Getting to Know You. How to Ensure you find a Home-Mate that’s Right for You.
Considering to move in with a homeowner or share your own home with another is different than more traditional flat-sharing, where two or more people choose to occupy a rented property together. The live-in landlord and lodger relationship comes with its own power dynamic, especially if sharing a space with someone outside of a family member, is unfamiliar to you.
The homeowner may feel that it’s within their right to have a say over how a lodger’s room is decorated, whether it’s OK for a lodger to bring their ‘stuff’ into shared spaces, or store their objects/clothes/bikes, etc. on their behalf. It can be a testy time at the beginning of the relationship, especially when the lodger may feel they have little say in the matter and that the compromises they are being asked to make appear to be very much one-sided.
I speak as one who only started sharing my flat after my kids had both flown the nest and for whom being an Airbnb host had become tiresome. My lodger was introduced to me by a friend and I hadn’t given too much consideration to the nature of our relationship.
If you’re a person who generally avoids confrontation, like I am, it’s a steep learning curve when you live with someone new and realise the need to be clear around what’s OK or not. It’s not uncommon for boundaries to be tested, especially in the early days of the relationship when you may both be trying hard to be your best and most perfect self, an act that is almost impossible to sustain over the long term!
Much as homeowners may talk about sharing, often it’s the case that the relationship turns out to be one-sided with the lodger feeling that they’re more of a guest than someone there for the long-term. If you’re in your twenties for whom the relationship with the homeowner may be a transient one, then this may not present itself as so much of an issue. For those aged 40+, looking for more long-term accommodation, it can prove to be more challenging. Over the long term, the more equality there is in the relationship, the better the chance of it succeeding.
Managing space, especially shared space, is important so that both the lodger and the landlord has time in it on their own, if possible. It’s rare for anyone to want to be confined to a bedroom only, nor should it be OK to have that expectation if you’re the homeowner. It’s all a matter of give and take.
Much like any relationship, it takes a while to get to know someone. You may not know what it is you want until you suddenly find that you’re sharing with someone that makes living together far more fun than living alone. Sharing a glass of wine or a meal, having someone around with whom to have a chat, bounce off ideas, for safety and security are all part of the pleasure of living together.
I’ve spoken to lots of people, both homeowners and the home-mate/lodger, who said that when they met someone with whom the relationship worked out well, they went on gut instinct. They just had the feeling that they were both going to get along. I agree. If there's any niggle of doubt, follow your instinct.
Not being in a rush helps too. Sometimes, in our quest to move or to have someone move in, we make assumptions based on wishful thinking. It may be there's a real reason for the need to fill in a room quickly, mostly financial or an urgent requirement to move. Ask for references, on both sides. If you can, take your time, giving yourself a month or two find the right person.
Here are some icebreaker questions* that have nothing to do with home-sharing and everything to do with understanding whether you might get along. They’re my favourite party trick questions when I run out of talking about the weather, mutual acquaintances and the food! Pick one or two and see what the answer reveals.
1. Who is your role model?
This answer will tell you a lot about a person’s priorities, aspirations, and motives.
You can ask a close-ended personality question by offering a choice and asking which person you appreciate the most? Each choice could direct towards a certain tendency or priority for a person.
2. Who knows you best?
This answer will tell you a lot about the person’s openness and willingness to form close relationships. If their own mom knows them best, you are likely dealing with an introvert – if a sister and a friend know them best, you are likely talking to someone who is willing to get to know people and bond with them in spite of differences and disagreements.
3. What would your friends say about you?
This personality question reveals how other people perceive the person you’re talking to.
You can turn it into a close-ended question like this.
4. What is the question people ask you most often?
This is an interesting personality question that can reveal even more than the previous one. For example, if the person is often asked for advice, you can conclude you are talking to someone who is seen as helpful or reliable. If people are often asking them why they are so nervous, it could raise a red flag.
5. What is the thing you’d never say to another person?
This question reveals a person’s boundaries within the group.
6. What is your greatest achievement?
This tells you a lot about the things the person perceives as success and prioritizes in life. Turn it into a close-ended personality question like this.
7. What is your greatest failure?
This will tell you more about the respondent’s past, mistakes and the way they deal with them.
8. What did you learn from your greatest failure?
This personality question reveals whether a person deals with a failure in a constructive manner. If the question cannot be “downsized” to choices, feel free to add add it in open-ended form.
9. What is the thing you’re most proud of?
Similarly like the achievement question, this will reveal the way the respondent feels about themselves, their decisions and life in general.
10. What would you like to change about yourself?
This is an interesting question because it is basically asking the person about their greatest flaw – without sounding intimidating or potentially judgemental.
11. If something in your house breaks, what is the first thing you do?
This will show you how a person deals with problems and the way they are likely to act if they encounter an obstacle.
12. What is the greatest obstacle you’re facing right now?
This can provide you with valuable insight into the person’s current situation in life.
13. How do you like to “waste” your time?
Needless to say, what you do when you do nothing speaks volumes about your temper and personal interests.
14. What is the ritual that helps you calm down?
This could be useful if you want to check whether the home environment would be a fitting place for both of you.
15. What is your favorite place in town?
Do they like busy places or a quiet walk in the park? A person could lie if you ask them directly what kind of a living environment they prefer. This is a covert question seeking a similar answer, but the respondent is more likely to be honest.
16. What do you prefer – a book, a movie or a theatre play?
This can reveal a person’s preferred method of communication and gathering information.
17. What was the happiest period of your life?
Reveals a person’s priorities and the measure of happiness and success.
18. What is your most treasured memory from childhood?
Is it a goal scored for their local football team, or time spent with the family at their favourite sea resort? This question is even more intimate and revealing than the one about the greatest achievements because it looks into the experience that formed someone as a person.
19. What was your favourite game when you were a child?
Did they enjoy football or hide-and-seek? Did they rather spend time alone? Once again, this will tell you more than a direct question that could prompt a person to adjust the answers in accordance with the job requirements. This personality question reveals the challenge we enjoy the most, as well as the way we choose to deal with it.
20. What is the greatest injustice you’ve lived through?
This can also be a great question for determining whether a person is a cultural fit for you. It tells you something about their worldview, beliefs, attitudes, boundaries, and no-gos.