Housemate blind date: here’s how you could find the perfect flatmate
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If renting in London is hard, finding people you can stand to split the cost of renting with can be nigh impossible. We try EasyRoommate’s social event to try and find the perfect housemate
If renting in London is hard, finding people you can stand to split the cost of renting with can be nigh impossible.
With Londoners renting well into their thirties, the cohort depressingly described as ‘generation rent’ is being thrown together in increasing numbers.
Living cheek-by-jowl in an expensive and competitive city is never a recipe for constant harmony, but sometimes it can feel like you really are the only sane one out there in a sea of housemate horror stories.
I’m a firm believer in the power of the internet to solve all my problems. I haven’t bought clothes in a bricks-and-mortar store for years, I have no shame about organising my dating life via Tinder and when I found myself on the market for a new flat last Christmas (due to my own mild to moderate housemate horror) it was to the world wide web I turned.
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I spent a frantic week meeting households from Easyroommate’s competitor, Spareroom.com, being grilled on my hobbies and interests and invited to participate in hunger games style ‘whoever texts back first wins the room’ competitions.
The reason I opted for my current house is because they simply invited me down to the pub for a casual drink instead of conducting an enquiry over my cleaning habits in their front room.
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So when the invite to EasyRoommate’s inaugural London housemate event dropped into my inbox it caught my attention.
Founded by French entrepreneurs with offices in 25 countries and headquartered in London, EasyRoomate have been running these ‘How I Met My Roomate’ events in France and were keen to see how the model would translate to the UK.
Here was an opportunity to meet potential sharing buddies, on neutral ground, and with the Great British social lubricant that is alcohol quite literally on tap.
According to a recent survey by MORE TH>N Landlord Insurance, 58 per cent of people would move if they didn’t like their housemate. At the end of the day, finding that all-important chemistry with the people you come home to is best done in person rather than via online profile.
I even had something to bring to the party. One of my housemates is about to move abroad so I had a spacious double room in Vauxhall to fill.
The only thing I wasn’t sure about was how the event co-ordinators would manage to match up potential room-givers with room-occupiers in real life (IRL).
Online you can filter according to location, price and even the gender of your potential cohabiters. Slightly less easy to do in a crowded bar full of live people.
Luckily, the team at EasyRoommate had it down to a fine art. Upon arriving at the Picadilly Bar I was invited to pick a large sticky label, blue if I was looking for a room, red if I was offering. Yes, it sounds like one of those notorious ‘traffic light’ parties but it’s actually a very simple and effective way of differentiating between who is looking for what.
You fill out your label with your name, your location / the location(s) you’re looking in and your price / budget. Then a staff member takes your photo with a Polaroid camera and sticks your picture to a giant London Underground map on the wall. If there’s someone also looking in your area they’ll make an introduction, or you can strike out on your own to try and find The One.
What struck me as I worked the room was the sheer variety in people at the event and the different reasons they had for being in the market for a room or a housemate – and the different qualities they looked for in a house soulmate.
First up was Grace, a 24 year old Australian living away from home for the first time, on the other side of the world. She was looking to live in my area but I was a little out of her price range. I asked her what she was looking for anyway.
“I’m looking for people I can chill out with,” she told me. “I’m happy to respect their privacy but I’d like to have someone I could chat to and get along with. You know, enjoy each others company.”
Next I struck up a conversation with an ex-Highgate resident and Ham & High reader (who wishes to remain anonymous) who was looking for a lodger.
“We’re looking for a woman who’s quiet, perhaps a mature student,” he explained. “We don’t really want a young party animal because it’s going to be a spare room in a family home.”
Surveying the room full of young people clutching drinks and chatting animatedly he looked a little despondent, although I later introduced him to an older Italian lady looking for a quiet room of her own. Just call me housemate cupid.
At the complete opposite end of the spectrum were 24 year old Amy and Myf who’d come together to find a replacement housemate for their student house.
“This event just popped up on my newsfeed on Facebook. We’re getting slightly desperate for a roommate so we thought ‘let’s go along,’” Amy told me.
“We’re looking for somebody who’s a postgraduate or a young professional, and who is willing to put up with a house full of musicians!” added Myf.
Noise control seemed to be one of the most divisive issues when it came to housemate compatibility.
According to the MORE TH>N survey, the ‘Perfect Housemate’ is as silent as a mouse past 9pm on a weeknight and throws no more than five house parties a year. As someone who once lived under the tyranny of a housemate who insisted on silence between the hours of 9pm and 9am, and who now lives somewhere where five parties a month would be considered a poor show, I had to wonder who exactly had been surveyed.
The statistic that 79 per cent of people think their housemate’s should ask before playing music could be worrying for Barbara, 28.
“I’m looking for someone who will accept me and my music!” she said. “I listen to music all the time.”
Then of course there’s the issue of cleaning. EasyRoommate PR executive Priscillia told me that when it comes to picking her own flatmates, cleanliness is a priority.
“I’m kind of a cleaning addict,” she admitted. “I like cleaning! So the ideal roommate would be someone who could clean with me. I’m not a freak, but it’s important. You need some rules sometimes.”
She’s in good company. 74 per cent of the pernickety agree that sticking to a cleaning rota is the recipe for house harmony.
I thought a group of people gathered in a basement bar looking for would breed an air of desperation, but as the night wore on a sense of comradeship emerged.
“We realised people get very bored and depressed when they look for a room on a website,” explained Priscillia. “We found that doing a social event helped them get motivated and build trust with someone they might rent with. Being able to meet people in a bar makes it easier and more pleasant to talk.”
At the end of the day, what everyone was looking for was a connection, be it shared feelings about the washing up or willingness to bond over cups of tea in the kitchen.
“I would like to meet some people that I can actually share my life with rather than just live with,” Barbara also said. “I want to really become friends.”
“All of my friends have settled down so I want to find someone to share with,” Sarah, 36, told me.
“I’m looking for someone I can get on with and share a glass of wine with in the evening. Not to feel like I’m just sleeping there. London’s got so much to offer, I’d like to share it with someone.”