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A roommate is a person who shares a living facility such as an apartment or dormitory. Similar terms include suitemate, housemate, flatmate ("flat": the usual term in British English for an apartment - in New Zealand, "flatmate" is solely used, regardless of whether the dwelling is an apartment or a detached house), or sharemate (shared living spaces are often called sharehomes in Australia,[citation needed]). A share house is a model of household in which a group of usually unrelated people reside together. The term generally applies to people living together in rental properties rather than in properties in which any resident is an owner occupier.In the UK, the term "roommate" means a person living in the same bedroom, whereas in the United States and Canada, "roommate" and "housemate" are used interchangeably regardless whether a bedroom is shared. This article uses the term "roommate" in the US sense of a person one shares a residence with who is not a relative or significant other. The informal term for roommate is roomie,[1] which is commonly used by university students.

The most common reason for sharing housing is to reduce the cost of housing. In many rental markets, the monthly rent for a two- or three-bedroom apartment is proportionately less per bedroom than the rent for a one-bedroom apartment (in other words, a three-bedroom flat costs more than a one-bedroom, but not three times as much). By pooling their monthly housing money, a group of people can achieve a lower housing expense at the cost of less privacy. Other motivations are to gain better amenities than those available in single-person housing, to share the work of maintaining a household, and to have the companionship of other people.

People become room-mates when they move into a rental property, with one or more of them having applied to rent the property through a real estate agent, being accepted and having signed a lease.

Who lives with roommates?[edit]

Housemates and roommates are typically unmarried young adults, including workers and students. It is not rare for middle-aged and elderly adults who are single, divorced, or widowed to have housemates. Married couples, however, typically discontinue living with roommates, especially when they have children.Mostly people in developed and developing countries live as room-mates.

A lot of people moving to a big city or to another country may decide to look for a shared house or apartment to avoid loneliness.Many social changes such as the declining affordability of home ownership and delayed and decreasing marriage rates are a reason why people live with room-mates.[2] Despite this rise, share housing is little researched.[3]

Roommates are a fairly common point of reference in Western culture. In the United States, most young adults spend at least a short part of their lives living with roommates after they leave their family's home. Therefore, many novels, movies, plays, and television programs employ roommates as a basic principle or a plot device (such as the popular series Friends or The Big Bang Theory). Sharing a house or a flat is also very common in European countries such as France (French colocation, corenting) or Germany (German WG for Wohngemeinschaft, living [together] community). Many websites are specialized in finding a flatmate. On the other hand, it is less common for people of any age to live with roommates in some countries, such as Japan, where single-person one-room apartments are plentiful.

There are many different forms of flat shares also, from the more established flat shares where the flatmate will get their own room that is furnished to "couch surfing" where people lend their sofa for a short period. Share house residents are typically unrelated to each other in that they generally come from different families[citation needed], although they may be composed of some siblings and sometimes single parents and their children. Perhaps because of the social cohesion required for their formation, share houses will often be composed of members of the same peer group. For example, university students who have relocated to a new area to commence a course of study often need to form a share house. Share housing often occurs in the 18-35 age bracket - during a life stage between leaving home and having children. Share house residents may have pre-existing friendships or other interpersonal relationships or they may form new relationships whilst living together.

Many universities in the United States require first-year students to live in on-campus residence halls, sharing a dormitory room with a same-sex roommate.


The change in the cost of housing makes the consideration of roommates more attractive. As the housing market increases, so too does the roommate ratio rate. When house prices drop, the opposite can be expected. This has been seen extensively in cities such as Washington D.C., Phoenix, and San Diego.[4]

Student exchanges are getting more and more popular with globalization and has influenced a lot in the Roommate Boom. The Erasmus exchange program in Europe has contributed as being the biggest exchange program in Europe. Exchange students can live in university residences but a growing amount want to share apartments with other international students in shared apartments.

Roommates and house-sharing are not limited to students and young adults however. American politicians Chuck Schumer, William Delahunt, Richard Durbin, and George Miller famously share a house in Washington, D.C. while Congress is in session.[5]

In Indian universities and colleges it is quite common that students share their rooms with a couple of others. Usually students in the master or doctoral programs are allocated with own rooms.

Sharing an apartment is quite popular by young adults (most of them university students) in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, while sharing a bedroom is uncommon.


One difficulty is finding suitable roommates. Living with a roommate can mean much less privacy than having a residence of one's own, and for some people this can cause a lot of stress. Another thing to consider when choosing a roommate is how to divide the cost of living. Who pays for what, or are the shared expenses divided between the two or more roommates. Also, the potential roommate should be trusted to pay their share and trusted to pay it on time. Sleeping patterns can also be disrupted when living with a number of people, so it is therefore important to choose housemates wisely.Some of the challenges that come with share housing may include advertising for, interviewing and choosing potential housemates; sharing communal household goods, rent (often this may be determined by the size or position of respective bedrooms); sharing household bills and grocery costs; and sharing housework, cleaning, and cooking responsibilities. Conflicts may arise if, for example, residents have different standards of cleanliness, different diets, or different hours of employment or study. Guests and partners may also begin to board frequently, which can raise complications pertaining to utility expenses, additional rent and further possible cleaning duties. Often when these responsibilities go untended, friction may result between co-tenants.

See also[edit]