So you have decided to share your house or flat with someone? You might be excited about the idea or you may be terrified as this is the first time you will be sharing your space with someone, a stranger to be precise. If this will be your first house or flat mate, I can bet you anything your mind if filled with a lot of questions about this person you are bringing into your space. Well, that is what i am here for: to help you make sure that what you sign up for, is a good deal.

This article is solely for the inexperienced new mate who has not yet found someone to share with. Now there are many reasons why someone may choose to share living spaces, i.e. "to save", "the house is too big" etc. Whatever the reason, you have decided that this is your only alternative. Your first point of call would be to place an advertisement stating that you are looking for someone to share with. Now, the trick is to be as precise as possible about what you want so you don't end up with the total opposite of what you had in mind. A few points to consider are:

1. Rent and expenses

In your advertisement you should say what the other party's share of the rent is and state whether that includes electricity and water or not. When interviewing potential housemates, make sure you tell them on which date the rent is due every month. I would suggest you give them a date that is two days before the actual rent is due so that should they have a problem, you still have two days to fix it. So make sure they can pay rent on that date.

2. General housekeeping

I assume that you are looking for a person who is neat in general. This area is where people almost always end up moving or getting kicked out, so pay attention. I would suggest making a cleaning roster for you and your housemate. This will solve a lot of problems. Please do not be tempted to just write:


Saturday 01 January 2010 – Kim

Saturday 06 January 2010 – Brenda

This is unacceptable. It will not help at all. Make a table and put the dates and your names in alternating weekends, for example. Then take it further to show which areas of the house Kim will clean and which Brenda will clean. If its toilet say wash basin, bathroom mirror, toilet, bathroom tiles, door, window and taps. If its kitchen say pantry, taps, refrigerator, stove, oven, kitchen tiles, window, cupboards (once a month), floor etc. This way you neither party feels like they do more cleaning than the other and if you rotate you both get to do the same amount of work. When you are unclear about this you will soon realize that people's idea of cleaning differs and that some people are naturally lazy to clean. So this will protect you.

3. Groceries and cooking

Again, get this out of the way sooner rather than later. Decide whether you will both contribute equal amounts for groceries or buy your own whenever. If you decide to contribute decide on the amount to be contributed and how the groceries will be bought. Will you go shopping together or will you alternate the shopping? Decide on what you want to buy together to avoid disappointment and resentment. If you will not be sharing groceries at least agree on cleaning agents and materials and set a budget for it. This might be R100.00 for dish washing liquid, washing powder, fabric softener etc. So even if you both buy separate you each know that your budget includes these and you won't go without because you thought the other party will buy and they didn't.

4. Visitors

My house mate sometimes tends to want to forget that she does not live alone. She will have lots of friends over midweek and on consecutive days and sometimes people she has just met. This is when i get upset and tell her enough! Close friends and family are okay, but strangers you don't know from a bar of soap are a no! If that new found friendship does not go well, and you have never had a chat about visitors, do not be surprised if you find your house/ flat vandalized. When it comes to visitors you must be clear. For example, family can stay for about a week at the most and friends no more than three days. Any extra days must be discussed. The reason for this is that you may have plans that require the use of your house but because you have visitors you now have to accommodate them into your plan because you can't ask them to lock themselves in their room. This can dampen your plans. And again, the reason the extra days need to be discussed is because if you share groceries, that means one of you is losing out because they are feeding more people than planned for. And if visitors stay, they must help to keep the house tidy. And make sure they know what they can't and can use. You don't want them using that soap your boyfriend or girlfriend bought you from overseas. Be clear about visitor rules. Its also for your own security.

If you can get all these out of the way then chances are you will be happy with your new mate.