Realities of Living With a Roommate

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By AJ Smith

Housing is a huge financial and personal decision at any age. Most people imagine graduating from college and moving into our own space. But with a struggling economy accompanying a higher cost of living in many major cities, that's not always possible. More and more people are moving back in with mom and dad or choosing to live with roommates. This living situation can last for a few months, years or even decades. Before deciding what is right for you, consider the pros and cons of sharing your space with another person.

Pro: Building Valuable Friendships -- Living with someone new expands your social network considerably. It can introduce you to new connections for your personal and possibly even professional life. Your roommate can be a boost to your social life immediately or in the long run. Even if you have no plans, they are always there to grab dinner with or even just watch a movie and talk in the apartment. Having another individual around also keeps you from living in a depressive manner (binge-watching Netflix and not showering for an entire weekend perhaps?).

Con: Ruining Valuable Friendships -- It is important to keep in mind that not everyone is in a mood to socialize at the same time. Roommates should have a semblance of understanding and respect for each other's desires. If your roommate has a big presentation tomorrow and needs to be well-rested and less stressed, it is not the night to have a 20-guest dinner party. Furthermore, not every pair or group of friends are compatible as roommates. Think hard about not just whether you get along with your friends but also whether you have similar living styles (night owl vs. early riser, etc.). Not being considerate or taking your friend-turned-roommate for granted can ruin a relationship.

Pro: Cheaper Rent The financial advantage of living with someone is probably the main force behind having a roommate. Shared living space means shared expenses -- with rent as well as utility bills. Splitting costs usually translates to bigger or nicer living conditions as well.

Con: Less Privacy -- Having a roommate means that you cannot always go about your day in peace or make up the rules as you go along. There is another person there, and you need to be considerate of their needs and timetable just as you expect them to be of yours. Just because you want to have a romantic evening with your significant other, it doesn't mean you can take up the living room with a candlelit dinner. A roommate also brings new security risks -- such as through the invitation of unknown guests when you are not home. Consider having a lock for your bedroom door or hiding your valuables.

Pro: Shared Responsibilities -- With a roommate, pesky chores and maintenance are not your sole responsibility. There is a shared responsibility for keeping up cleanliness. Cleaning supplies, food and other expenses are often shared in a living situation because this further helps cut back on costs and storage. You don't both need to buy milk if you can each use only half of a carton in one week -- sharing is caring (and a way to save money!).

Con: Deciding How to Share Those Responsibilities -- Responsibility and finances can become a huge source of contention. Someone may fight you on the purchase of household necessities or even utility costs by claiming that the usage was not shared equally so the financial burden shouldn't be either. Roommates also tend to exaggerate their contributions which can lead to arguments because while one person believes he or she is the only one who takes out the trash, the other is thinking no one else ever unloads the dishwasher. You also end up sharing things you don't think about, like common space, televisions and bathrooms. This may mean you need to get up earlier to take a shower or miss out on your favorite show because your roommate beat you to the couch.

While there are many items to consider, it is important to be honest about your own style of living when contemplating getting a roommate. It is also important to choose the right roommate -- this cannot be overstated. Whom you live with and how you behave as a roommate make the situation either a positive or negative one. Remember to be polite, while demanding respect from a roommate. And set basic rules and financial understandings before the big move.

Related articles from Credit.com:
Can Your Roommate Ruin Your Credit
Can You Rent an Apartment With Bad Credit

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Realities of Living With a Roommate
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The second-fastest-growing city in the nation, according to U.S. Census data, is also the fourth-biggest city in the nation. Jobs in the technology, engineering and science sectors have driven much of the growth. The Bayou City also has a thriving arts scene and topped the Forbes list of Coolest Cities in 2012.

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Median rent: $1,353

Atlanta has consistently been on the list of fastest-growing cities for several years now. Georgia’s capital city is a major economic hub, the sixth-biggest in the nation, and has much to recommend it, including great restaurants, strong professional sports teams and a wide variety of cultural offerings. The Atlanta BeltLine is transforming a network of abandoned railways circling the city with a combination of rail, trail, greenspace, housing and art.

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Median rent: $2,650

Hollywood beckons, but it’s more than the promise of celebrity that has people dreaming of the Golden State. People are drawn to Los Angeles for the weather, the beaches, the desert and the mountains. The city beckons with a wide variety of foods from many different cultures, as well as many universities and some of the country’s most exciting professional sports teams.

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Median rent: $1,550

The Windy City may be first in President Obama’s heart. It’s home to great universities and museums, as well as diverse neighborhoods such as Wicker Park, the Loop, Lincoln Park, Hyde Park, and Lakeview, among others. Events like Lollapalooza keep this vibrant city connecting with young people, and it’s one of the best cities for sporting events, with destinations such as Soldier Field and Wrigley Field, the nation’s second-oldest ballpark.

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Median rent: $1,095

Raleigh was named the Fastest Growing City in 2013 by Forbes. The population of the Raleigh, N.C., metropolitan statistical area has expanded 47.8% since 2000. Together with Durham and Chapel Hill, Raleigh forms the Research Triangle, which brings jobs in research, technology, health care and other fields pouring into the area and attracts some of the nation’s best and brightest. A smaller city, with less traffic and many of the amenities of its larger brethren, Raleigh is also famed for excellent public schools and affordable housing.

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Median rent: $1,195

Walt Disney World and Universal Studios are two of the reasons that millions of  tourists descend on Orlando each year, but more than the House of Mouse keeps the fifth-biggest city in Florida going strong. Dubbed the City Beautiful, Orlando offers many engineering jobs and has one of the largest research parks in the country.

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Median rent: $1,100

San Antonio attracts more than 2.5 million people a year to the 4.2-acre complex known worldwide as the Alamo. The city charms visitors with the River Walk: Restaurants and shops cluster along the San Antonio River, and barges float tranquilly by. According to population estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau, for the year ending July 1, 2012, 8 of the 15 fastest-growing large U.S. cities and towns were in Texas, and San Antonio was the fourth-highest city in largest numeric population, adding 25,400 residents, coming in behind only New York, Los Angeles and Houston.

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The Queen City is a major player in the banking industry, home to both Bank of America and the East Coast operations of Wells Fargo, making it the country’s second financial hub. It also has jobs in manufacturing, energy, health care and more. CareerBliss.com recently named Charlotte second on its list of happiest cities for college grads because of job opportunities, inexpensive rent and many of the same amenities found in larger cities.

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Austin is beloved by many across the nation for music, entrepreneurship and amazing barbecue.  It’s no surprise that this city has been one of the fastest growing in the country in recent years. Austin is also known for great schools: 11 high schools in the area landed on the 2013 list of America’s Best High Schools compiled by the Daily Beast and Newsweek.

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Median rent: $1,100

The glittering city of Las Vegas claims our top spot. Although the Las Vegas Strip may be the town’s main draw for tourists, the city has a lot to offer beyond fine dining, gambling and blockbuster shows. If you like sunshine, this is your spot: Las Vegas is one of the sunniest spots in the whole country. The Downtown Project, led by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, is on a mission to revitalize the city’s downtown area, creating jobs, a culture for entrepreneurship, family events and more.

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