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In the past, the most desirable qualities in a flatmate might have been cleanliness, not eating each other’s food and paying bills on time. And in some extreme circumstances, not being a Scorpio, a meat-eater or a supporter of certain political parties were the top pre-requisites. However, new research from flatsharing site SpareRoom reveals the majority of flatsharers now see traits like kindness, empathy and thinking of others as more important in a flatmate (56%).

And the reason? The pandemic and lockdown. In fact, almost half (48%) of flatsharers said the qualities they look for in a flatmate have changed directly as a result of coronavirus restrictions, with a trend towards more meaningful connections. What’s more, a huge 71% of flatmates said that the pandemic has made them more cautious when choosing who to live with.

For those who stayed in their flatshare during lockdown the classic flatmate qualities like watching TV together (36%), sharing meals (32%) and having drinks in the evening (31%) were popular ways to create a happy houseshare. However they are now joined by something else: respecting coronavirus rules.

In fact, almost half of this group (44%) say that observance of coronavirus rules contributes towards people getting on in their flatshares. Indeed, in cases where existing flatmates have broken coronavirus rules, 55% said it led to tensions in the house.

Despite coronavirus restrictions forcing people to spend more time together than they otherwise might have, almost a third (29%) of flatmates who stayed in their flatshare during lockdown believe the experience has made them more patient toward behaviours that would normally cause irritation – suggesting the pandemic has made flatmates more willing to overlook previously annoying habits. The fact only 25% and 22% of those who stayed living together through lockdown listed house rules and cleaning rotas as being the most important contributors to a positive flatshare is perhaps testament to this shift in attitude.

While we may currently live under the ‘rule of six’, when it comes to sharing a property it’s becoming more a case of the ‘rule of two’. When asked how many people renters would ideally like to share with now, the most popular (28%) option was just one other person.

But it’s not just the ‘who’ or the ‘how many’. It’s also the ‘what’ and the ‘where’. Indeed, further research by SpareRoom shows that flatmates have shifted their priorities when it comes to the type of house they want to live in and where it is.

In the dramatically altered world of 2020, the ideal flatshare isn’t a cosy flat next to a Tube or train station. It’s a spacious property (38%), with a garden or balcony (30%), that’s under a 10-minute walk to a larger green space (53%), 30 minutes from the open countryside (22%), within 10 minutes of a supermarket (53%) and no more than 30 minutes travel to friends and family (28%). These desires are also playing out in real life room searches, with SpareRoom listings showing2:

98% increase in demand for gardens
96% increase in demand for balcony / patio
44% increase in demand for rooms with an en-suite
43% increase in demand for shared living rooms
Matt Hutchinson, SpareRoom Director said, “It’s an understatement to say that 2020 has been an incredibly turbulent, stressful and uncertain year so far. We’re all looking at our lives from a different perspective and re-examining what really matters to us. So it comes as no surprise that renters are re-evaluating what is important to them. It’s interesting to see flatsharers want to live in smaller groups – for now at least – and are listing kindness and empathy as top qualities in potential flatmates.

It’s not just about the people either. We weren’t surprised to see an increase in flatsharers wanting better access to green space, gardens and bigger rooms, but we didn’t anticipate the size of the shift, especially in such a relatively short period of time.

Amidst accusations that young people are ignoring social distancing rules, our research suggests the opposite, certainly during lockdown. A huge number of flatsharers, many of whom are in their twenties, said observing of coronavirus rules was a make or break quality in a potential flatmate.”