In 2020, student loan debt surpassed $1.7 trillion, unemployment skyrocketed with the onset of the pandemic, and housing costs continued to rise. But even before an unprecedented global health crisis and the ensuing economic fallout, living alone was no longer an easy or obvious option for adults. Sharing households with roommates became increasingly common, with almost a third of all adults in the U.S. living in shared households in 2019. Doubled-up households still constitute a significant portion of living situations, and not only for younger generations.
But living with non-relatives comes with risks; while leaseholders have a contractual obligation to their landlords, there is rarely a binding agreement between roommates to ensure peace and function in the home. So, we wanted to know: what do people really think about the person they split the utility bills and refrigerator space with?
We surveyed over 1000 people to explore why they chose a shared-living situation, what rules govern their shared home, positive and negative roommate experiences, and what makes the ideal roommate. Read on to see what people across genders and generations really think about their roommates!
Why Do People Live With Roommates?
An overwhelming majority of survey respondents (90%) currently live with a roommate. Shared living remained the trend across generations, and while this was the case most highly among Gen-Y and Gen-Z respondents (about 91% each), we were surprised to discover that at least 80% of Gen-X and Baby Boomer respondents reside in shared households. For most respondents, the reason for this is the financial benefits of having a roommate. Over half of respondents (54%) see a shared-living situation as an opportunity to save on rent, utilities, and furnishings, but the financial benefits don’t stop at savings. Complete rent payments—more easily made when split between two or more people—help build positive credit, and ensuring payments are made on time and in full may require practice in creating and maintaining a budget.
For another 28% of respondents, the social aspect of shared living is vital. According to our survey, 1 in 4 adults aged 55 and up live with roommates for access to social connection. With their social circles and access to family shrinking due to age, health, and mobility issues, older adults are looking for companionship within their own homes. This may have been more important than ever over the course of the last year; as older adults are at the most risk for severe cases of Covid-19, following strict social distancing and stay-at-home guidelines may have been easier and less isolating with roommates.
Shared Household Rules
Household rules are an essential component in maintaining a home, but they can make or break roommate relationships. We wanted to capture the most important household rules for shared living, as well as how respondents perceive their roommates’ adherence to household rules. Surprisingly, the majority of respondents, across generations and genders, say their roommate respects the household rules enough. Call us cynical, but we were expecting a bit more discord, especially with significant increases in time spent at home over the last year!
There were some noticeable generational and gender differences in the results. Almost a third of Baby Boomers selected “splitting bills evenly” as the most important household rule, while cleanliness ranked highest across all other generations. Male respondents were more likely than their female counterparts to say their roommate respects household rules enough, and almost a quarter of surveyed women say their roommate’s significant other is in the shared home too often. Still, 80% of respondents say they have a positive relationship with their roommate.
Other factors like communication, privacy, sense of safety, and romantic attraction can impact a shared-living situation. The majority of our survey participants answered favorably with respect to most of these factors. 82% of respondents say they have enough privacy in their shared household, and 81% say they communicate effectively or very effectively with their roommate. Another 85% say they feel safe and comfortable around their roommate all or most of the time. With such strong results, it’s easy to see why most survey participants have positive roommate relationships. But are any of these relationships a little too positive?
Close quarters with roommates can lead to attraction and crushes, but we wanted to know how many respondents have those feelings and act on them. Over 1 in 3 male participants have hooked up with a roommate, and another third would hook up with their current roommate. 40% of Baby Boomers have had a crush on a roommate, 35% of Gen-X respondents have hooked up with a roommate, and almost a third of Gen-X and Gen-Y respondents would hook up with their current roommates; while certainly interesting from a generational perspective, it’s possible that these percentages are relatively high due to longevity of life and the potential number of roommates held across a lifetime—Gen-Z respondents simply haven’t had time to catch up!
Bad Roommates and Roommate Regrets
While most people rated their relationship with their current roommate positively, not all living situations work out so nicely. Many people have been in living situations with roommates that were disrespectful or toxic, and breaking a lease or forcing them out were the only options. Over half of respondents (54%) say they’ve had a bad experience with a roommate, and 1 in 4 have broken a lease because of a roommate. Also, 46% of respondents have had a verbal altercation with a roommate. Despite past issues, almost 70% of respondents don’t regret living with their current roommate. However, for those that do—almost 1 in 3 respondents—the biggest reasons for their regret are their roommate’s lack of cleanliness, loudness, and tendency to eat food without permission.
To avoid these issues and more with future roommates, 40% of respondents would be willing to pay more rent, while a further 32% would live with their parents or give up alcohol. Baby Boomers, however, go rogue, with 20% of respondents aged 55 and up opting to get back together with an ex or live with their parents to avoid living with a bad roommate.
What Makes the Ideal Roommate?
The majority of respondents are looking for roommates who are respectful, friendly, and trustworthy. While the same remained true for Gen-X, Gen-Y, and Gen-Z respondents, half of Baby Boomer participants want roommates who are financially responsible. For over 1 in 4 female respondents, respectful roommates are the most desirable, while a quarter of male respondents prefer their roommates to be friendly.
Despite a difficult year primarily spent within the safety of our homes, this survey showed that most people still have positive relationships with their roommates. Effective communication, privacy, and respect for household rules seems to have remained strong in shared households across the country, and almost 70% of respondents are likely to renew their lease with their current roommate. Looking to start your own shared household? Top-rated real estate agents like those at Felix Homes are ready to help you find the perfect home!