Seven dating rules that also apply to your choice of flatmate
Just as people misrepresent themselves on dating sites, so they also stretch the truth when it comes to house hunting.
How they describe a flat and themselves in an online listing can be nothing like the reality.
Nancy Goldstein of the Washington Post has come up with seven dating rules that apply just as well to your search for a flat. And she says there really is no substitute for actually meeting people and looking at the flat.
1. DETERMINE YOUR DEALBREAKERS
Work out what you absolutely must have and what you cannot tolerate. This will help you decided whether it's worth trekking out to see a particular flat, or whether you will be wasting your time. Questions about smoking and pets are good ones to ask.
2. THINK ABOUT WHAT KIND OF RELATIONSHIP YOU ARE LOOKING FOR
Goldstein says most flatmates fall on one side of three basic divides: Hosts versus guests, befrienders vs leave-me-alones, and autocrats vs democrats. So ask yourself: Do you want to live in a place that's party central, or do you prefer socialising outside your home? Are you looking for a communal experience or friendly, but separate cohabitation?
Are you OK living with the rules and decor put in place by the current flatmates, or would you prefer your own furniture and preferences?
3. PICTURES CAN BE DECEIVING
Beware the housing ad that includes a photo taken from the far end of the apartment to make everything look bigger. "Cosy" is often code for "tiny room that probably has no windows".
4. LEARN TO SPOT EUPHEMISMS
Keep an eye out for detail-free postings that describe your future flatmates merely as "chill" and the three pony-size dogs in the picture as "adorable". Ads that read: "Need a flatmate immediately because our last one just moved out last night without warning" are the housing equivalent of personals that say, "Learning to trust again" and "No drama!"
5. ASK QUESTIONS THAT ARE IMPORTANT TO YOU
Goldstein says what makes for a great flatmate or an ideal living situation is subjective and varied. "Think about it: Three different women have married Donald Trump and four have wed Rush Limbaugh. Similarly, there are people who enjoy living with members of Goth metal bands, and there are people who like rising at dawn and chanting for an hour."
Know who you are and ask direct questions about the things that matter to you. Goldstein's list includes asking potential flatmates how they deal with mice and cockroaches. "I want someone who will join me in all-out warfare; not a softie who prefers to try catch-and-release."
What kind of hours do they keep? What was the last rent raise like: How hot (or not) does the apartment get in the cold weather months? What is the history of burglaries in the building?
6. DON'T LET DESPERATION CLOUD YOUR JUDGEMENT
Don't allow you fear that you'll wind up homeless prevent you from sticking to your must-haves. If you know you're a light sleeper, don't move into a situation where there's only a Japanese screen between you and the next bedroom. If you like burgers, don't try to talk your way into a vegetarian household.
7. THE QUALITY OF THE RELATIONSHIP IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN LABELS
Don't assume that any two people have the same definition of terms like "quiet", "moderate" or "responsible". Goldstein says one flatmate who had assured her she was a moderate drinker was found passed out drunk on the floor of the kitchen at 6am one Sunday morning, with pancakes burning on the stove and the room filling with smoke.
"The guy who nodded avidly when I explained that it was important to me to limit guests in our small two-bedroom apartment waited until we were two weeks into my lease to announce that his girlfriend was coming to visit from Brazil – for five weeks."
"Now you'll get to meet her!" he chirped happily.