For postgrads or undergrads, house sharing with young professionals is a great way to save money on a student loan and live closer to the liveliest parts of a city.
How can you avoid the guy who strangles cats for fun? What’s the best way to gel with your new diverse set of housemates? How can you organise them when you rarely see them? And how can you keep up with their spending power if you are still living on a student loan? We have all the answers.
Find the best room
Finding the perfect pad isn’t easy. You begin your search believing your maintenance loan is generous. That a room big enough for a double bed and a wardrobe is a basic human right. And anything overlooking a ring road is out of the question because, well, how would you get any sleep? Unfortunately, the rental market in popular towns moves fast for students. Any room worth having will get snapped up faster than you can say, “Agh! Cockroach!”
To avoid missing out, set up immediate or daily email alerts on rental search websites. Zoopla, Gumtree and SpareRoom all have this functionality. And make sure you’re prepared to view rooms as soon as you’ve made contact. It’s also a good idea to register your search with a few local estate agents. This way you can see properties before they’re even advertised. But there’s no point being quick off the mark if you don’t have the funds ready to go. You’ll need one month’s rent,a six-week deposit and a realistic cost of living budget to secure your chosen room.
Find the right housemates
Your next challenge is to find people you can live with. A good way to improve your chances is to ask existing tenants the right questions. Start off with the basics:
- How are the bills paid?
- What time does everyone leave for work?
- How do you approach chores?
- Then move on to more revealing questions…
On a scale of one to five, with one being messy and five being borderline OCD, how tidy are you? – If you’re wildly different in this respect, you can expect many rows to follow.
- Are you more of an introvert or extrovert? – Then ask yourself if this will clash with your personality.
- What do you like to do on weekends? – You could discover they’re always home playing World of Warcraft. Which may or may not be your thing.
- How often do you have visitors over? – Now you know if it’s a party house, or if there’s a girlfriend who’s practically a resident too.
- Would you rather be a lion or an antelope? – We got this idea from Jon Ronson, author of 'The Psychopath Test..' Apparently psychopaths tend to view life in terms of predator and prey, so answers to this question can be very insightful.
What’s theirs is theirs, unless…
It’s easy for tensions to run high when you’re living in close quarters with others. But there’s no need to go nuclear. Let’s begin with the Resist, Request, Replace Rule, which applies to food and toiletries that don’t belong to you. We’ll walk you through it:
You’ve run out of cheese but there’s a particularly tasty looking block of mature cheddar sitting on your housemate’s shelf in the fridge. Resist it. That’s right. Walk away from the fridge and make yourself something dairy-free for dinner. But you really like cheese? Okay, okay. But you have to ask for it first. Darn it! Owner of said cheese is working late and probably doesn’t want a text message about cheddar. Fine. Take it. But tomorrow you must replace it.
And that, folks, is how you steal food the right way.
Make peace with doing more
For a harmonious home, keep in mind a ratio of 60:40 when it comes to chores. Expect to do 60% yourself, which gives your lazier housemates a more achievable standard, while lowering your expectations and, therefore, controlling your levels of irritability. What’s more, if you lived alone you’d be doing 100%. So you’re basically a winner! Of course, another great way to avoid this particular battleground is to invest in a cleaner.
Choose your battles
With any household dispute, we advise you to choose your battles carefully. Before you explode at someone for leaving the empty loo roll tube for someone else to throw away and replace, think about whether there’s an alternative solution that will avoid introducing bad feeling into the house. So, for example, you could just keep a loo roll in your room, ready to take in and out of the bathroom as and when you need it. That way, the empty loo roll isn’t your problem anymore, and everybody’s still talking.
Organise the house
When everyone is dashing to work early and returning home from socialising late, it can be tricky to manage a happy household. One way around this a communal message board where you can post bills, holiday dates, house-party plans, and whatever else you think everyone needs to know about. If that seems a bit old skool, how about a Whatsapp group?
There are also some great free apps dedicated to easing the issues that arise in houseshares. Splitwise tracks who’s paid what bills and any IOUs. With Chored you can pay your share of the bills directly to the utility companies, set up a cleaning schedule and log your efforts, and write virtual post-it notes. There’s even a feature for checking who’s home and who’s out. Just don’t forget the value of catching up in person. Try and find time to get together for dinner once a week, because a little bonding goes a long way.