THE BLOG

Why People Are More Important Than Property for Generation Rent

30/09/2013 13:14 BST | Updated 27/11/2013 10:12 GMT

What are the three most important factors affecting how desirable a property is? We all know the answer, right? Location, location, location.

Since the phrase was coined by Lord Harold Samuel in 1926 (or not) it's become the biggest cliche in property, as well as the title of one of the longest running property shows on UK TV.

The thing is, it's not always true, especially if you're one of the millions of people in the UK who share their home, either with flatmates or a lodger. When you're sharing, the people you live with are as important, if not more so, than where you live.

We see it all the time at our SpeedFlatmating events. People come looking for a room in one area but end up meeting people they really hit it off with who happen to live somewhere else. It's usually not too far away but, when it happens, people are happy to sacrifice location to live with people they like.

In my flatsharing days I lived in a range of properties, from a crummy flat above a van hire shop on the Blackwall Tunnel approach road (the beds shook every time a lorry went past) to a beautiful Victorian house on Stockwell Road. The best times weren't about where I was living, they were all about who I was living with.

You can carefully select a location or type of property and make sure you've got a posh bathroom or are just a short walk from the shops. What you can't plan are those glorious nights when you're about to go to bed and your flatmates arrive home one by one till you're all sitting round the kitchen table with a bottle or two, sorting the world out. Or the nights when you're on your way home and bump into your flatmate and somehow never quite make it past the pub 500 yards before your house.

I miss those nights. There's a certain spontaneity to sharing with other people that just doesn't exist when you have to plan your social life.

Maybe that's why so many searches on SpareRoom are based on lifestyles and hobbies - people want to live with people like them. Of all the terms typed into the keyword search box 39% relate to hobbies, lifestyles and interests. 'Vegetarian', 'music' and 'cycling' are popular.

Nationalities also figure high on the list. No real surprise there - if you're living away from home you're bound to gravitate to people who come from the same country as you. Only a quarter of the searches have anything to do with the type of property - the rest are all about people. Sometimes we joke that helping people find a flatshare is more like running a dating site than a property site. The more we look at how people search the less it feels like a joke. When you share, who you live with is how you live.

The Australians have it right - they don't use the term flatshare, they call them 'sharehouses'. This puts the sharing element before the property, just as it should be.

So, maybe it's not really about location - maybe it's not even about bricks and mortar. Maybe, for millions of people in the UK, it's about bricks and mortals (or should that be mortals and bricks).