Risk vs Reward
Updated: Dec 2, 2020
If you’re over 50, there’s a likelihood that you’ve experienced sharing your home with someone outside of your family at some point in your life. It could have been during or post-University. Perhaps you shared with friends or moved into a house as a lodger. Chances are, it’s not an unfamiliar circumstance, even if it may have occurred 30+ years ago.
Unlike many of my friends, I was lucky enough to move into my own place in my early twenties but I certainly had my fair share of living with others prior to that. I recall, for instance, a summer spent living in Boston, USA in around 1982 when in answer to an ad placed in the local alternative paper, I ended up living with an MIT student with a penchant for drinking and smoking. We had a raucous time, much of it a blurry memory. We’re still friends, although living thousands of miles apart and recently celebrated his 60th birthday party together… over Zoom.
Another summer sublet was with a University friend and a younger guy from our school who used to hide his food so my friend and I wouldn’t eat any of it when we got the late-night munchies. We became used to finding jars filled with jam hidden down the back of the settee.
When it comes to living with someone when you’re older, although there may be differences in your circumstances and reasons for needing a home-mate, the reality is that everyone has their own funny habits and ways in which they like to live that will determine whether or not you’re likely to be compatible. So much of it comes down to trusting your gut feeling; that niggly sense that you get when you feel something isn’t quite right or, on the other hand, when you feel like old friends after an hour first spent together.
I often get asked about the risk of living with a stranger but the reality is that it’s very, very rare to find yourself in a situation where anyone is out to actually do you any real harm. Businesses such as Airbnb wouldn’t be nearly as successful if there was any significant risk attached to what they do. Whether looking for a place to live or renting out a room for the first time, there are a few ways you can stay safe.
1. If you’re renting, avoid handing over any money for a deposit or the first month’s rent until you’ve viewed the property and met the homeowner;
2. If you’re the homeowner the National Residential Landlord Association offers a low-cost vetting process that enables you to check on references and ability to pay;
3. Try to get to know each other first. We have a handy interview guide that sets out some questions to check if you’re compatible;
4. Initial impressions count. Researchers at the University of York "found evidence that a single glance of a person’s face for just 33 to 100 ms was sufficient to form a first impression.”
As someone who has been sharing my home for more than three years, the rewards greatly outweigh the possibility of putting myself in any form of danger. Sharing my home with others has proved to be not just a way of keeping the roof over my head, but through doing so, I’ve made new friends, improved my social skills while also giving a home to someone who needs one. I suspect it’s easy to see the downsides if you look for them, but once you’ve taken the leap into home-sharing, I’m confident you’ll discover its benefits too.