If you’re moving to a new city or town for a job, you have no doubt started looking for a place to rent.

From my personal experience, paying rent eats up the biggest chunk your salary.

For this reason, it makes sense that communal living among young professionals is growing in popularity. Websites catering specifically for flat and house shares, like The Room Link, are popping up, confirming this trend.

And why not? You save money and meet new people, which is especially important if you’re moving to a new place.

However, before just moving in with someone, make sure it will be a good fit, and that you will actually save money. Ask these questions:

Are utilities included?

Utilities can greatly impact the affordability of your monthly rental. For example, if you are renting a room for         R2 500, and then find out that utilities are an extra R300, you might have to reconsidered your options before moving in.

If water and lights are not included, ask how these payments are calculated or split each month, and what you are likely to pay. The person you are moving in with should be able to give you an indication of the cost, which will help you calculate if you can really afford the monthly expenses.

Is there Wi-Fi?

For some people internet is a necessity, while others view it as an added bonus. Either way, knowing if you will have access, and what it will cost you, is important.

If you don’t care about having an internet connection, you might not want to pay extra for it every month, whereas if you need the internet to live, you might be more inclined to fork out those extra rands.

How do groceries work?

Some house shares decide to buy groceries together and split the costs. Or, it might be decided to only buy certain products together, for example cleaning products. Be sure you know how this works before deciding to move in.

Groceries are expensive, and not everyone might work as sparingly as you do, or have your preferences for certain brands. If this is the case, groceries can end up costing you a fortune, and you might not fully benefit from the money you are contributing.

If the house share you are interested in club together for groceries, find out what they pay on average, and what this includes.

How do meals work?

Do the people in the house share cook together? And if they do, how does this work?
They might have a cooking roster, which means everyone gets a turn cooking for everyone else. This could mean that you will pay for ingredients for everyone else when it’s your turn, as they will for you when it’s their turn.

If you’re a picky eater, you might not like this setup. Also, if you are frugal with your groceries, you might not like having to spend extra money on feeding other people.

How does the housekeeping work?

This is very important if you are organised and hate a mess. Not everyone is likely to care as much as you do, which means dishes can pile up and floors can remain un-mopped. I don’t think anything can cause as much friction in a house share as unwashed dishes…

Ask whether a housekeeper comes in, how often, and what this costs.

Oftentimes this service (if available) has been included in the rental, but just make sure.
If this service is not available, ask whether your prospective housemates are open to hiring someone to come in once a week and split the costs.

Are there any maintenance costs?

This might sound strange, but oftentimes there are certain facilities that your housemates will expect you to help maintain.

For example, if there is a swimming pool, you might have to pitch in for pool treatments or chemicals. Or if a gardener comes in to work on the garden, you might be expected to help pay for the service.

Ask if there are any such costs that you will be expected to pay, and how much this normally comes to. This will help you decide whether or not moving in will be cost-effective.

Living with people can be a lot of fun, and teach you much about compromising and being flexible. You might even find new friends.

Just remember, if you’re doing it to save money, make sure you will actually be doing this.

About The Author

Ula Van Zyl

Ula van Zyl is a sub-editor at a major news outlet. She has been a bibliophile since she could recognise the little squiggly things as letters and words. Ula is the person you want to have on your pub quiz team, but is, unfortunately, already committed to a team at present.

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