House Mates Or House Enemies? Here’s How To Cope With A Head-Wreck Roomie

Not everyone has an idyllic relationship with their roommates.

In Ireland’s current housing market, the chances of being able to afford to rent alone are slim, and the likelihood of buying your own home even slimmer. Although living with others can be fun, there’s rarely a gal out there who doesn’t have a nasty house sharing story to share. If you’re thinking about shacking up with someone to cut costs, the best thing to do is be prepared. Lucky for you, we’ve done the nitty gritty research, from how to go about finding the best roommate ever, hearing the real life house sharing stories and figuring out how to avoid any major mishaps.

Finding a roommate that suits your lifestyle is a surefire way to avoid problems down the line. So how can you do that? Chartered Counselling Psychologist at mindworks.ie Niamh Hannan says that the key is in the interviewing process.

“When you move in with a person you’re both coming from different backgrounds and will have different expectations and different habits”, Niamh says. “Everybody has their different irritation spots and you’re bringing all of that together into a melting pot, so problems are bound to arise.

“The best way to avoid these issues is to think of the questions you want to ask before you even move in together: what are your work hours? What do you like to do in the evenings and on the weekends? So you’re getting an idea of how often the person will be in the house and suiting that to your character.”

If you’ve found a roommate you think will suit your lifestyle, an initial house meeting is essential to know where you stand. Niamh suggests that rather than laying down the rules, ask them first what they think might work best.

“If they’re easy going you can suggest the ideas, like doing a kitty and agreeing what it’ll be used for, or deciding if somebody uses the end of the bread whether or not it’s up to them to replace it. Having those ground rules laid out from the start will help avoid conflict later.” Unless you’re a saint, little issues will always crop up when living with someone. Niamh says that although you might be still getting to know your new roommate, if you feel disrespected and don’t deal with it then you’re only going to build up resentment.

“Ask yourself: ‘is this something I can let go of and isn’t going to bother me?’, if not, you need to address it rather than let it build up. Be careful how you approach things. Don’t go in guns blazing because that’s going to put the person on the defence. Start your sentences with ‘I’ and include a feeling after that, because it’s hard for somebody else to argue with your feeling.”

If you’re having issues with your roommate you need to be giving warnings as incidents happen, Niamh says.

“You might stage an intervention, or instead of everyone ganging up on one person, one or two people approach them and say ‘although we want to keep you as a friend, there are some behaviours we’re finding very difficult to live with.’

“If you moved in on an equal agreement, i.e found the house together, then neither of you have the right to remove someone else. Either you agree to both go your separate ways or you might need to let the landlord know it’s not working. What you’re going to do if things don’t work out is maybe something you should talk about during the initial house meeting.”

Whether you should decide to live with friends or strangers is completely subjective, Niamh says. “If you have experience living with a friend and you know it works then keep going with that, however know it will put a lot of pressure on the friendship. You need to be able to identify whether a friend will get on your nerves and if you’d be able to live with them.

“If you are going to live with a friend, you need to lay down that your friendship is more important than the house situation and if things start to go south, know from the beginning your contingency plan.” Ditto with a romantic partner – you might love them now…

The Good

Val, 26, has had pleasant experiences living with her friends in the past.

“I’ve lived with a rotating cast of friends, and while I’ve heard some horror stories about people falling out and never speaking to each other again, it’s always been great for me. Me and my housemates watch crap telly together, go for pints on Fridays, and just sit around the kitchen table and chat after a long day of work. It’s lovely! Of course everyone has their own little quirks that you have to get used to, and there can be disagreements, but we’re adults and everything is easily smoothed out. I don’t know if I’d be happy now living on my own, to be honest.”

The Bad

Patricia, 25, had a house sharing experience that destroyed a friendship.

“There were three of us living together when one began to complain constantly. She accused both of us of stealing her food and going into her bedroom when she wasn’t home, which we didn’t! It got to a point where we just didn’t talk to her in person anymore, only over WhatsApp about bills! There was no friendship anymore. We eventually had to tell her we couldn’t live with her anymore, and now we don’t talk at all. When she left, the atmosphere improved and everyone was really honest and upfront when there was an issue. Looking back, before we lived together there was signs of her being stubborn and sometimes petty, but I never expected the friendship ending.”

Steps to take if you want out of a house share

Buying your own home can be a daunting road, and that’s why it’s important to take some simple steps at the outset to get as much information as possible and be prepared. Damien Daly, Head of Customer Experience and Products at Ulster Bank says: “A customer usually needs to show they have been saving or making rental payments that are roughly the same amount as their potential monthly mortgage repayment every month for three to six months.

“Most banks are very happy to help with this. At Ulster Bank we have dedicated mortgage managers who will provide a list of the documents needed to support a mortgage application.

“The next step is getting Approval in Principle before starting to look at homes. House hunting can be exciting, but it’s important to know how much you can afford to borrow first before having your heart set on somewhere.

“Taking the step from renting to owning may seem like a complicated process at the start, but if you take your time with it, prepare, research, and talk it through fully with your mortgage manager, then it might just be simpler and easier than you expect.”

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