Flatmate Finders vs Gumtree – finding a housemate
We’ve examined two of the most popular methods for finding a house or housemate, Flatmate Finders and Gumtree, to find their strengths and weaknesses and hopefully narrow your search criteria when you are next moving house or searching for a new flatmate.
I’ve previously used both services to find new houses (or rooms) and housemates. I vividly remember using Gumtree’s original website in the UK to find my first London pad sharing with another 14 adventurous & financially challenged Antipodeans around a decade ago. I’ve used Flatmate Finders to search for a house in Sydney, and to find both a house and housemates in Melbourne.
Flatmatefinders is a website that focuses on matching empty share house rooms with new occupants. It doesn’t try to be everything to everyone (which I admire) and the end result is a niche product that does a good job of servicing the sharehouse market. In an interview with us, Guy Mitchell from Flatmate Finders talked a little about numbers: ‘at any one time we have around 1,200 homes available and 3,300 people looking for homes. We receive around 1,500 new listings each week so our website has a high turnover of homes and flatmates with lots of new listings daily.’
How to use flatmate finders
Ever used a dating website? The process is very similar. Both parties, person looking to move into a house and the person looking for a housemate, spend around 30 minutes creating a profile that includes describing their ideal housemate. Hopefully, the profile also allows others to see a glimpse into their personality. Photos are encouraged which helps promote some sort of human connection between parties.
Tip: Details and originality are good! I know writing a long winded description about yourself and what you want from a flatmate is a tedious and potentially confronting process (I find it hard to describe why I would be an awesome flatmate and not come across as an arse), but I’ve found the biggest benefit of Flatmate Finders is the level of detail expected.
Guy Mitchell points to the lengthy profile descriptions a key differentiator. ‘Our questionnaire is comprehensive so our profiles provide people with a lot more information than other services, which helps them make good decisions about who to contact and avoid making time wasting interviews.’
Screen and contact
The next step is weeding out people you probably wouldn’t get along with (or people that haven’t provided enough detail for you to make this decision) and creating a shortlist of people to contact. I’ve used Flatmate Finders to search for both houses, and housemates, and I found a big disparity between the number of properties available and the number of people looking for a house. Yes, this could simply be down to supply and demand, or the fact that I live in a popular Melbourne hub. For whatever reason, finding a housemate was much easier than finding a new house, which impacts on how hard you need to screen out potential matches.
To find a housemate
Flatmate Finders starts at $24.95 to list your available rooms for 4 weeks. 8 weeks costs $29.95.
To find a house
It costs $11.95 if you are successful in finding a new house through Flatmate Finders. It is important to note that the fee is not charged up front and is effectively a free service until you find a suitable house to move into. You will probably receive several emails (even text messages) after you have used the service asking you whether you found a new house through it. To further lubricate honesty between users, prizes are often put up for grabs for those that have coughed up their fee. I was more than happy to pay the $11.95 fee because it provided a valuable service for me. In effect, the ‘honesty’ system they created actually compelled me to pay up.
Gumtree is a free online classifieds site that allows you to buy and sell pretty much anything, post jobs, find a house, housemate, or even a dance partner if you ever need one. I found a free dog kennel on Gumtree a couple of weeks ago, and whilst it needed a bit of a spruce up, it now houses my little puppy.
Gumtree is the opposite to Flatmate Finders in that it is everything to everyone. It is easy to use, free (can upgrade ad to “highlight” or “feature”), and most importantly, a lot of people use it. The more people that use Gumtree, the more powerful it becomes as a one stop online classifieds portal. The sharehouse section for Melbourne region alone had over 1000 ads, making it an attractive place to start looking for a house or housemate.
How to use Gumtree
I don’t think a lot of explanation is required here. Whilst Gumtree probably won’t win any design awards, the site navigation makes it pretty straight forward to search for a house or post an ad for a housemate.
Gumtree only requires a fairly basic description of the house you’re renting. This is a double edged sword. It’s great because posting an ad requires little effort, but for this reason, descriptions tend to be more on the lighter side which means you will need to do more screening through emails, sms, and phone calls.
You will find plenty of ads for houses and rooms to rent which do not have a photo attached. I’m not sure what the response rate is to ads without an image, but I’d bet it is a fraction compared to those that do. If you don’t include an image, I think you are lazy, inconsiderate, dishonest, or a combination of all three. These aren’t particularly attractive housemate qualities so a general rule of mine is to immediately screen out all ads without a photo.
Gumtree largely owes its popularity to the fact that it is a free service. They monetize the service with a combination of display ads and allowing you to upgrade your ad so it remains at the top of the list or at least highlighted. $5 to have your ad highlighted is a cheap investment and shows others that you are serious about finding a housemate. However, spending $5 to highlight an otherwise poor ad is an ordinary investment.
Gumtree performs a basic check on each ad, but largely relies on the community to report spammers, scammers and other miscreants. Whilst most issues can be avoided by using common sense, it is important to understand that Gumtree is simply an introduction facilitator and does not handle or process payments. This is up to the seller/buyer, landlord/tenant etc to negotiate outside of Gumtree.
They are both great products that serve slightly different markets. Gumtree’s one size fits all, free approach to online classifieds makes it a good no fuss solution for finding a housemate or new house. However, there is one major caveat; you need to be willing to do a fair amount of independent legwork to screen, contact and apply for each house yourself. The fact that I can search for kitesurfing gear at the same time as a new housemate is convenient, but my motivation for the two transactions are completely different. Kitesurfing gear can be easily quantified – price, brand, size, condition etc, whereas quantifying traits from someone I want to live with is harder given the brevity of Gumtree ads. However, the convenience, simplicity and price (free) of Gumtree makes it a great choice for backpackers and students.
Flatmate Finders personal and descriptive (albeit lengthy) approach to finding a housemate allows for a much easier screening process. This certainly doesn’t mean that you are guaranteed to find the perfect new housemate, but it does give you a better chance of succeeding in your search. Whilst Flatmate Finders is not free, paying $25 to advertise a room(s) in your house to a very targeted audience of hungry house hunters is very reasonable. Flatmate finders is better at facilitating longer housemate relationships, perfect for young professionals.
These are not the only avenues for finding a new housemate. Other good places to begin your search include local (or university) bulletin boards, friends, family, local newspapers, even Airbnb might be worth considering. Any other suggestions for finding a new housemate? Please let me know in the comments below.
Now, excuse me whilst I peruse Gumtree for some kitesurfing gear..