Sarah Hayes

I’VE LIVED IN GROUP HOUSING for most of my adult life—starting as a bright-eyed teen who encouraged my roomies to have a music-show house, and ending as an exhausted thirtysomething trying to set rational boundaries about the appropriate times to play drums. I live alone now, but I miss group housing. I miss the family feel, splitting utilities, and the likelihood of getting swept up in a trip to the river. So I made this list of how to get picked from a long list of shared-housing applicants—you can use it until my lease is up.

Get Out There

Make an ad about yourself! Share some specific interests. (Don’t just say you like movies.) Let them know you’re an interesting person, and only use humor if you’re actually funny—and maybe then still don’t.

Face Photo

When it’s time to introduce yourself, use your real face. A still from a cult film or an MS Paint drawing of Drake may speak volumes to your deeper persona, but most house interviewers would prefer to know what you look like. Put your face on your ad or the social media site you direct people to with your email. You don’t have to smile, but take off your sunglasses. If you’re flipping the bird, what you’re really saying is, “Hello, fuck off. Can I live in your house?”

No Drama

If an applicant describes themselves as “no drama,” DO NOT LIVE WITH THAT PERSON. Anyone who brings up drama in a bio or meeting is a person who loves drama. Non-drama people will talk about their job, their plants, or dogs. Everyone likes talking about dogs.

Pitch Your Strengths

I’m great at cleaning, so I don’t talk about how mean I can be in the morning—or how my disdain for others fills the air with a fine mist of loathing. Just don’t mention it! Also, complaining about other people makes you look bad, so don’t go on about past housemate horrors. If the interviewers want to talk about past housemates at length, they are into drama (see previous tip) and should be avoided.

One-Month Money

There are a lot of amazing people in Portland, but how many of them can pay to move in right now? Saving up one month’s worth of rent, in addition to a deposit, has edged me into a house many times.

Don’t Have Pets

Describing your cats as “fur-ocious” does not negate their existence. Group-housing homes already have enough pets. Your pet will not get along with the pets who live there. Your dog has some weird behavior and territorial issues you don’t even know about. If you have a pet, you have to get an apartment. So start saving up for pet rent.