How to choose a great housemate

House hunting is easy. It’s the catching it part that’s difficult. Susan Gale.

House hunting is something everyone has to go through at one stage or another. A good friend of mine once told me that making a rash decision and choosing a bad housemate would be the worst decision I make. I didn’t trust that advice until I made the mistake.

Generally when you’re house hunting you’re focusing on the house, the location, the bills, the features … and on top of your massive list of ideals, you get to meet a complete stranger, for five minutes, to chat about what they like to do and their favourite breakfast cereal. By the time you’ve found your common ground (most likely Coco Pops for dinner), you’re excited about the place and ready to make your decision … but before you hit the green light – follow these tips to ensure you’re connecting yourself with the right housemate for you.

Know what you want in a housemate
Make a mental list of everything you’re looking for in a housemate. This will generally include someone that respects your space and privacy, someone considerate and caring, and someone that you can talk to. You may even have a preference in the age and gender that you want to live with. Remember, this person is your living companion, not your friend. You can spend some time together, but you don’t want to overcrowd each other. When making your mental list, consider your values – smoking, drugs, drinking, social gatherings … what will you tolerate? What won’t you tolerate?

Ask lots of questions
Leave no stone unturned! This is your chance to talk about your pet-hates, your expectations (fridge space sharing, dryer usages, shoes on or off, rental adjustments, length of stay etc.). Get everything out in the open so there are no surprises later on. Find out if they have pets, if they want your name on the lease, how much bond do you need to pay, when is rent due, come to an agreement about partners staying over (so you don’t end up unexpectedly living with a couple!), ask where they work or what they’re studying – but whatever you do, go in casually, it’s not a Spanish inquisition! It’s ideal to make a list of questions so you don’t feel as though you’re put on the spot and you cover everything.

Meet your potential housemate
Ideally, try to take a friend with you to meet your potential housemate so you have a second opinion. The same friend that told me to avoid getting a bad housemate, also offered to come house hunting with me – but I chose to do it on my own. Now I always ensure someone – a good judge of character who I trust – can come with me to all my inspections. A true friend will stop you from making any rash decisions and will give you their honest opinion.

Walk away
After you’ve inspected the property and met your potential housemate, give yourself time to think about it and get back to them. Avoid deciding on the spot. Weigh up your options, think things through, even search other property listings to compare.

Warning signs
– Casual worker or long-term unemployment
– Awkward conversation – I’m a believer if it starts awkward, it may end awkwardly
– Pay attention to how the person makes you FEEL! If you feel light, happy and vibrant after meeting them – this may be a great person. If you’re feeling low in energy and tired, perhaps this isn’t the right person
– Bitching. If they’re bitching a lot about their ex-housemate, they could be a winger. People are trying to put their best foot forward at the initial meeting, so be wary of these types
– Excessive rules. If you’re living in a share house, you need to agree on the rules. Just because they live there first, doesn’t mean it’s their way or the highway, feel free to stand your ground
– Anyone too eager. If they say they want you to sign on the dotted line straight away and move in tomorrow and won’t give any time to think, clearly they’re desperate and there will be a reason for this. Consider this before you sign anything! If you are very keen, try to find out the reason for their eagerness and see if you are comfortable with their response.

Tips to being an awesome housemate
* Be polite and considerate at all times. Remember all those tips your grandmother would give you when growing up? Best apply them now!
* Don’t use your phone loudly after 9.30pm. Be considerate! If you want to talk on the phone, go into your room and use it quietly
* Let them sleep. If you know they’re sleeping or it’s an unreasonable hour and you are awake, find a quiet activity to keep you occupied – such as reading
* Don’t touch their things without asking first. That means: don’t eat their food because it’s there and it looks good, don’t take their phone charger without permission and don’t steal their toilet paper because you’ve run out – take some responsibility! In emergency cases where you do use their things, let them know immediately after and replace it as soon as you can
* Invite them to parties or events you hold at the house. Don’t wait until they come home from work and there you are at the dinner table with five friends having a laugh. After a long day, that’s not nice to come home to!
* Make friendly conversation – don’t be a hermit, try to be social. Talk about things your passionate about, your family, friends, interests etc.
* Use your common sense: If you make a mess, clean it up. If you break something of theirs, apologise and offer to replace it. Keep common areas clean. Limit the number of people you have over and the number of nights they’re over. Don’t go through their things – whether they’re home or not.

Looking for some more information in Australia about renting or sharing? Click here!

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