roommate, compatibility is key. But what does that mean as far as the types of people you might room with? For instance, is a co-worker more likely to work out as a roommate than a relative?

Your current relationship with a roommate candidate may make a successful roommate relationship with that person more—or less—likely.

Here's a handy guide to which types of current relationships are most likely to make for good roommate relationships and which ones may be more challenging.

Most Likely to Succeed

These relationships show the most promise for a rewarding roommate experience:

  • A friend of a friend. A friend of a friend is a great candidate because he's already vouched for—by someone you know, trust, and admire. Plus, the fact that you share a friend in common implies that you may have a lot more things in common, too. When considering a friend of a friend as a roommate candidate, there's comparatively little you need to worry about, which means you can focus on determining whether the candidate and you are compatible.
  • Acquaintance. These candidates can be people you know from a book club, support group, place of worship, or some other activity or locale. Acquaintances are better than strangers because you already know them and feel comfortable with them. Also, you don't have to worry about a roommate relationship possibly harming your relationship with an acquaintance (as you would with a friend), and it's easier to be more objective when checking for compatibility.

Proceed With Caution

These relationships may lead to successful roommate relationships, but you should be mindful of the additional challenges they pose:

  • Friend. Contrary to what many people assume, rooming with a good friend isn't the obvious or perfect choice when looking for the right roommate. The advantage of rooming with a friend is that you already know each other well and you like each other. But rooming with a friend often leads to problems because friends sometimes make the mistake of confusing likeability with compatibility. If you're considering renting an apartment with a close friend, have an honest discussion about compatibility before you make a decision.
  • Co-worker. A co-worker can be a good candidate because it's someone you know and with whom you share something in common. Rooming with a co-worker may also make your commute more enjoyable or even convenient, if, for instance, you can drive to work together. But some caution is needed when considering a co-worker as a roommate. If your company or department is small or if you work closely with a candidate, this could give rise to difficult situations. For example, if you and your co-worker roommate have strong opinions of different people at work, this could present problems when one of you wants to invite people over. Also, if one of you is promoted while the other gets snubbed, this could create tension. The bottom line is a co-worker in a different department or at a large company is the best bet. Other situations may work, but you should think carefully about the potential problems that a co-worker roommate relationship might engender.
  • Relative. You probably don't know many people, aside from married individuals, who choose a relative as a roommate. Rooming with a close relative, such as a brother or sister, can be risky business. Old sibling rivalry can resurface during a roommate relationship and cause serious conflict, for example. As far as relatives go, the more distant the better.
  • Stranger. The challenge with choosing a stranger as a roommate is that it requires the most vetting. Not only do you need to see whether the candidate is compatible, but you need to feel comfortable enough with the person before agreeing to share an apartment. The goal in this situation should be to acquaint yourself with a stranger well enough so that she's no longer a stranger by the time you agree to look for an apartment together. One popular way to find the right roommate from a pool of strangers is to use online roommate-matching services such as Roomster.com.