Whether you view flatmates as an economic necessity or as the new best friends you will have forever and ever, interviewing them can be a bit of an ordeal.
In a best-case scenario it could be a blast, but if it all goes wrong you could wind up out of pocket and it could all turn a bit nasty.
So: what should you be looking for in a new housemate? Here are our tips for questions to ask.
Can they pay the rent?
Sure, it seems obvious, but as the absolute baseline, essential, and non-negotiable check-box to tick it’s worth asking, isn’t it?
Do they have a job, an inheritance, a trust fund, a Sims-esque money tree? A highly-profitable Etsy store? Whatever it is, as long they as they have the cash – or cash flow – to cover the weekly outgoings.
Are your lifestyles compatible?
Whether it’s breakfast beers or getting an early night for your Saturday-morning-double-strength-and-yoga class, you’d probably be better off living with people who aren’t going to ruin it for you.
Check if they tend to have a lot of guests over, if they like partying or hate it, and if their version of partying is the “recreating Come Dine With Me with sophisticated friends” kind, or the “peg a wine cask to the washing line” kind.
Finding a new flatmate who you’re more-or-less on the same page with can help the house dynamic stay relatively harmonious and make it feel more like, well, home.
But not compatible as in ‘keeping exactly the same hours’
As a morning shower-er, there’s something to be said for sharing with someone who prefers a bath before bed.
And similarly, if you’re the kind of person to prepare a sit-down breakfast before going to work then you might find it easier to live with someone who’s not going to be fighting you for the bench space at 7.15 on a Tuesday morning.
Basically, unless you’re lucky enough to have a bathroom or kitchen all to yourself, it’s worth checking that you’re not all going to be trying to cram a shower into the same 10-minute window.
And if they’re a mad keen My Kitchen Rules fan, then check that it’s not going to clash with your not-so-secret love of Megafactories.
Are they at the same level of cleanliness?
The alternate question to this is: are they willing to go in on paying for a cleaner to avoid bickering?
Establishing how long it’s ok for dishes to stay in the sink and if it’s days, weeks or months between bathrooms scrubbing jaunts from the get-go can minimise stress down the track.
Living in filth or not is fine, essentially – just make sure you’re working off the same definition of what “filth” is.
Identify any deal-breakers
This is about being honest with yourself, and your potential flatmates too.
Pets, smoking, a boyfriend or girlfriend who is always around (or a ghost-housemate who is never, ever there), using up all the Wi-Fi on the first day of the month. What is it, other than the aforementioned rent, are you just not willing to compromise on?
Decide if you are ok living with a couple or have a gender, dietary or age preference, and what kind of possessions you are happy with them stashing about the place. Again, it’s not about judgement, just about making things as comfortable as possible for everyone.
Similarly, if there’s anything they really need, such as a secure car space, a really good internet connection or room in the backyard for their extensive potted citrus collection, this is the time to find out.
Think about how you’re going to structure your interviews
Having a string of people traipsing through to look at a room can be bit disconcerting, so find a method that works for all the existing housemates.
Whether it’s doing a panel interview, getting people to pop around after work or throwing a barbecue and getting everyone around at once so you can judge them on how they like their steaks – whatever works for you.
Have the room ready for viewing
This isn’t about creating false expectations, but painting their future accommodation in a positive light.
Having the room clean and neat shows you’re organised and helps them assess how much space they’re getting as well.
Get a personal reference
This is where the “friend of a friend” search policy comes in handy – someone who knows them and is willing to vouch for them, or at least confirm they’re not a lizard alien wearing a person suit kicking off their plans for world domination (“Step 1: convince foolish humans I am one of them”).
If you’re searching via classifieds then getting a friend, former housemate or workmate to give them the ok is a good idea.
Put it in writing
The date they are moving in, the rent they owe, and the split of the bills – it’s best to get it written down so everyone is across what’s going on.
And finally – check out the relevant tenants’ rights and state government websites, to see what your rights and legal obligations are.
This article was originally published by Domain on 22 March 2016. This article represents the views of the author only and does not necessarily reflect the views of AMP.
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