Finding the ideal flatmate can be a tricky task. Moving in with good friends can feel like an easy option that helps you bypass the awkwardness and potential risks of living with people you don’t know. But the added pressures that come with sharing a flat can be enough to drive even best friends apart for good, revealing less flattering traits in each other that are difficult to address and discuss.
The benefit of living with strangers, however, is that you’re both starting from scratch – and have to work together to find the best ways to get along with each other. This creates a more dynamic, fluid relationship as you’re not as emotionally involved from the offset. Which could also be why 59% of SpareRoom users we asked decided that strangers (or friends of friends) make better flatmates than current friends…
We got psychologist Donna Dawson to share her top tips, and help you find that ideal flatmate you haven’t even met yet…
1. Presentation is key
…and we’re not just talking about sprucing yourself up for that all-important first meeting.
“If you’re looking for a flatmate, this goes right back to the ad itself,” says Donna. “How does it look, and how much information are you giving people – not just about the physical accommodation, but about what kind of person you’re looking for too?”
If you’ve got a spare room in your flat to fill, think about how you’re presenting the place too – keeping it clean and tidy will go a long way. “How you take care of yourself and your space will give clues as to how you would look after your shared home.”
2. Consider lifestyle values too
You might naturally warm to someone just because you’ve got a lot in common, but a mutual love of Breaking Bad and a shared interest in craft beer doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a great fit as flatmates. The most important thing are their lifestyle values, and how these would work in a flatshare with you.
“You need to consider if they place the same importance as you do on things like keeping the flat tidy, and being respectful of each other’s space. Make sure they’re considerate and fair as a flatmate,” says Donna.
But how can you find this information out without sounding creepy? Read on…
3. Question time
Asking the right questions when meeting potential flatmates is key. Go for open-ended questions (requiring more than just a yes/no answer), as they will reveal more about the other person’s personality traits. Donna suggests asking about their last flatsharing experience as a starting point: “Start questions with ‘How would you feel about…’ to gauge their thoughts about things like leaving dirty dishes in the sink. You’ll get them to reveal more about their attitude and preferences.”
Think about asking practical questions too – like what their working hours are and when they get home at night, so you can get a good idea of how your lifestyles and routines will gel on a day-to-day basis.
4. Body language
Your potential flatmate’s body language during questioning can give real clues of how they’re feeling, and what they’re really like as a person… “Running a finger along their nose or chin, avoiding eye contact, stammering, changing the speed or pitch of their chatter, fidgeting, or laughing too much can all be signs that a person is lying,” Donna says. Although nerves can account for a lot, so she recommends just trusting your gut instinct.
Interviewing someone to fill your spare room? Think about your body language too. “Aim for a direct and smiling gaze, with open body language,” says Donna, “and don’t hesitate when answering questions!”
5. The all-important feedback
So you’ve found the flatmate for you. Congrats! But that doesn’t mean your work is over…
It’s now really important to put some effort into making the flatmate relationship work for you. “Try to arrange a weekly catch up over a coffee or drink so you can see how things are going, and flag up any issues with each other,” says Donna. “You should try and be honest in your replies to prevent any resentment or stress building up, and stop small problems ballooning into much bigger ones!”
After a month or so you can probably stop having these chats, but you should make sure your new flatmate feels comfortable enough to approach you at any time with potential concerns – so you can create a healthy and harmonious living situation.
Now you’ve got all the interview tips, how about finding that perfect flatmate or share? With over 80,000 rooms and flatmates on SpareRoom, there’s a good chance one of them will be right for you…