Exclusive:Living with friends: real life experiences of moving in with people you already like - and what happened

As the housing market is becoming more saturated and more people are moving into shared accommodation - what is it like to live with friends? 

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With the soaring cost of living and UK housing market prices worsening, many people are looking to alleviate some of the rent costs with flatmates. Sometimes, people opt to live with friends instead, thinking that perhaps it’s a safer alternative to living with a stranger or moving back home. 

But what is it like living with friends? What needs to be considered and can it instead put friendships in jeopardy when deciding to change the dynamic of the friendship? NationalWorld spoke to staff and members of the public to find out more - here is what you need to know.

What is it like living with friends? 

Paloma* has lived with three different friends over the past couple of years over the course of university and whilst working in London. Two friends were made during her time studying, and one was a childhood friend from school. She says: “I’ve always felt more comfortable renting with friends as I believed it’s a lot safer to live with someone you know and that they would be more respectful of shared space and understanding of your lifestyle.”

Whilst it is easier to imagine living with someone you already know you get on well with, there is the possibility the way you interact with your friend can alter. Paloma found her friendship dynamic to completely change. She says: “I also found that unless you make the effort, you stop doing the ‘friend’ things you did before. You see each other all the time, you don’t make an effort to hang out and catch up and care for that person as you did once before. 

“The best living situation was my most recent friend as we met in school but weren’t very close. This worked perfectly as there was no expectation to speak all the time but the respect and familiarity with each other were still there.”

For NationalWorld staff, this was a similar finding - just on the other side of the scale. Lifestyle writer Rochelle Barrand says: “One way or the other, be prepared for your friendship to change, I think. That doesn't have to be a bad thing at all - I personally got closer than ever to my friends after living with them - but it is true that you see someone in a different way after you've lived with them and that applies to friends just as much as partners.”

As the housing market is becoming more saturated and more people are moving into shared accommodation - what is it like to live with friends? As the housing market is becoming more saturated and more people are moving into shared accommodation - what is it like to live with friends?
As the housing market is becoming more saturated and more people are moving into shared accommodation - what is it like to live with friends?

Communication is key 

Dipti Tait, a Relationship Psychotherapist explains that living with a friend can have both positive and negative effects on a relationship and that it depends on a variety of factors - which include the individuals involved; their personalities; and the living situation itself. Tait outlines some effects that can come from living with friends. They are:

Positive Effects:

  1. Increased closeness: Living with a friend can create a deeper bond between the two of you, as you will spend more time together and learn more about each other's lives.

  2. Shared responsibilities: When living together, there are a variety of tasks that need to be accomplished, such as cleaning, cooking, and paying bills. Sharing these responsibilities can create a sense of teamwork and mutual support.

  3. Support system: When going through tough times, having a close friend living with you can be a great source of emotional support and encouragement.

  4. More social interaction: Living with a friend can lead to more social interaction, as you may meet and spend time with each other's friends and family.

Negative Effects:

  1. Increased tension: Living in close proximity to another person can create tension and conflict, particularly if you have different lifestyles or expectations for cleanliness and organisation.

  2. Too much togetherness: Living with a friend can lead to feelings of claustrophobia and a loss of personal space, particularly if you don't have your own room or designated space within the shared living space.

  3. Dependency: Living with a friend can create a sense of dependency on each other, which can be problematic if one person starts to feel overwhelmed or like they can't maintain the relationship in a healthy way.

  4. Risk of the friendship ending: Living with a friend can put a strain on the friendship, particularly if issues arise that can't be resolved or if one person decides they need to move out.

Tait says: “Living with a friend can have both positive and negative effects on a relationship, and it's important to consider these factors before making the decision to live together. Good communication, setting clear boundaries and expectations, and respecting each other's space and needs can help mitigate any potential negative effects and lead to a stronger, more positive friendship dynamic.”

Trin Garritano, a Chicago-based games writer, podcaster, producer and the other half of the Friendshipping podcast, whose book 'Friendshipping: The Art of Finding Friends, Being Friends, and Keeping Friends' came out in December 2020. She says: “As far as living with friends, I would definitely say it's worth a shot. Living with someone else has enormous perks. Beyond just splitting the cost of a living space, what a boon it is to have someone around who knows the signs of stroke and the Heimlich manoeuvre!” However, she says that compatibility, and practicing patience and communication would help make living with a friend easier.

Garritano suggests making your needs, expectations and boundaries very clear is vital in maintaining your friendship, and this can be done by covering some basic questions. Some of the questions Garritano says is important are: 

Questions to ask if you want to maintain your friendship in a house share

  • How clean is clean enough? 
  • Are pets acceptable? 
  • How would you like to deal with guests? 
  • What's your noise threshold? 
  • How much interaction do you truly want to have with your roommate?
  • How do you want to handle the rent or mortgage? 
  • How much "me time" do you need? 
  • Garritano advises not to move in before asking these questions, and to be as truthful as possible as it is hard to share a living space with anyone.

    At the same time, Paloma advises: “I would recommend living with friends as it may make you feel a lot more comfortable, I would opt for friends you don’t consider as your close group as this will avoid any potential friend breakups as I experienced with the first two friends I lived with.” 

    Similarly, another person told NationalWorld that living with her friend caused them to no longer speak. They say: “She was the type to label her food, would kick off if I brought anyone round the flat that she didn’t know and “approve” - made a cleaning rota and it was the most passive aggressive experience ever.”

    Our NationalWorld writer agreed with having a conversation about domestic chores and says which may be tricky. She says: “For example, you have to agree on how often you're going to have the heating on and how you're going to divide the chores. In fact, it's a good idea to have a conversation about how you would see those things working out before you actually sign the contract!”

    Are more people living together in house shares?

    Research from Spareroom shows that 98% of renters are concerned about the current state of the UK market, with major life plans being put on hold. The key plans affected and mentioned in the survey are that 64% of people are putting off moving into their own place, where 30% have put travel plans on hold, and 15% have put off moving in with their partner due to affordability issues. It also found that 72% of tenants who haven’t moved in the past 18 months decided to stay due to available properties being out of budget (82%), a lack of supply (46%) and high levels of competition (43%).