When I heard that March's twin themes here on Apartment Therapy were Renters Solutions and Bedrooms, it seemed like fate. Those two issues couldn't be more appropriate for my life right now.
After almost five years of living in the same South London flat, circumstances at the start of 2012 required that I look for a new home. Only this time, instead of a one-bedroom rental, furnished over time with care, I'd be looking for that most common facet of London life: a bedroom in a furnished flatshare. When I first moved to this city, I didn't understand how so many twenty- and even thirty-somethings could be happy living with people they barely knew, with furnishings they neither chose nor owned. Where I'm from, if you're looking to share rent on an apartment then you're generally looking with friends, and you furnish those shared homes on your own, often with a mix of hand-me-downs and IKEA.
But I've lived in London for nearly six years now, and I can now say this in defense of the humble flatshare: it makes good sense. In a city so transient for so many, many people appreciate not having to worry about buying furniture until they become homeowners themselves. And as for "living with strangers"? Well, I'm told that, assuming you're sharing with those of a similar age and similar interests, co-living is actually a great way to make friends. With all that in mine, here are my top tips to keep in mind when looking for shared housing:
1. Use the right search tool (hint: it's not Craigslist). Websites specifically geared to sharing, like easyroommate.com in US or spareroom.co.uk in the UK, can help you narrow your search. Is a garden a must-have? Don't want to live with a smoker? This is where you can separate the wheat from the chaff.
2. Where possible, look for shares which are owner-ocuppied. In my experience, homes in which the landlord themselves live tend to be nicer, both in terms of furnishings and upkeep.
3. Move quickly. In most large cities, the rentals market is competitive and fast-paced. If you find someplace you like, don't delay; sure, you might find somewhere better next week, but you might not. And chances are, anything you did like will be long gone by the time you make up your mind.
4. It's not really about the room. This might be an unpopular opinion to voice on a design blog, but when looking at shared housing, I don't believe it's really about the room, or the home itself. Sure, there are gorgeous places out there and you might be lucky enough to find one, but I think location (including proximity to work, fun and friends) and getting along with those you live with trumps a fancy flat any day.
Next week I'll share the room I found, and how I plan to make it my own. In the meantime, share your home-sharing advice below!