The first thing to decide – and it's a biggie – is who to live with. Sharing is never easy, whether it's with parents, partners, friends, or acquaintances.
So this stage is worth a bit of effort. Obviously you want people who will pay their way, who can afford the rent, who can be relied on to pay on time without argument, and who will pay for the food they eat (and hopefully not eat all of yours).
You also probably want people who, at the very least, exhibit a basic level of socialisation. Having someone who wanders round naked when you have friends visiting may be funny the first time, but will probably get irritating very quickly.
There are, of course, plenty of other flashpoints to keep in mind. Here are a few of the obvious ones:
- Smokers vs non-smokers (most tenancy agreements nowadays ban smoking indoors, anyway)
- Vegetarians vs meat eaters
- Curry eaters vs non-curry eaters
- Night owls vs early birds
- The loud vs the quiet
- Those who study vs those who don't
- Those who take food from the fridge vs those who buy food and put it in the fridge
- People who clean up vs people who make a mess
Sometimes the decision is made for you: if you think washing the dishes is hopelessly bourgeois you won't be inclined to share with someone who aspires to running the local WI.
But the people you think you'll get on with can also hold surprises – funky Janet and trendy John might be good mates and great company down the pub, but you'd be amazed how often people you think you know turn out to be very different (and sometimes quite weird) when you share a roof with them.
The bottom line is this: choose the people who you believe you will get on well with, and be honest about how compatible you actually are with prospective house mates.
And don't forget – you can take the initiative by inviting people you respect to share with you, rather than hope someone else will invite you into their group of sharers.
Some information contained herein may have changed since it was first published. PrimeLocation strongly advises you to seek current legal and/or financial advise from a qualified professional.