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Last updated: November 8, 2019 • Lifestyle, Real Estate Trends

Minimizing housing costs: rent a room or get a roommate

Did you think of Monica and Rachel from the Friends series when you read the title? Rachel was Monica’s longest roommate across the ten seasons. Well, all of us at RealEstateAgent.com are so obsessed with this series. And it must have had a great impact on the real estate market, too, as it kind of made it acceptable to share an overpriced apartment in America’s most expensive cities

The cost of housing is a great source of stress nowadays. But homeownership seems to be a vanishing concept that lives only on the papers and in the folders of the Title Company. Many think that homeownership means to have a place of your own, a sanctuary where you can escape and destress for hours on end without being bothered. In reality, the job market has a huge impact on housing. Sometimes, to live in an area that provides plenty of job opportunities means to find a roommate and split the cost of housing between you. For example, on roommates[dot]com, there are over 1,300 people in need of a room in New York City.

From nomads to settlers

young roommate girls talking while sitting on a couch

We have all been told that before humans settled down to build majestic cities, they have been nomads, wandering from one place to another in search of food. Discovering that the ground beneath their feet could provide all the food they needed, agriculture began to keep our ancestors busy in one place. It was no longer about moving from here to there for their basic needs. Staying in one place and growing vegetables around the house was the new lifestyle. The land was so precious that men were ready to die for it. 

Acquiring land brought a lot of satisfaction in the hearts of the leaders and nobles of that time. During the Middle Ages, families were allowed to stay in one place and share a house but they all had to work the land. The gap between the rich and the poor grew ever since. And another interesting fact is that in the past, you had to work hard for the landlord in return for a house. Nowadays, you might have to share your house to afford the high living costs generated by a good job market. You may argue that the USDA loans have made housing a lot more affordable in rural areas, and you might be able to live alone there, but there are fewer employers and your income might be a lot lower. 

In the Eastern European villages, when the communist ideology was still alive and well, the adobe homes were usually made up of one room that was shared by the parents and their children, who often slept in one bed. And in many cases, there were families with 10 or more children living in one large room. Entering the third millennium, though, mass-media gained more power and emphasized individuality, intimacy, privacy, and secrecy. Our modern economies though prove that individualism and selfishness are corrosive.

Is it better to live by yourself or with a roommate?

young guy enjoying the solitude of his room by relaxing on his couch

Living in a rural area might not be such a good idea for a restless Millennial these days. The younger generation wants to live their lives at full speed and to socialize as often as possible. When you find a real estate agent to buy a house, he or she knows the home-buying behavior of each generation. Real estate professionals know who is more likely to rent than to buy, or who is willing to get a roommate in order to lower their housing costs.  

Ask an introvert, “Is it better to live by yourself or with a roommate?” and he or she will probably say that living alone is far better. Sharing a house with someone is not an option for introverts as most of them don’t enjoy too much human interaction. However, let’s see the main pros and cons of living with a roommate:

The PROS of living with a roommate

  • Sharing the cost of utilities and other bills
  • Splitting the monthly mortgage/rent payment. (You don’t have to make an even split. You should try to calculate the percentage of the house that you’re sharing. Your roommate may be responsible for only 40% of your mortgage/rent.) 
  • Having someone to hang out with from time to time
  • Get help with cleaning and maintenance
  • Sharing a home-cooked dinner every now and then instead of eating out
  • Getting a second opinion from fashion to romance, or even the motivation you lack to do what you planned
  • Your roommate may become a friend for life

The CONS of living with a roommate

  • Less intimacy and privacy. You’ll always think that the walls have ears. You may even have to go outside to speak on the phone. 
  • Your roommate might be messier than you, so it wouldn’t be fair to split the chores evenly between you. 
  • Hectic schedule and lifestyle
  • Might be unreliable and constantly late on payments
  • You will have to compromise

So, what do you think now? Is it better to live by yourself or with a roommate? If all you are looking for is to minimize the housing costs, then you have to live with someone. And ideally, that someone should be your age and the same gender. Otherwise, you may end up in a relationship that no longer serves your initial purpose. Cohabiting is a completely different story. And whether it is a good idea to move in with your significant other before marriage or not we are not going to discuss in this article.

How to find a roommate for an apartment?

young girl checking online how to find a good roommate

You can find yourself in one of the following contexts. You are either the owner of the apartment or the tenant, under a lease agreement. When you are renting, you already have to abide by the rules imposed by the landlord, so you’re taking on another responsibility, making sure that your roommate complies and won’t create you any problems. But when your roommate doesn’t pay the rent, it may affect your credit score. 

When you are the owner, you must make the payment from your own pocket but, since you already got the loan, your credit score doesn’t matter so much unless you want to apply for another loan. If your roommate damages anything, you don’t have to report further. The challenge will be to make your roomie pay for repairments. Anyway, renting and sharing a dwelling come with pros and cons as you could see above. 

How to find a roommate for an apartment? The word of mouth might work in this situation, especially if you are a student. Talk to your fellows and someone might know the right person for you. Finding a roommate through recommendations is best. Another good idea would be to start with your close friends. And don’t exclude family members either. You might find that your sibling is looking for a room, too. Being somewhat acquainted with your roommate should make the transition smooth for both of you. 

Another option is to go online and search the main websites created for this purpose: 

  • Craigslist
  • Roomiematch[dot]com
  • Roommates[dot]com
  • The Roomie app
  • Roomster[dot]com

When you find a roommate, it’s better to meet before you sign a lease agreement and decide whether you can split the money required upfront when renting your first apartment.

How long should you live with a roommate?

guy with beard holding an alarm clock in his hand

Ideally, you should have a life-companion for all your years. At first, a stranger or a friend becomes your roommate, helping you make ends meet and keep up with the monthly payments. After a while, though, you will want to replace that roommate with someone you love, with your spouse. The worst thing though is to see a happy couple transition from lovers to roommates and then to complete strangers. Divorce in real estate is like an effervescent pill – homes and cars get sold, furniture and appliances end up in garage sales, and memories are thrown in the trash bin. 

Should you rent a room as a married couple? John L., a Scottsdale real estate agent, had spent a few years in London where renters seem to outnumber landlords. He confessed that he had met young families who had been renting one bedroom out of six in a two-story house for years. Another couple has never lived alone since they had gotten married. John said that this situation was common especially among young immigrants who don’t plan to move there permanently. He also advises couples moving to the USA to give up their privacy for a while until they figure everything out. After all, renting is the last step before homeownership. 

Renting can be a great way to live for free in your dream home. How is that possible? Well if your credit score allows it, you may embark on a jumbo loan or whatever type of loan is necessary to purchase a multi-family house such as a triplex or fourplex. In this case, when you make one unit your primary residence, you can lease the other remaining units and let others pay your mortgage. This concept is working great for many young real estate investors, so give it a try! And if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave a comment.


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