We speak with an expert to shed light on the process of selecting a like-minded housemate who won’t do your head in.
Now, we’ve all heard horror stories of housemates gone-wrong. They make a great first impression at your first coffee date, and then two weeks in they’ve stalked you to the point that you’re watching Netflix with them every night.
We speak with psychologist Courtney Browne to help you distinguish between the bearable and the unbearable, and the process involved for sourcing an ideal housemate for your property.
Where can you advertise?
There are several websites where you can create a profile and advertise your available space or room, online.
Such sites include:
For most providers, you can create an account and manage your account, free of charge. Many services offer a free introductory period where you can trial their services.
The housemate-hunting process
When you advertise an available room, you’ll generally need to create an account with a provider, such as one of the service providers listed above.
In doing so, you’ll need to specify the service that you’re seeking. For instance, there may be a field stating “I’m offering a room in a shared house” or alternatively “I’m looking for a room in a shared house.” This will help the provider refine your search so they can match you with the right candidates.
Important: Be mindful of scammers and never accept money from someone you haven’t met. If you’re unsure of someone’s identity, contact the online provider.
Determine what your property has to offer
What’s the unique selling proposition? Why would someone want to live in your property compared to a competing one? Does your property offer a convenient location or affordable rent?
Identify what you’re looking for in a housemate
Your online advertisement and description for an ideal housemate is the first opportunity to clearly lay down the ground rules. So get it all out in the open.
Here, you can establish the values and norms of your household. For instance, “We’re an anti-smoking household that respects one another’s privacy”, or “We’re a bunch of house-trained professionals that are hermits during the week, and social butterflies on the weekend”, are statements that identify some behavioural expectations for a future housemate.
Providing as much information as possible can also preempt any candidates that may not be a suitable match.
If you have any preferences or criteria for a housemate, you should include these in the written advertisement. Things you may want to include are their gender, age, smoking status, spoken language/s, whether or not they have pets, their employment status, and their number of children or dependents, among others.
Create an engaging headline
You want to create a headline that will appeal to the right kind of housemate. Keep your headline short and simple, and remember that the headline is designed to draw in a potential roommate that will generally identify the main benefit that you're offering. For instance, “Roommate wanted for social household in Melbourne CBD" establishes location as the selling point.
Describe the property
You should provide an accurate and detailed description of your property when completing your account. Generally, you should supply the following information:
- Residential address
- Nearby facilities (i.e. transport, convenience store, park or reserve)
- Property type (i.e. townhouse, apartment, terrace house, etc)
- Intended home occupancy (i.e. the number of bedrooms that will be occupied)
- Home features (i.e. air conditioning, ceiling fans, internet, BBQ facilities, gym or fitness area)
- Car parking (i.e. off-street parking, street parking only)
- Household furniture (i.e. unfurnished, semi furnished, fully furnished)
Describe the available room/space
Offering a description of the available room is a crucial step in completing your profile. You should cover the following:
- Bedroom size and included furniture (i.e. with or without a bed)
- Bedroom features and facilities (i.e. air conditioner, ensuite/bathroom, wardrobe, double glazed windows)
- Specify the availability period of the room (i.e. minimum or maximum stay, or indefinite)
- Identify the ongoing bills that will be payable (i.e. electricity, water, gas, internet)
Describe the current occupants
Provide a description of the current occupants of the property and include information about how you and any other occupants use the property - this can help eliminate people who don’t have similar interests or needs as you.
Identify rent and fees
Identify the rent and bond (exclude bills) and specify how often the rent needs to be paid (this will be determined by the landlord or property owner). You should also specify the amount of bond or deposit to be paid by the tentative housemate (generally, this shouldn’t exceed the equivalent of 4 weeks rent).
In addition, you should list ongoing bills such as internet, cleaning expenses, water, electricity and gas that will be directly associated with property use.
Upload photos and review "matching" candidates
You’ll need to upload photos of the property and bedroom when completing your profile. Make sure that the photos are high quality and accurately reflect the condition and nature of the property.
Once you’ve completed your account, you’ll be ‘matched’ with potential candidates and you can review candidates to determine whether or not they meet your criteria.
When you meet potential candidates, take time to observe their body language, mannerisms and general attitude to see whether this is someone you’d like to live with.
According to Ms Browne, we tend to like people who are similar to us: “It’s reassuring and rewarding to meet others who are just like us, as we don’t have to justify our interests or beliefs to them.”
“You need to like your housemate in order to have mutual respect and effective communication. You should also have an exchange relationship with housemates and ideally, they should have a similar lifestyle and similar views on how a household should be run. Fairness, equality and honesty are all major pillars for an effective relationship.”
Ask the candidate open-ended questions and get to know their opinion on matters before you give too much away about your expectations. This way, you’ll get a more genuine understanding of their values and beliefs.
Additionally, Ms Browne explains why setting the ground rules with your housemate early on is important: “Schemas will shape your relationship rules with a housemate- like unspoken expectations you would have for a housemate- for instance, that they would clean up after themselves, look after the property, and so on. These schemas are shaped by the environment so if someone has unrealistic relationship rules, then that would create frustration and conflict. And if the housemates relationship rules were too different, it would also create conflict.”
By establishing ground rules and expectations early on, you can avoid headaches down the track.
Personality and social behaviours
Personality types are crucial when selecting a housemate, but did you know that someone’s drinking and technology consumption can predict their relationship traits?
Ms Browne explains which personality traits you should look out for when it comes to sharing a household: “You should consider whether a person is introverted or extroverted. Extroverts recharge by talking to others, whilst introverts recharge by spending time alone. If you’re living with the opposite personality type, you may have your feelings hurt, or you may hurt someone else’s feelings if they crave company, when all you feel like doing is having time alone.”
Additionally, someone’s alcohol consumption is an important factor to consider when screening a housemate. Ms Browne suggests that similar drinking behaviour between two people can predict a better quality and longer friendship: “If you only drink 1-2 times a week, you may not want to live with someone who’s drinking every night – this could cause tension and hostility within the relationship.”
Do you know the five main personality types?
- Extraversion: Extraverts generally possess traits including excitability, sociability, assertiveness and emotional expressiveness.
- Agreeableness: Individuals who have a high level of agreeableness generally have traits such as trust, altruism, kindness and affection.
- Conscientiousness: Those who are conscientious have high levels of thoughtfulness and goal-directed behaviour.
- Neuroticism: Individuals who are highly neurotic tend to experience emotional instability, anxiety and moodiness.
- Openness: Those who have a high level of openness generally have a high degree of insight and a diverse range of interests.
The extent to which someone is dependent on technology – and their phone – can also indicate the type of relationship you may have with a potential housemate. Ms Browne points out that if someone is heavily reliant on their phone, this may indicate that they are also overly dependent on their friends: “People who are constantly calling or messaging are more likely to be over reliant on their friends, so if you don’t like having frequent contact, then you should consider finding someone who has a similar level of dependency and a lesser need for communication. You don’t want to live with someone who’s overbearing.”
But don’t opposites attract?
Complementarity is the tendency for people to seek out others with characteristics that are different, but complementary to their own. However, when it comes to attitudes, beliefs and other factors such as education, religion and economic levels, similarity still prevails.
According to Ms Browne, complementarity is limited to just a few personality traits such as dependence, nurturing and extroversion/introversion. When it comes to vital qualities such as honesty, optimism and conscientiousness, it’s not good to be with someone who is the opposite to you.
Similarity appears to be the rule, and complementarity the exception.
Once you’ve met several candidates and narrowed them down to a few, it’s vital that you check their references to confirm their identity and the type of person they are.
Make sure you request references from previous housemates, landlords or property managers, or even previous employers to gauge the type of person you could be living with.
You want to know that these people can vouch for the applicant’s likeability, responsibility and ability to maintain and function within a household.
Finding a new housemate is an important decision that involves some groundwork, but if you carefully place your advertisement, consider the type of person you’d like to live with, and exercise precaution by checking the candidate’s references, you’ll maximise your success in sourcing a good housemate.