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Opinion: The truth about sharing a house (hint: it’s not like Friends)

Sharing a house with other people has its ups and downs – here’s how to avoid the pitfalls…

Michelle McBride

IT’S THAT TIME of year. Students are searching for and settling into their new home from home. The walls in shared bathrooms are getting ready to talk. I never had the privilege of experiencing the thrill that is student accommodation – whilst I was in college, that is. I always felt slightly hard done by. That I was cheated out of a rite of passage, a gateway to my coming of age. I did, however, make up for this once I finished college and stepped onto the rental ladder.

Sharing a house with four other people is nothing like what the creators of ‘Friends’ would have you believe. While house shares can have their perks, these perks can become eclipsed by the levies they place on your patience. So before you move in and sign that lease you may want to review a few house sharing truths.

Priorities

Assess what your main priority is. Social or sane? If you’re moving to an area where you know not a soul, then a house share could be your safest option. You have a captive audience – they have to talk to you. On the other hand, some house shares can have quite a fast turnover rate. No sooner have you adjusted to somebody’s eating habits than they’re up and gone and replaced with an entirely different masticating style.

You also have to go through the introductions that are somewhat reminiscent of a group interview I did for a job in Japan. The role-play where you put your best foot forward to get it in the door. Once it’s in, that best foot may never be seen again.

If you have a social network and can afford it – rent alone.

Pass the buck

When you live in a house share an air of anonymity prevails. At least when it comes to the cleaning, or lack thereof. My mother will vouch for the fact that I am by no means the tidiest soul in the world. I have, however, rented in houses where some fail to recognise that floors are not self –sweeping, dishwashers are not self-emptying and wheelie bins don’t automatically deposit themselves outside on the allocated bin day. All of the above are reliant upon actual human participation.

Be ready for the ‘pass the buck’ mentality when it comes to the cleaning in a house share. Save yourself months of under the breath muttering by doing up a rota – now.

Neighbours

Chances are, if you are in a house share, then your neighbours are too. They generally seem to have a better social life than the house you’re in, too. Be prepared for multiple mid-week parties. And if the weather’s good there’ll be a sudden rise in al fresco nature of the get-together. You may be torn between being driven mad by the late night noise and being jealous of their seemingly endless social life. One thing is certain though – you will not sleep.

Absentee landlord

If your landlord is renting out five rooms individually it’s practically a certainty he’ll adopt the role of an absentee landlord. Or at least a selective one. Your boiler may be on the hop for months. The carpets are nearly due to come back into fashion and there are more watermarks per square foot than a Swiss bank.

The only time you can hope to have an issue resolved is if you have some leverage. Times like when he wants the grass cut in the inexplicably-designed, terraced back garden. Or if he can’t quite figure out which rent payment belongs to which month. This is the time to strike. One of the major benefits of large house shares is the ability to put in to play an adult version of ‘pester power’. If you can all say “is it fixed yet? Is it fixed yet?” enough he’s bound to cave. Eventually.

All in all, though, the financial lure of the house share off sets any of its niggles. The reduced rent and the split bills pave that road for you. I for one will be residing in my retro abode for the foreseeable future. Until I buy that winning lotto ticket, that is.

Michelle McBride tweets at @MichelleBride and blogs at MissUnderstood Teacher.

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Michelle McBride

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