There are various times in our lives when living alone is not an option - either out of necessity or by choice. House sharing can be a crazy adventure or a strange clinical experience but either way, make sure you're clear about what you want. Putting a few basic processes in place can make a huge difference to the outcome and save you from all manner of disasters!
Here's a few tips on how you can choose the best housemate ever.
Nail Down the Basics
Work, leisure, partners and chores all impact on the household and your schedules should fit together nicely so everyone gets what they need out of the house. Is your home a peaceful haven or a party zone? Do you like lots of people around or prefer solitude? Do you want to share all expenses - rent, utilities and groceries - or is it better to charge more rent and cover everything yourself? Do you want to make friends with them, or do you want to pass them by infrequently in the hallway with a polite nod? Think about your own lifestyle and daily habits now and get a sense of how another person might fit in with them.
To lease or not to lease?
The most important thing to know, when thinking about an ideal housemate is if they can pay the rent and bills - along with whether to put them on the lease or not. If you own the apartment and plan to sub lease, it's perfectly reasonable to ask them for some proof of income such as pay slips or a bank statement. Alternatively, if you are also renting, getting everyone on the lease is always the safest bet. A lease protects not only the property but the tenants, with a set of standards detailed and agreed upon as part of the arrangement. It's much easier to defer to the lease in an argument than to have to convince someone they're in the wrong through will alone! It's ok to chat to them about their budget - what are they currently paying, what kind of expenses do they have (do they lease a car or have a gym membership?) and how long have they been in their current job? Their answers will give you a sense of their responsibilities and how financially stable they are. You might decide for a trial period before getting them on the lease - which locks them in. It's also a good idea to ask for references - preferably someone who lived with them previously or rented to them before.
Filter before meeting them
It's a good idea to always have a phone call before you arrange to meet in person. If you have a lot of people to consider then you can take a few off the list, simply by having a brief chat on the phone and listening to your gut. If it's easy to chat to them then go ahead and arrange to meet. You can also do a bit of modern day stalking online and see what information you can find. People share so much of themselves today that a few scrolls through their Instagram account may be all you need to decide that person is not the person for you. If you feel like you want to meet them in person then go ahead with the next step but be sensible about the arrangements. Would you ordinarily let a stranger into your home when you're there alone? Meet for a coffee or a drink first somewhere else, or if you meet at the house, get a friend to come over, in case things get strange.
Ask lifestyle questions
Most house sharing dramas come down to cleaning, money and lifestyle so avoid a long future of hiding in your bedroom by discussing those things up front. How important is a clean and tidy environment to them and what's their current cleaning routine? You could create a roster to share the housework or discuss the option of splitting the cost of a cleaner to do it for you.
What's their work schedule like and how much time do they spend at home? What do they like to do on days off? For example, if you like to binge watch action movies and they want to practice yoga in an incense fueled oasis, there's going to be some problems. Find out how much they like to have people over or entertain and compare it with your own habits.
It's important to try to get a sense of their values too if you can. If your weekly project is perfecting the Sunday roast, your new vegan housemate is going to want to know about that. Questions around recycling, green energy choices and environmentally friendly household products are also valuable in a house sharing situation.
Do the pros and cons and pick a winner
The trusty pros and cons list is useful here - in fact you can even start it in the interviews. Once you have interviewed everyone there will either be a clear winner, or you will at least be able to look over your notes and trigger thoughts and memories about the person to help you decide. House sharing is fun and can save you lots of money in the short term - especially if you are saving to buy a house. Your housemate stories will also become the stuff of legend into the future so don't be too fussy about who moves in with you - you may unearth a gem who becomes a lifelong friend!