If you like company and can find the right housemates, sharing a flat or house can be a brilliant idea. It’s the ideal option if you’re ready to fly the family nest but would struggle to cover the rent on your own. It can also be a great way to help save up for a deposit if you dream of buying your own home in the future. But even though there are plenty of benefits – and enough sitcoms on the TV to convince you it’s going to be a bundle of laughs – it’s worth going into a house share with your eyes wide open.
Let’s imagine you and a lifelong friend are planning to buddy up, share the rent, share the bills, share the space and have a ball. Okay, it could happen that way, but what happens when you discover your lifelong friend is a national champion at leaving rings around the bathtub? What happens when he objects to you parking your bike in the kitchen because he’s planning a romantic evening with the new love of his life?
If you don’t sort these types of issues at the outset, lifelong friends can become people you can barely tolerate, and coming home to tension, disagreements and piles of unwashed dishes could become typical. The fun you’ve imagined evaporates and the idea of sharing loses all its sparkle.
So, here’s the question: are you ready to share?
Can you stick to agreements?
Be honest here. It might be tempting to imagine the best, but sharing is about making and respecting agreements. It’s about understanding boundaries, about having the ground rules in place before things go awry. If you don’t feel you can stick to a set of agreed parameters, you’re probably not ready to share. You’ll be as irritated by someone demanding you wash your socks as you are by their insistence on washing every teaspoon the second it’s used.
Can you see things from another’s viewpoint?
We all have our own views, but we can’t all be right all of the time. Can you have a sensible discussion if any disputes arise? It may seem fair to you that your boyfriend stays over every weekend, but your flatmates may be wondering when he’s going to start contributing to the bills. You might think that because it’s your TV, you should get first dibs on what to watch, but you conveniently forget that your flatmate has brought along all the cookware which you use every day.
Can you take responsibility?
Are you ready for the serious stuff – utility bills, insurance, inventories, sharing the costs of TV subscriptions and broadband? What’s your share of the rent and can you meet it? Are you practical, willing to do your share of the chores? What will you do if one flatmate wants to move on? Who has to find and how will you vet any potential replacements? These are things to think about before they become issues. Add them to a list of topics to discuss before you move in.
Good to go?
Excellent. You’re responsible, reasonable and ready to stick to an agreement. Now, you’re ready to enjoy the benefits of sharing. There’s companionship when you want it, and freedom when you don’t. As well as the significant savings on rental payments, you’ll find sharing stuff cuts down your initial costs. If you don’t already own small household appliances – kettles or toasters, for example – decide who’s contributing what. See if you can share basics like tea and coffee, cleaning products and loo roll – maybe everyone making a small monthly contribution to cover the cost of the things everyone uses.
Be realistic. Your life isn’t a sitcom, and sharing isn’t like living permanently in an episode of Friends. You can expect a lot of laughs, but you also need to accept that there will sometimes be friction. If you can navigate the friction, those you share with could become good friends for life.