How to pick prospective housemates... with care


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The Independent Online

This time of year, students lurch between house viewings so desperately they begin to resemble bad husbands on Christmas Eve - driving petrol station to petrol station looking for a decent bunch of flowers. Before you can decide where to live, there’s the unenviable task of pulling together a team of housemates. To avoid sabotaging your next academic year, make your choices wisely.

Keep your friends close…ish

Lovable traits in a friend don’t always translate well to lovable traits in a housemate; you like the guy who calls up randomly, brings over a bottle and somehow gets you to a bar but could you cope with a knock on your bedroom door night after night? And while it’s hilarious and impressive that your other friend always manages to bring someone home when you head out, if you’re in the room next door, it’s not going to do much for your sleep pattern.

Living with a friend tends to strain the relationship. Often the small things work into big things just because, really, you’ve stopped liking each other as much anymore. Hannah Evans, a third-year fashion design student at Kingston University, says living with friends is a funny thing; “I always get on with my flatmates the best after I've moved out.”

Share your passions - but opposites attract

If you’re wondering who you could put up with and think ‘Hey, Wilfred and Agatha like the same things as me – we’d be perfect housemates!’ carefully consider what it is everyone likes. If you’r e all avid cinephiles, it’s hard to imagine nights in being anything but peachy. However, a mutual appreciation of long hot soaks in the bath is only going to leave some of you grumbling outside the bathroom – and it’ll put the water bill through the roof. Similarly, four wannabe Hestons tends to end badly; Hannah saw both sides of things: “It's good having housemates who love cooking and have lots of good kitchen utensils. It's bad when you come home to discover every single thing in your kitchen used and you have to wash it all up.”

Five minutes spent chatting about attitudes towards drugs and drink should keep things easy during the year. Just be straightforward with what you’re looking for in a housemate; do you want to live in a party house or do you turn into a grouch if you don’t get your sleep? Roseanna Levermore, a second-year English student at Goldsmiths looked for people with the same approach to socialising; “I prefer people who want to go out and see the city – as opposed to those who just like staying in and getting high.”

A house which runs smoothly is a funny old thing; it’s a little like a pirate ship, or a family. If everyone is willing to fulfil a slightly different role then things are much more likely to run smoothly. In Roseanna’s house, everyone does something a little different but it works well “One of us always does the cooking, one is really good to talk through things with and I’m the organiser, the one who sorts the bills and things. They’re kind of like my sisters.”

Sheffield post-graduate research student Andrew Griffiths, being veteran of five student houses, knows what’s needed: “A house that works is one where everyone is happy due to responsibilities being shared and everyone doing their bit.”

It’s a home, not a bridal suite

Don’t live with someone you fancy, you’ll either make the year a perpetual awkward morning after or you’ll slowly fall further and further in love until you’re all heart and no brain (which doesn’t translate well if you’re looking for a first...)

Boyfriends, girlfriends and friends coming over can cause a little friction too. Michael says “It meant that petty things, like taking showers became an issue, even though the marginal cost for the rest of us was so small.” Which means it’s probably worth grabbing a coffee with your potential flatmates and discussing what everyone is comfortable with – what guests are ok, how often are they welcome and should they make a financial contribution?

Money money money

Get an idea of the budget people have in mind; not just for rent but for expenses. Are some people prepared to pay to have the heating 24/7? Are you?  Money is invariably a major player when it comes to stress. As Nik Taylor, editor of the Student Room reckons;

“You’ll be spending plenty of time with your housemates – so make sure you’ve genuinely got something in common with them, and that you know what they’re like with money (rows over bills are no fun at all).”

Even Concord had turbulence

No student house has ever made it through a year without a little tension and no student has ever lived in a house where everything runs the way they’d like it to. It’s just part of living in the big bad adult world: be flexible, be calm and take time over your decision.

David Ellis is the editor of