Unless you’re a super wealthy millennial who forfeited the avocado on toast brunch dates (I prefer pancakes anyway), or have comfortably nestled into your parent’s garage, an inevitable part of living in New Zealand is going flatting. I think my mother, who never actually had to flat (#throwback to housing subsidies for new home buyers!) is inwardly repulsed by the idea of living with complete strangers. I’ll admit, it’s not the greatest idea, but when your friends aren’t quite ready to leave the basement, what other choice have you got?
So here’s another fun blog post, essentially part of the SEJ Guide to Adulting (in a bookstore near you…in about 5 years) on how not to end up co-habiting with weirdos/axe murderers/people who leave the toilet seat up (is there anything worse?!). I’ve done my fair share of flat hunting and flatmate acquiring, so here’s my top list of what to look out for in flats and flatmates.
- Starting with a personal favourite of mine – and this could go either way – Cleaning rosters. This really depends on the level of OCD you require in your fellow flatmates. I tried and failed with a cleaning roster in my old flat, but I strongly recommend asking about this one; it’ll tell you a lot about the people who live there. If you’re big on organisation and cleaning, this will tell you that you’re about to flat with some great people who are ridiculously organised. But, on the flipside, it means they’re unlikely to be relaxed and if you’re looking for a chill flat, avoid one with a cleaning roster. Similarly, you will want to check if they’re clean and tidy, which is amazingly deceptive in flatmate interviews, but use your best judgement.
- Friends & partner policy. This one is an interesting one. I’ve seen a fair few flats advertised that say ‘no sleepovers’ or ‘no friends after 10pm’. For me, these types are worse than the cleaning roster implementers and are to be avoided at all cost. Unless you’re a hermit that’s looking for other hermits to avoid external human life with, then, by all means – go forth.
- Cooking restrictions. Again, another interesting one. I’m an avid cooker/part time baker and don’t like to have restrictions imposed on me on how much cooking I’m allowed to do – ads that say ‘light cooking’ are immediate red flags for me. Shared cooking between flatmates also isn’t up my alley – so many problems. For example, what happens on the nights I cook with my friends/partner/cat/Jamie Oliver cut out? Or what happens if you’ve got one flatmate that just cooks terrible food and you consistently deliver Master Chef quality dishes? How is that equal? You’ll also want to check the cooking of your future flatmates – I’m not a big fan of the curry /no extraction lovers, so just another one to be aware of in your lengthy interrogation of a new recruit.
- Hobbies. This is a good one, as I am a fan of the flatmate you never see/one that has interesting stories from their various hobbies. Basically no hobbies = always home. If they’re at home playing loud music (particularly during my allocated quiet yoga time), then they’re not going to gel well with me. Flatmates with a good array of hobbies e.g. sports and crochet enthusiasts will make for good co-habitants. Shared interests are also ideal and hobbies tell you a lot about an individual.
- Filling the gaps – this one mainly pertains to finding new flatmates. As a ‘knowledge worker’, I have little to no practical skills, which means simple things like a broken dishwasher become a mammoth task. A great tip is to finds new flatmates that have skills you so desperately lack- so for me, a tradie who’s clued up with a hammer is a winner to fix the something I will eventually break. Surprisingly, physicists also make for great flatmates (despite their also lack of practical skills, typically) because they can bring some great banter. And communications people are just great all round (I do disclose a bit of bias here). So, find what you’re missing and recruit!
- Assessing life stages. This is pretty straight forward, but I’d recommend avoiding people who are in a completely different life stage to yourself and your fellow flat fam. I tended to avoid students in my old flat because it wasn’t the quiet and productive study environment conducive for a student’s performance. Similarly, I’d recommend avoiding people who are in their late fifties (for example), if you’re a flat of mid 20’s professionals, as they’re unlikely to want to bond over a Friday night game of vodka Monopoly (yes it exists and yes it’s a good time). First time flattees are also good to avoid, unless you’re feeling generous and willing to teach Dishwasher Tetris 101 (again).
So there you have it, 6 (this could have been 60 – count your blessings) fantastic tips of what to look out for when you’re choosing the place you will spend a majority of your downtime. Choosing the right flat is important and can be challenging, but your flatmates can become life-long friends (or so I’m told). This post has been all about the people – but there is undoubtedly a post coming on choosing the actual flat itself – and why TradeMe/Facebook photos are super deceptive. Stay tuned!