Kieran Yates | Contributing Editor | 1,388 day ago

Housemate Auditions: The Hunger Games Of The Renting World

The Debrief: With competition for spaces in shared houses hotting up, you’d better think carefully before answering any questions about your favourite band…

‘So if we just give you this piece of paper, could you circle which artist you like the best? You know, just to get a sense of what kind of person you are…’ The list has The Prodigy, Coldplay, Megadeth, Girls Aloud and Eminem on it. I sigh and tick Coldplay because (a) they’re generic and (b) I imagine people think that Coldplay fans aren’t about to orchestrate an orgy in their living room or turn out to be an anarchist, or whatever. Welcome to the housemate interview.

If, like me, you live in London and have found yourself recently homeless, for whatever reason (heartbreak, poverty, unpaid internships), you’ll probably have to do one of these at some point (unless of course you have rich parents who can buy you a nice little chalet on the King's Road where you spend the time lusting after ironically chundering boys from Hollister).

Because as house prices continue to rise and entry-level jobs become more difficult to come by, renting in shared houses is soaring. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has predicted 1.5 million extra 18 to 30 year olds will be priced out of buying their own homes within eight years, resulting in the rental market being flooded. And with sites such as spareroom.co.uk boasting over 3 million registered users in the UK, it seems the practice of holding auditions to whittle down the disproportionate number of potential housemates is here to stay. 

you’re there to be judged in a formal setting about much of a ‘party girl’ you are and if you’ve read No Logo

As if it’s not humiliating enough to admit that you have no real friends to live with (in my case they were just unavailable; I’m not that awful), you find yourself scouting the internet for specialist sites that lead you to people looking for houseshares. The next step is being invited into their homes for a ‘chat’ where you think you’re going to be shown the size of the room/whether the boiler works, but in reality you’re there to be judged in a formal setting about how much of a ‘party girl’ you are and if you’ve read No Logo.

These Hunger-Games-style auditions of the housing world have always existed in some capacity, but the recession and the internet have meant that they’re now fiercer than ever, because girls can afford to be choosy. (The place I live now received around 45 responses a day). Take the Mean Girls audition I attended in Camberwell, headed up by a legion of glossy haired ex girls'-school socialites with names like Verity who asked me about the ~scene~ I’m in, or the house in the darkest depths of south London that where I was promised that I’d get used to ‘cat smell’, while being asked about what books I would be contributing to the ‘house bookshelf’ (spoiler alert – none). Not to forget the south-east London co-op I visited where the housemate who was supposed to be showing me around had dropped a tab of acid and was asking me about whether I would contribute ‘good energy’ to the house filled with Pulp Fiction posters and Rasta ashtrays. Probably not, mate.

The key to housemate auditions, in my experience, is to be as dry as possible, so people will think you’re ultra-pedestrian, and only after you’ve already signed a contract can you then feel safe unleashing your adorable/clinically insane idiosyncrasies. (Though, saying that, I tried that with the Coldplay thing, but still didn’t get a text back, so even loving Yellow didn’t make me sound quite unthreatening enough.) Failing that, make sure you wash your hair, because I’m pretty sure that’s where I went wrong the first few times. And steer clear of Gumtree. That is one of the K-holes of the internet.

And a final word to the strangers who’ve slammed my self-esteem by deciding they don’t want to live with me after less than five minutes of meeting? Well come on – lines of questioning about what your favourite emoji is, where you like to party and what coffee you like aren’t going to tell you much. (I mean, I know people I have lots in common with, and I hate pretty much every single one of them.) So, audition away if you must, but those with the most rigorous processes seem to have forgotten one basic fact: if you also need to use a website to help you find a housemate, you’re probably not as winning as you think you are.

Follow Kieran on Twitter @kieran_yates

Tags: Housemates Head To Head