How finding a flatmate is online dating in disguise
Sharing a home with strangers is a modern phenomenon; increasingly common but nonetheless strange.
Does it really make sense to meet a person or people once and decide days later to move in and share your personal space?
Not so much, but thanks to exorbitant living costs and near-stagnant income growth, this is how we do in 2016. If you do find yourself poised for some housemate shopping, there is an excellent case for treating this like romance.
After all, these strangers will soon become a very significant "other".
FIRST IMPRESSIONS MATTER
Like an actual date, you just know when it's a "no".
At first sight, the piles of food-encrusted plates, stained carpet and suffocating heat are enough.
Then there is the housemate(s) who remain seated when you enter and languidly mumble "your room's over there".
Honey, if this is the "impressing" phase – it ain't improving from here.
YOU HAVE AN ESCAPE PLAN
Just as you would grab a coffee with a new face between (imaginary) appointments, so must you plan your house inspections.
Slot one after the other and always have an excuse to leave, as soon as you arrive.
Not only will this save time as you scour the streets for your new home, it will tell your potential housemates you are a person with options.
Some people look better on paper
"But they had such a fun online profile!"
Ah but a profile does not a person make – just as in the dating world, a photo can skew proportions, turn a big room into a small one and conceal the lesser attributes of a dweller or dwelling.
Unfortunately, a first-hand look is the only way to tell if this is the place or sharer for you.
TRYING TO PLAY IT COOL
Your allure will fade soon enough, particularly if you're sharing a toilet with someone, so there is no harm in cultivating an air of mystery to begin with.
"Do you like the house?" they ask on first inspection. Here a demure "it's nice" is enough to assure them they're in the race, but that there are other contenders.
Similarly, it is probably unwise to linger more than the requisite time it takes for a snappy tour and 10-minute how-do-you-do.
Leave them wanting more – it's always off-putting to pitch yourself as a new BFF when you've only just met.
PRETENDERS NEVER PROSPER
If you are not naturally inclined to be fussy or neat, but find yourself energetically agreeing with someone who happily labels themselves a clean freak and proudly shows a blank chores roster with a space for your name on it … maybe don't sign the lease.
Likewise if you don't want to look uptight but internally recoil when you hear the words "party house" and see heaped ashtrays … don't do it.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE LAST ONE?
Like the date, beware the housemate who has endless tales about the "ex" – they were inconsiderate, annoying, uptight, or rude.
Maybe they were, but if you find this out within five minutes of meeting a potential housemate, you might want to buy a packet of Post-it notes: there will be notes for you next, my friend, and passive aggression is best countered in kind.
DON'T MEET STRANGERS ALONE
If you're dealing with randoms online, with little but a few scanty lines about their living situation, would you head on over to an unknown address alone and step inside?
Many of us do, and we are just as likely to meet with danger as the unfortunates who become the cautionary tales of dating-app encounters.
Stranger danger does apply, so bring along a second person, with the added benefit of an impartial opinion to cut through any decisions made in haste – or desperation.
If all else fails, do as Joe Hockey so succinctly suggested in 2015 and "get a good job" (or look into a studio apartment).