... but yet nutters still reply.
My North London houseshare is going through a phase of transition. After three and a half years, a handful (we are a rather large house of nine people in total) of housemates moved to pastures more glamorous (Stratford-upon-Avon, Athens and Berlin are infinitely more glam than Holloway Road).
As we bid sad goodbyes to lovely (read: clean) and fun (read: contributes to communal wine cupboard regularly) housemates, our thoughts turn to finding people to replace them and the gumtree gauntlet.
For those not familiar with houseshares in the 21st Century, Gumtree is the source to find "randoms" to replace housemates. It's a internet message board used to pimp out rooms to the great, good and desperate of London – and, I imagine, beyond.
Replies to our ads come in and a good majority of them are nonsensical. It seems that some people are using a hammer to type out words, with the effect that there are at least three extra letters in each word. A person who uses a hammer to type won't make a good housemate, so they're relegated to the "ignore" folder.
Once we get our short list together, we begin interviews. I won't deny, we're a raucous group of housemates when we're together. It's sink or swim when you come to interviews, although we try our best to make the interviewees welcome. We've had a guy that didn't take his coat off and looked petrified. We've had an Aussie girl who was positively reeling, but didn't quite know when the polite time to leave was without giving away her horror. We've also had a guy turn up drunk, tell us he's been made redundant, likes the room and is now off back to the pub thanks very much. Perhaps most worrying of all, all of these fellows told us that our place was "the best place I've seen in so long". What do they do if they hate a place?!
And I'm not saying it isn't bad from the other side either. A friend of mine went to a housemate interview where a guy insisted on taking a polaroid of each person, as if it was a model casting. "I knew then that the flat wasn't for me. It totally put me off!"
It's all very well doing interviews but you'll never really know what someone is like to live with until you live with them. You might think you know, but you have no idea. I've lived with people who've seemed perfectly normal but have turned into horror shows after a while. There was a guy who only ate fried eggs – morning, evening and night. He went through a box of 24 every few days. Consequently, the house stank like a greasy spoon cafe. I like a good fry-up with the rest of them, but I could live without greasy eggy frying pans at every turn. I've also lived with a guy who banned us from turning the boiler on, even in winter in the cruel, bleak north west of England. He informed us that we should "wear four jumpers and run up and down the stairs a few times". I suspect he's not the only person in the world to impose such sanctions on a boiler to save a few quid, too.
Tonight's the night we're doing housemate viewings. Despite all the egg-eating, boiler-Nazi freaks, I remain positive we'll find someone decent. The recession is on our side - if the Metro et al is to believed, there are more renters out there now than there has been since 150BC. The law of averages says that we'll find at least one person who will donate to our wine cupboard...