Sharing your living space increasingly common

Last updated 10:30 12/04/2014

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OPINION: The nature of living has changed. Whether it's the rising cost of living or the housing landscape post-quake, we are seeing a return to caveman and tribal roots.

If you are saving money, you share a house. If you own a house, you might rent a room to share costs. Even if you have no financial concerns of your own, you might have the kids living back home, allowing them to save for their first pricey nest.

Either way, there is nothing new about sharing a living space. But it's not always easy. No wonder early dwellers drew such crazed figures on the walls.

In New Zealand, having flatmates is a rite of passage. It's shared costs and a way to expand your social circle; it's an adventure and it can be nice, lazy entertainment when you want company but can't be bothered leaving the house.

At its worst, it is dirty dishes and personality clashes.

Property news can be deathly boring when you're not on that wretched ladder but since we lost so many homes to buy and rent in the city, property trends have become something to watch.

Latest news says the number of first home buyers has fallen but the market continues to favour sellers.

The latest development in tenancy seems to be houses rented by the room, so a landlord essentially has the say in that all-important flatmate mix.

Anyone who has shared a house will know how crucial it is to choose who else will hold the remote control.

I'd been flatting since my late teens and only set my mind to save for a deposit in my early 30s.

I bought a unit a few months before losing it in the February quake.

Then, at the end of last year, I bought a lovely cottage at an ulcer-inducing auction. Suddenly I was master of my own destiny again, or at least I was the one who had to pay for the new hot-water cylinder.

Someone I vaguely knew was moving to Christchurch and I was able to offer a room.

"Just short term, mind," I said.

I didn't offer the room for the money, it just felt like such a personal freedom to be able to offer someone a place to stay.

And so it was that three weeks after I moved in, Charles carried in his box of books, hung his clothes on the floor and took up residence.

So here I am, ticking the over-40 box, with a flatmate.

Having a flatmate is everything I remembered. It shares the costs. It has expanded my social circle and provides lazy company as we yack at the TV during the news.

The latest development comes amid a fitness surge. We have taken to moving the coffee table out of the lounge as we follow a fitness video by Jillian Michaels, she of The Biggest Loser fame. For 20 minutes, she leads us in a series of jumping jacks and press-ups in an effort to "shred" our bodies in 30 days.

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I use a couple of small hand weights. Charles uses cans of baked beans. My baked beans, I should add. He's not sharing every cost.

Charles moves out in a couple of weeks. I will miss his easy company, I am pleased I made a friend but now I must shred alone.

And I suppose if things go pear-shaped in his new life, he will always be welcome back because as far as the CCTV footage shows, he's kept his hands out of the cookie jar. I wish I could say the same.

- The Press


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