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  • Suzanne Noble

I believe that sharing your home is more than a financial transaction. At its heart, it’s about creating a harmonious household where everyone can live together with a full appreciation and understanding of each other’s expectations and boundaries. It’s about being kind to each other.

It’s not easy to live with those outsides of your primary relationship and family but working at it is important. Why? Because learning how to get along with others is a life skill that, when mastered (if it were ever possible to master!) leads to richer, more rewarding relationships and friends for life.

We’re only a few weeks into the pandemic and, as a result, it’s almost impossible to predict how our current circumstance will impact on our future behaviours. Emergency situations are often the catalyst for behaviour change, even ones that may seem insignificant and small. Think of what happens at a bus stop when the bus you were expecting to arrive on time, is very late. Those in the queue, who would usually ignore one another, suddenly strike up a conversation. “I wonder what happened to make the bus so late.” “Maybe there was an accident.”

Already I’m witnessing how my family has come together, over the wonders of Zoom, in a way they hadn’t previously, scheduling times to talk. I’m checking in with my single friends because I want to make sure they’re OK. I’m hanging out on Houseparty, on-call if needed.

If I had a crystal ball, I’d suggest that the world we are now entering is one born of kindness. That when we are all thrown together and able to recognise that our petty differences have no bearing on our current situation, that we are able to come together in ways that make us, as a whole, kinder. Or maybe I’m just hoping that life will turn out that way and our obsession with always having everything the way we want, whenever we want it, will turn out to be unsustainable.

Many of the conversations I’ve been having lately are around predicting how long the lockdown will last. Politicians say weeks but I suspect that’s as reliable as a doctor telling a patient they have a later stage terminal illness. Humans aren’t resilient enough to deal with the truth so, as a result, experts spoon-feed us to make the information more palatable for us to hear. I know that real change will only occur when the reality of our current situation sinks in and that will require us to be in lockdown for months, not weeks.

Will those that have been living in solitude as a life choice – the writers, artists and musicians – flourish? I hope so. I have been predicting for a while that, outside of the tech bubble, (which may ultimately turn out to have been the biggest bubble of all) when the economy collapses, the only ones with any value are those with the ability to entertain. I’m viewing on a Facebook channel I created, Corona Concerts, musicians from all around the world, streaming from their bedrooms songs about love, hope and loss.

I’m watching as some of the world’s greatest cultural institutions open up their doors, online, to show us work that, before self-isolation, had been reserved for the privileged. I’m hoping that they recognise the value of sharing great theatre, music of all genres, with the world and continue to do so long after lockdown ends. Kindness can reveal itself in many ways, not just through what we can do individually to support one another but what businesses can do to enhance our lives.

I lost all my paid work a couple of weeks ago which feels like the new normal as most of my friends are now unemployed. At the same time, my partner moved in with me temporarily which was never our intention but necessary due to circumstances beyond our control. A flatmate, currently self-isolating with his girlfriend elsewhere, for a week or more, completes our household setup. It is not without its challenges.

My flat, while spacious enough for two and the occasional three, is not designed for long-term living for all of us. However, for now, it has to work that way and we all have to work together to make our situation amicable. Kindness is paramount as are getting over ourselves, as my kids would say. Making space for each other. Acknowledging when someone requires alone-time. Recognising our own areas of discomfort. It’s a process. Maybe it’s about re-engaging with our tribal self and the need for community, of looking out for each other. I don’t have the answers but only my gut tells me that if we’re going to survive this catastrophe, we have to change with it.

This week I’ve joined a group of Airbnb hosts on Facebook. Their anger and fear are palpable. The loss of an easy income for which they have relied upon for years. Their feeling of being ‘dropped in it.’ I see their unwillingness to accept that their rooms or flats may not be filled for the foreseeable future and their lack of desire to give a home to someone at an affordable rent, because of what that would mean for their privacy. I see little evidence of kindness. Change is hard for most people, never more so than when it is imposed upon us. It takes time and mostly the acceptance that it’s not possible to go back. That the undo button doesn’t work anymore.

My hope is that in the future, many will come to see the value of creating ‘conscious community’ and of entering into shared living in a spirit of willingness. The future will dictate whether financial necessity gives way to acceptance and a desire to create long-term living unlike the current power dynamic of homeowner and lodger we have experienced to date.

It’s too early to tell what the outcome will be if my prediction of a kinder world turns out to be correct or just naively optimistic. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

I’m one of the 6m homeowners in the UK, over 50, with at least two empty bedrooms. Like many of my generation, the rooms became vacant when my kids left home. Within six months, both were listed on Airbnb, providing me with an income that enabled me to start a new business without immediately requiring a full-time salary.

Living two stops from a mainline station in London, it took a matter of weeks for my rooms to get booked and within 6 months, both were both operating at nearly 100% occupancy. This was five years ago at a time when Airbnb was not nearly so established in London and still considered somewhat of a novelty experience.

My guests were mostly curious about the concept and delighted to be living in a real London home. Courteous and respectful, adventurous types, I imagined that prior to discovering Airbnb they might have sought out quirky guesthouses rather than stay in the big, chain hotels. Over the course of the next few months, I met many with whom I kept in touch. Some, like myself, were hosts in their own country and we enjoyed swapping stories about our respective experience of being part of this burgeoning, exciting new business.

As much as I enjoyed meeting guests in the early days of hosting, my enthusiasm for the daily changeover quickly waned. Operating one room on Airbnb was manageable, even if the one-day bookings didn’t generate much profit with all the washing and cleaning products I had to use. Managing two rooms was a different story and any dreams I’d had of eventually retiring to run a small boutique hotel somewhere warm, disappeared, once I realised the considerable amount of time that looking after two or more guests entailed.

As Airbnb’s reputation grew, so did the type of people that used the service. The early adventurers who were nearly all happy just having somewhere clean and cosy in which to sleep turned into many more who expected 5* hotel service at hostel prices!

On a typical day, I might be giving out directions to how to get to most of London’s major landmarks, rushing off to the pharmacy to support one guest who developed ‘gout’ overnight (!), replacing pillows to satisfy demands for feather over foam or any other number of questions for which I was expected to know the answer. I’ll never forget the woman, in her 30s, who drank a full bottle of red wine before stubbing a rolled-up cigarette on my entrance hall carpet and then missing the toilet when going for a pee not once, but twice. Or the man who thought it appropriate to leave his bedroom door wide open as he slept in his boxer shorts. Others just ignored me completely.

Thankfully, a year into my Airbnb journey, fate intervened in the form of a friend of a friend looking for a room to rent. I considered the loss in my rental income and giving up some of my privacy and decided that, on balance, it made sense to turn over one room to a long-term lodger than to carry on hosting the two rooms.

That was two years ago and I haven’t looked back since. Despite knowing very little about my home-mate, as he’s now referred to, we are similar in many ways. We both grew up going to international schools but come from a North American background. Both of us have an interest in ‘startups’ and experience of that ecosystem. We both enjoy the occasional nice glass of wine and sometimes cook meals for each other. On the flip side, we keep completely different hours with my home-mate liking to go to bed past midnight and me asleep usually by ten. He’s a thinker; I’m a doer.

Our situation may not be 100% perfect but the benefits of sharing my home with someone my own age, on a long-term basis, outweigh the precarious nature of being a London based Airbnb host. While the recent events have led me to think just how lucky I am to be in the fortunate position of not having to rely completely on Airbnb for my income and having the company of someone with whom I live that has now become a friend.

While hosting on Airbnb undoubtedly suggests there’s a high degree of flexibility regarding how much or little the room is occupied, market demand and circumstances have a major impact on bookings. Over the past five years, the price of my room has dropped by over a third to the point where the difference between taking on a long-term lodger or remaining on the platform was negligible. Factor in the cost of constant washing, changing sheets and being a part-time concierge, tour guide and housekeeper and having a lodger actually looks like the better deal.

For those who live alone and are self-isolating, how many would prefer now to be living with someone with whom you could share a meal and a bottle of wine, rather than stare at an empty room while waiting for the lockdown to cease? Putting aside the financial aspect, a long-term compatible lodger can provide companionship, a laugh at a time when we all could use one, help around the house and cuts down on the daily chores.

In these challenging times, when many of us are going to be forced to change our behaviour, perhaps for good, I’ve come to the conclusion that being an Airbnb host is not a sustainable way to generate an income or even that much fun.

What seemed a reliable way to make money in the early days, now feels more challenging whether it’s because of regulations on the service being imposed by governments around the world or because of situations like the coronavirus over which we have no control. Right now, I expect that many others, like me, with spare rooms, are being forced to reconsider how those rooms are used in the future.

If you’ve also come to the realisation that living with a home-mate is the way to go, not only for a stable and steady income but because in giving someone else a home, you’re potentially making a new friend, then Silver Sharers is here to support your decision and help you find someone compatible with whom to live.

  • Suzanne Noble

1. How often do you clean?

Our survey found that 12.1% of roommates break up because of uncleanliness. No matter whether you’re neat or messy, considerable discord is likely to arise if you’re not on the same page. Since it can be a potentially sensitive topic, avoiding the direct approach is recommended. Instead of risking offence, it’s better to begin your roommate interview by asking how they plan to keep the shared space clean; this isn’t as upfront and you’ll immediately find out if your personalities converge. Asking a potential roommate “how often do you clean?” is likely to go a longer way than asking something blunt such as “Are you a clean person?”.

Source: Rentcafe.com

2. What do you like to do on the weekends?

Asking this question helps you determine if you’ll end up spending your precious free time doing something you’d rather not—like having to vacate the flat every Sunday a.m. while your roomie hosts brunch (or feeling obligated to stay despite not really getting along with the others). Cramped city flats often pit roommates together, for better or worse. If you will both be having in-home activities, best to work out a schedule ahead of time.

Source: brickunderground.com

3. What time do you generally wake up and go to bed?

Early to bed, early to rise or night owl? An important follow-up to this is are you a light or heavy sleeper? The answer to this one will establish the nightly sound barrier of your home.

Source: mydomaine.com

If you're a night owl, you might be happiest with other night owls. And if you're introverted, you might get along best with other quiet types who never have any guests. And so on.

It's nice to share a space with people who have a similar lifestyle to your own, so that you don't have to clash over mismatched noise levels, sleeping times, etc. It's all about attempting to create a harmonious environment.

Source: Bustle.com

4. How often do you have visitors over?

This all comes down to personal preference. If you are more introverted and prefer a quieter home, you probably don’t want a flatmate who constantly brings people over. Set some ground rules about overnight guests. On the contrary, if you are a social butterfly who loves meeting new people, this could be your dream flatmate. Whatever the case may be, make sure to get some clarification here.

Source: apartmentlist.com

5. How Do You Spend Your Free Time?

Asking a question about how they spend their free time will help you glean some important info. How social they are and what hobbies they enjoy play a large role in how often they might be out, how often they'll be home, and what their daily habits might look like, life coach Melissa Drake, tells Bustle.

6. Do you smoke?

Smoking (and any other addiction issues) can be a deal-breaker for many people, so finding out where a person stands on cigarettes, alcohol, vaping, drugs, etc. is essential for getting the right roommate. It may be a bit awkward, but you need to ask. If your potential roomie says they’re occasional smokers, ask what they mean by “occasional”. If you don’t smoke, but don’t mind sharing a flat with a smoker, talk with your roommate about whether they can smoke inside and where exactly they will be allowed to do so (see if your lease prohibits smoking indoors). If you smoke at home, be frank about it. Source: Moving.tips

7. Do you have any food allergies?

Your love of peanut butter could be an issue if the person can’t even be in the same room as any type of nut.

Source: lifehacker.com

8. How often do you cook meals at home?

This will give you some insight into how often they will be in the kitchen and how much space they will need in the fridge and pantry. It might be difficult for you both to be cooking your own extensive dinners in a small kitchen every night! Be sure to discuss ground rules for sharing food and kitchen utensils as well.

Source: theeverygirl.com

9. Are stray cats adorable, perfect creatures for feeding and loving, or are they flea-ridden, allergy-inducing nightmares?

Stray cats are cute to some, but to others, they are flea-ridden nuisances. Make sure all parties are on the same page when it comes to what to do with wildlife and pets, in general. (This includes bird feeders, which can affect a night owl’s sleep in the morning.)

Source: apartmenttherapy.com

10. How do you handle conflict?

Although an uncomfortable question to ask, this is very important. When a situation comes up, you want to know how your potential roommate is going to handle it.

Does your potential roommate bottle up their emotions or are they confrontational? If your candidate tells disaster story after disaster story about ex-roommates, there is a good chance that they were part of the problem.

Likewise, if they don’t want to talk about it, you better look a little more closely at references. There may be something there to find.

Regardless of how you or your potential roommate handle situations, it is always a good idea to keep open communication among yourselves and to hear each other out.

Source: davisapartmentstorent.com