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News & Comment COVID-19

Here’s how COVID-19 has changed the future of flatsharing…

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The majority of us have spent more time at home than ever this year, thanks to COVID-19, a lockdown that restricted movement and socialising, and now a “Rule of Six” to put a cap on how many people we can hang out with at once. It’s been pretty exhausting.

This has also meant that flatmates are spending more time together than ever before. Pre-coronavirus, it wasn’t uncommon for flatmates to be more like passing ships – different work schedules, friendship groups and lack of living space were all factors that could impact how much (or little) you actually saw people at home. But a sudden shift to working from home, limiting time outside, and a ban on socialising changed everything.

By now we’re all pretty used to spending extra time at home, but are flatsharers actually used to hanging around with their flatmates more often? Has COVID-19 changed the future of flatsharing – and what people look for in a housemate?

We delved deeper into this by surveying our users – which revealed that 48% of flatsharers have, in fact, changed what they look for in a flatmate because of the pandemic.

What makes a great flatmate now

Cleanliness, paying bills on time and not eating each other’s food used to rank highly on the list of desirable flatmate qualities. But now it’s personality traits that command higher value: 56% said they think qualities like kindness, empathy and thinking of others are more important in a flatmate than before.

71% also admitted that the pandemic has made them more cautious when choosing who to live with.

Of those who stayed in their flatshare during lockdown, the survey also revealed the classic ways flatmates like to spend time together – which (largely) haven’t changed because of COVID-19: watching TV together (36%), sharing meals (32%) and having drinks together in the evening (31%) came out as popular ways to create a happy home. However, these are now joined by a new quality: respecting coronavirus rules. 44% said that following the government’s COVID-19 guidelines is key to people getting along in their flatshare. In cases where these rules have been broken, 55% said it caused tension at home.

Spending extra time together has had some positive effects on renters too. Almost a third (29%) of flatmates who stayed in their share during lockdown said the experience has made them more patient – suggesting they’ve become more willing to overlook the flatmate habits that once irritated them.

The ideal home in a post-lockdown world

It’s not just the ideal flatmate that’s changed. The kind of home we want to live in has changed too. Good transport links are so 2019… Now it’s all about a spacious property (38%) with a garden or balcony (30%) that’s under a 10 minute walk to green space (53%) and within 10 minutes of a supermarket (53%) – presumably because daily outdoor exercise and stockpiling toilet paper have become more of a priority this year.

SpareRoom’s listings reflect these new desires. We spotted these interesting changes in ads between August 2019 and August 2020:

  • 98% increase in demand for gardens
  • 96% increased in demand for a balcony or patio
  • 44% increase in demand for rooms with an ensuite
  • 43% increase in demand for shared living rooms

What does this mean for the future?

2020 has been an undeniably turbulent, stressful and uncertain year. The way the coronavirus crisis has played out has caused many of us to reevaluate what really matters in life – so it’s no surprise that renters are rethinking what’s most important to them too. For now, it looks like kindness and empathy are the qualities flatmates want to be around every day, and traditional traits like cleanliness and paying bills on time have become less important.

Amidst accusations that young people are ignoring social distancing rules, our research interestingly suggests the opposite. A huge number of flatsharers, many of whom are in their twenties, said observing coronavirus rules was a make or break quality in a potential flatmate – showing that this group are a highly conscientious bunch.

It remains to be seen if flatsharing will change even more in the future, but for now – houses full of kinder, more considerate sharers can only be a good thing, right?

Image credit: @noorulabdeen.


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