I did some math (okay, counting) the other day and realized I’ve now lived in 4 countries, in 11 different apartments and had 34 different flatmates over the past 7 years. Whoa.
You’d think after doing something over and over again you’d learn from it – 10,000 hours, right? Well I’ve now spent easily more than 10,000 hours in shared accommodation and have to admit I’m still learning. My experiences though, both good and bad, have helped me compile a list of things to look out for that make house hunting a little easier.
Be Honest With Yourself
Don’t pretend you can afford the extra $100/month if you can’t.
Can you survive without a laundry machine onsite?
Is the location good enough? Can you really handle the commute?
Will you be comfortable sharing a room or do you need your own?
You may THINK you can live with a flatmate who’s anal about cleanliness… but if you’re someone who prefers to leave dishes in the sink overnight and not worry about it, problems will arise.
A good flat dynamic is the key to success. Take the time to sit down and get to know your potential flatties whenever possible. Ask questions. Be honest about who you are and what you’re looking for. This is basically dating. Flat match-making, if you will. You want them to like you, but can you see a future together? You sure as hell don’t want to settle. Respect yo’self.
I once went to see a flat where the girl opened the door and immediately lead me to the bathroom where she proceeded to demonstrate the cleaning routine. I knew I hated her, but I pretended to be interested for the next 30 minutes while she went over more rules like no guests, maximum 5 minute showers, and more cleaning regiments. Those are 30 minutes of my life I will never get back, but at least I walked away totally certain I didn’t want to live there.
I lived with a couple whose room was directly above mine. They used to fight all the time, and once I came home to glass scattered across my balcony ’cause someone had thrown a vase out the window during a squabble.
I lived in another where the landlord took me through and I didn’t meet anyone until I moved in. I had 5 flatmates… 3 of them were crazy. Just the standard food-stealing, always screaming about something kinda crazy, but crazy nonetheless.
Oh and speaking of landlords…
Don’t Live With the Landlord
You feel like you’re being watched and it’s kind of the worst. Feels like living with your parents but they don’t love you unconditionally or cook for you.
Find Like-Minded, Like-Aged Humans
This is one of the less likely scenarios but this just happened to me IRL. I swear.
I found a cute flat in a great area of Auckland via Facebook. The girl I was in contact with didn’t have a profile picture of her face – just a dog. This should have been a red flag. I arrived to view the flat and an elderly woman opened the door. I was convinced I was in the wrong place, but nope. This is it. Welcome home. Just two retired women looking for a flattie.
The room was NICE. Best believe I considered it. But at the end of the day, I know myself too well and I don’t think it’d be a good match. They did, however, tell me I seemed like a lovely young woman, so there’s that.
Check for Water Pressure
If you have thick or long hair like I do, you’ll understand the importance of this. It’s not enough for a bathroom to look nice – the shower needs to spout sweet sweet hot water, consistently, at more than a dribble. This is harder to find than it should be.
I had one flat where the water was basically just a drip. I then moved to another, where I was sure to check the water pressure during my viewing, which was strong and steady… but I later learned after moving in, that it would only spray scalding hot, or freezing cold water. There was truly no in-between and I struggled every damn morning.
I suggest you:
1. Physically check the pressure – turn on the shower for a second
2. Ask how the temperature consistency is (kinda hard to confirm yourself unless you stand there with the water running awkwardly for a few minutes, or get naked and have a shower in the middle of your viewing, so you’ll just have to trust them)
Is There an Oven?
This seems absurd, but make sure you take a good count of the kitchen appliances.
I don’t even really cook, but I was pretty shocked when I’d moved in to my crazy expensive (yet tiny) Melbourne flat, decided to throw some chicken in the oven…and discovered there wasn’t one.
How’s the Wifi Connection?
Maybe this isn’t so important to you, but I do some work from home and am a big fan of Netflix. It seems like in 2018 it would be a given that all flats have a solid wifi connection, but I can promise you they don’t. Those nice ladies I mentioned above? No wifi. Another flat I visited said the wifi worked everywhere in the house…except for my room. This is only after I asked about the connection, so even if it’s not wifi, make sure you figure out what’s important to you and get your answers!
Don’t Acquire Your Flatmates Outside of a Club at 6am
This one’s totally on me. I don’t know what I was thinking. I’d just arrived in Barcelona and been told finding a flat in September was near impossible. I panicked. I met a fun French guy outside a club after a night out who mentioned there was a room available in his flat. I took down his number and went to see the room the next day. The flat was in a good location, affordable, and had a giant wrap around patio accessible from my room. The two boys I lived with were hella chill, and invited me to move in. I couldn’t believe my luck. Well. Turns out they were drug dealers and had parties in our flat every weekend. They forgot to mention that at the viewing, but to be fair I could have probably made some better observations to piece it together. I mean, there was literally a pot plant on the balcony that I didn’t notice for over a week.
Stick to Facebook groups and Cragistlist ads, I swear.
Is There a Contract?
I lost a total of 650€ in deposit/bond money not being paid back to me in Spain between two different flats (surprise! one of them was definitely the drug house above). I learned the hard way that it’s common for people to keep bond money even when nothing is wrong, just because people suck, and they can, so make sure you have at least some sort of written agreement. I’ve had agreements drafted up over Facebook Messenger and E-mail as well as the ol’ paper and pen. Just as long as you have something, you’re better off.
Check Out Allllll the Apartments. Persevere!
It’s time consuming and disheartening to visit flats which end up sucking, BUT, sometimes you luck out and the room is better than expected. One of my all-time best flatting situations occurred when I got back home to Toronto last fall. I was, as always, poor and desperately searching for a flat from my best friend’s pull out couch. I found one listed on Kijiji without any photos and only a short description. I’m not even sure why I replied to be honest, but I think the location and price must have been what possessed me to do it. Then when the guy I was in contact with seemed super chill I decided to go see it, still half expecting it to be a dungeon basement. Instead, I ended up arriving at an adorable two story apartment with a big, sunny room. The two boys who lived there were cool af and we got on great. There’s no negative twist to this one. It was a great flat.
I know you’re eager to get out of the hostel and settle in. I get it! But you’ll thank yourself for being more diligent when you’ve found an epic flat, in a epic location, with epic housemates.