Considerations when choosing companions

It is an amazing feeling to be living among housing companions whom you enjoy spending time.

However, not everyone will be compatible with you. Investing some time and care into the preparation and selection process is therefore necessary. Here are some things to consider before starting your search for a housing companion.

Most common mistakes!

The most common mistake made when selecting housing companions is having too casual or an incomplete selection process. Usually, this occurs because of inexperience, making assumptions, or desperation.

Inexperience

A common mistake is treating companion housing as a rental transaction without making deeper considerations. These people may accept a person at face value and assume they will ‘figure it out as time goes by’. 

Educating yourself is a great start, so you can understand the importance of establishing a suitable home environment and choosing companions to help you live the life you want. In time, you will begin to learn more about your needs and how you prefer to structure your companion housing arrangement.

Assumptions

Never assume someone is compatible with you just because you both share likeness for certain things. People are complex; to understand a person from a quick interaction is very difficult. Assumptions we make can limit the opportunities of finding an excellent housing companion. If you stereotype a person because of particular traits or backgrounds, you may be missing out on a great opportunity.

A typical example of an assumption is stereotyping a person’s cleanliness within the home based on gender. Allow each individual to represent their true self; perhaps you will learn a lot in the process.  

Desperation

Avoid choosing someone you know is not compatible because you ‘need’ someone to move in. Doing so will likely lead to disappointment and frustration. The best way to avoid this is by planning to allow yourself enough time to find a suitable person; 2-3 months is typical for the process and longer in some situations with special requirements. 

Food for thought: If a person sounds desperate, demanding, or is pressuring you to allow them to move into your home, proceed with caution. If they are pressuring you now, they are likely to do so for another reason in the future.

What are you looking for?

Before you start determining an ideal match’s values, consider what type of living arrangement will best match you at this time in your life. Perhaps you are new to companion housing and want to try it out, or maybe you are ready to make a permanent change. The length of time you will live together is one way to categorise prospective housing companions’ different needs.

Short term (6 months or less) 

People looking for shorter-term stays are usually relocating for work, school, or need to get away because of certain life events (separation, medical, family). These people will generally want fully furnished homes and bedrooms. Due to the shorter stay, they will have less influence towards establishing a culture within the home. This means you will need to spend a little more time with them to ensure they understand and follow your household guidelines.

Advantages: You get to meet many new people with potentially diverse backgrounds and cultures. If the compatibility is not 100%, you know they are not staying long-term. Guests are typically willing to pay higher rental costs (helping offset your household expenses more). 

Disadvantages: You are less likely to develop a deep connection or sense of trust. More time and management are required to maintain a clean and orderly household. Turnover is higher, which requires more work to manage your home and find new guests.

Medium-term (7-18 months)

For stays between 7-18 months. Many people can fall into this category, including students, mature adults, and occasionally seniors. These people may want to bring some of their things into the home, such as small appliances and furniture. Generally, hosts will provide furnishings for the house and bedrooms. This group will usually be more involved in establishing a household culture and sharing activities.

Advantages: Less work is required to manage and establish household rules and guidelines relative to the short-term. You will develop a deeper sense of connection and trust, allowing more opportunities to travel together or do activities. The flexibility of rental terms makes this an appealing option for most.

Disadvantages: A poor match of housing companions can be magnified over time. Seasonality can make it harder to find new housing companions at certain times of year.

Long-term (2-5+ years)

This group tends to be mature adults and seniors looking for a respectful and comfortable place to call home. These people typically know where they want to live and have thought about what values are important for long-term success. Housing companions may rent or buy a home together or live in a home owned by one housing companion. Each person may bring some or all of their own bedroom furniture and household items they are happy to share with others.

Advantages: This group will generally take greater care and attention when selecting housing companions, allowing for more compatible matching from the beginning. Long-term structures make financial budgeting easier and allow for greater cost savings. You will also develop a much deeper sense of connection, getting closer to a family-like bond. This opens up opportunities to share pets and much more.

Disadvantages: More planning and time needed to establish these living arrangements. People and their circumstances may change throughout the living arrangement from health decline or other life events. Poor maintenance of household etiquette is likely to lead to dissatisfaction over time. 

Permanent (10+ years) 

This type of companion housing arrangement is not the norm, but it does occur from time to time. Permanent living arrangements are typically an evolution of a medium or long-term companion housing arrangement. You may find such a wonderful connection with your housing companions that you will stay together for a very long time. You may even change homes together, connecting like a true family unit.

Advantages: If you reach this level, you have likely mastered companion housing and are taking advantage of all the benefits.

Disadvantages: People change over time, which may require you to restructure or change how you share the home. Health decline is also a real possibility that can create challenges in the home.

Intergenerational

Intergenerational housing is gaining popularity in our modern-day. We are seeing an increase in the number of students and young adults living with seniors and families. As well, more groups of mature adults of various ages are coming together to share homes. These homes may even include children, making them multi-generational homes.

Assumptions with traditional shared rentals are that people of the same age would like the same things and have the same values. There is some validity to this. However, age is not always an ideal metric to match people. Creating shared households with people of different ages can create a more dynamic and interesting home environment. Having different life experiences in the home allows for new teaching, learning, mentor-ship, or experiences.

As our population distribution continues to shift, there will become a greater need to consider intergenerational housing as a new normal. By combining different generations under one roof, many challenges of ageing in place can be addressed. Younger generations can access affordable housing while increasing their connection and contribution to the local community. Communities with high housing costs and demand for younger workers to fill service jobs will benefit significantly from these types of arrangements. North American culture still has many barriers to adopting this way of living. However, we are now starting to see a change. 

Fair and equitable

Companion housing is about creating a home environment where everyone is equal and feels respected. Suppose you currently have a home and will be inviting housing companions to join you. In that case, it is important to provide them with a fair opportunity to agree upon household etiquette mutually.

Everyone has something to gain from companion housing, and this may be different for each person within the household. For example, some may receive more value from social support, whereas others may benefit from having a safe and respectful home environment. If you have particular needs, it is important to communicate them to find housing companions that complement your needs.

It is NOT okay to use companion housing as a way to take advantage of others. Examples include charging disproportionately high rent prices or having an unequal distribution of household chores. Your housing companion is not there to look after you or to pay your bills for you. Each person has the right to live their own independent life in a companion home. It is not fair to assume someone will always be available to share dinner or activities with you.

You can give and receive tremendous value through task exchange without any direct monetary exchange. A common example is one housing companion will cook dinner each night in exchange for the other housing companion to provide the groceries. Everyone needs to agree upon the terms and feel that it is fair. Remember, your housing companion is not your housekeeper.

Affordability is often the top priority when individuals are looking for a companion home. Many conflicts and issues tend to arise when too high of prices are charged per bedroom. If your housing costs are lower because you have owned or rented your home for a long time, passing along some of those savings to your housing companions will help keep them loyal.

Pricing tip: Looking at rental prices on classifieds websites is not the best way to determine fair pricing. Over-priced and stagnant rental properties can give the perception of higher average costs. Instead, calculate what your true costs are for your home and offer a fair price to your companions. This will provide you with creating a much more enjoyable experience in the long-term.

Laws of attraction

If you know what kind of person you want as a housing companion, you need to present yourself and your home in such a way to attract them.

People make a common mistake by requesting a highly organised and clean person to share their home with while showing pictures of their home in a messy and disorganised state. Individuals who are very clean and organised by nature will typically not be interested in living in a home that appears disorganised as the home appears to differ from their expectations.

Location is an important element to determine what type of person would want to live with you. For instance, if you choose to live in a more rural location, you are unlikely to attract a student or someone without a car to share a home with you. An exception to this is reduced cost. By offering a lower rent price to share a home, many people are willing to compromise on location or amenities.

The important point is to portray yourself accurately and be realistic. If you misrepresent yourself or your home, it will almost always lead to conflict and frustration at a later date.

More on this in the next topic.