6 questions to tell if a potential housemate will turn into an ex housemate

Written by Douglas Ross in Renting

We’ve all been there: dishes piled so high that they impinge on commercial airspace; what looks like a prop from the film Alien growing in the pantry, which is, in fact, the precursor to ‘homemade kombucha!’; hairs in the shower drain that could bring down an empire; music at 2 a.m that you find out was originally played to goats by the U.S army during the 60’s to see whether they turned psychotic; ‘themed’ Tuesday night cooking, which you are lucky enough to clean up. The list goes on.

Housemate horrors. We’ve all had housemates that meant well, but lasted only a couple of months before they were politely told to move themselves and their creepy lamp collection out of the house.

So, how to avoid the headache? Everyone is on their best behaviour when they interview for a room in a sharehouse. “Of course!” They beam back at you. “If people aren’t clean and respectful I don’t feel a hesitation to tell them so.” Two weeks later their foray into a Peruvian souffle is still in the sink.

It seems like there is no way to get around just taking the plunge and hoping for the best. WRONG! There are some very simple questions you can ask that will weed out the weeds.

1.  “Are you criminally insane?”

It’s an oldie but a goodie, especially with the ‘criminal’ addition. This one helps break the ice OR keeps the ice so firmly in place that you are immediately made aware that yes, this person in front of you may be hiding a hunting knife somewhere on their person and that you need to get them out of your home as soon as is humanly possible. Look at their eyes when you ask it. Even the slightest flash of fear or recognition will tell you that a rabid Rottweiler, one who hasn’t eaten for three days and has recently acquired the taste for human flesh, would STILL make a better housemate.

2. When you hear police sirens, do you panic for a second?

This is a trick question. Everybody panics when they hear police sirens. Whether they are in the car (actually, especially when they are in the car) or walking the dog, the sound of a police siren will make any healthy and happy individual’s subconscious pause for a short moment. They usually remember that the government doesn’t know or care that they have recently been parking their car in a local cemetery to save on parking fees. It may be morally questionable, but it isn’t worthy of an arrest warrant. Everybody has that moment, except for real criminals who have a good reason to panic.

If the answer to this question is, “I don’t understand?” – something is wrong. They either lack a sense of humour and affinity with the human race, or they are a genuine criminal on the run and want the conversation to move on quickly. In this case, move on quickly.

3. Do you like to dance?

Did they say yes? Move on.

4. How would you describe the political climate in Brazil in 25 words or less?

Now this one is a tricky one. If they give you a cohesive and well-constructed analysis of the complexities underlying Brazil’s political scene, then you have a genius on your hand and they could be useful. But it could also mean you have a spy in your home. If their reaction is best described as ‘a cock of the head to the side like a confused puppy, a slight crease of a smile like the side of their face is being pulled by an invisible string followed by the question, “What is this?”‘ then you have a normal person on your hands and you can begin to narrow down your questions to actually be reflective of the situation you are all in (i.e. do you have a job etc.).

5. Do you have a job?

Did they say yes? Move on. This is no time to be entertaining regular folk. You want a trapeze artist, a Private Eye, a clown or at the very least a professional dog walker. Living in a sharehouse is no time to play it safe, you want stories for your kids one day. Whatever you do, however, do not let a comedian into your home. Their idea of cleaning their dishes involves finding a new place to live.

6. How do you feel about sharing milk?

This is more a question for when you know things are heading down hill and now you just want to have some fun. It seems like an innocuous question, but a potential housemate with a good sense of humour will highlight that it makes the questioner seem just so slightly creepy. On the other hand, if they respond too keenly (“I love sharing milk!”) you have the freedom to look slightly disgusted and ask them, “Why?”