Talk to me about roommates... - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 05-27-2010, 04:45 AM - Thread Starter
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(mods, please move this if this isn't the right spot. I wasn't 100% certain where it should go)

DP and I decided we are going to try to find a roommate (or a few) to move in with to lower our living expenses. We love our apartment, but we can't afford it really, and we could save so much money if we start paying what's average for half a two bedroom around here. Neither of us have ever had roommates before.

I got an email from an aquantence (my doula teacher) saying she and her mom and her daughter are still looking for a roommate, so I sent them an email, saying if they might be interested in having a couple instead of a single person, we should meet up (all of us, I haven't met her mom, and they haven't met my DP), and see if we might work as roommates. I don't know if that will work out or not.

I was thinking of sending out a bunch of emails and messages to friends and family, seeing if maybe there are some friends of a friend who might be looking for roommates as well. The idea of posting on craigslist or something is kind of scary to us.

We definitely want to live with either a single woman, a couple or a small family. (I wouldn't be comfortable living with a single man, somehow another couple doesn't seem to bother me so much.) We would love to become friends with out housemates, but have lots of apart time too. Like, sharing some meals, and hanging out together some, but lots of apart time too, as we're really quite, private people.

I guess we're thinking of looking for the roommate and then the apt/house? We can't find a room, and pay for it while looking for a roommate.

Anyways, neither of us have had a roommate before. Please shower me with advice about finding a good roommate, being a good roommate, getting along with roommates, anything at all. Thanks!

Caroline, partner to J, post partum doula, kitchen manager, aspiring midwife, soon to be nursing student, mama to my furbaby, someday a mama to not so furry munchkins, G-d willing
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#2 of 6 Old 05-27-2010, 11:38 AM
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I'd be cautious about moving in with friends. I've heard too many horror stories about moving in with your bestest and not being able to get out/away fast enough.

That being said, if there are clear guidlines and you're good matches, then who knows!

I'd be very clear about whose is whose, what are common spaces, what time they can be used, the schedule for cleaning/cooking, rules for laundry, fridge and kitchen space, etc.

Good luck! I've been toying more about the idea of living with other people and can see how it could be totally awesome or totally disasterous depending on how it works out once you're all walking the walk.

Oh....and personally, I think I'd find the place first and the roomate second. I know I wouldn't commit to moving in with someone unless I knew WHERE that would be first and had a feel for the place.

Is staying where you are and only renting out the room to a student or something an option? Then you still get your space and your kitchen just with a person who's sometimes around.

ETA: I wouldn't rule out finding a perfect stranger. You can still do an interview, reference checks, credit checks, etc. and be perfectly comfortable with the arrangement.

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#3 of 6 Old 05-27-2010, 01:16 PM
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You say you are more comfortable with a couple than with a single person, but there are no guarantees that the relationship would last, same as if you got a family as roommates. You just never know. How would you feel if the woman left the housing situation? If that would be a huge problem then maybe you ought to stick to just single women or single mothers, and stipulate that she can not have anyone else move in with her. Just a thought...
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#4 of 6 Old 05-27-2010, 01:51 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm not thinking about moving in with close friends, I don't think any of my (few) close friends would be interested. I'm just hoping we would become friends with the roommate over time, not nessicarily close friends, but someone we got along with, and spent some time with.

Renting out a room here isn't an option, we live in a studio.

I don't think it would be a huge problem if the woman of a couple left the housing situation after we'd gotten to know them both, because presumably by then, I would have gotten to know the man and put him in a "safe" mental catagory, where I was comfortable around him. But I doubt I would have time to get to know him well enough to do that while looking for roommates. Definitely single women or single moms would probably be preferable to me, but I think I'd be ok with a couple in the right circumstances.

Oh....and personally, I think I'd find the place first and the roomate second. I know I wouldn't commit to moving in with someone unless I knew WHERE that would be first and had a feel for the place.
Why? I thought it would be better to meet the person, then find a space that would work for all of us. (there are a lot of rentals in this area, a lot to choose from) and how? what if we found the place, signed a lease, and then didn't find a roommate right away? I'm not sure we could pay first month and a deposit on a larger place, even when we were considering moving to a smaller, less expensive studio, we are going to have to borrow money from my parents to pay the security deposit, until we get ours back on this one (or at least most of it, we know they might hold some of it back.)

Thanks for the advice.

Caroline, partner to J, post partum doula, kitchen manager, aspiring midwife, soon to be nursing student, mama to my furbaby, someday a mama to not so furry munchkins, G-d willing
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#5 of 6 Old 05-27-2010, 03:56 PM
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Okay.... I have been a roommate in several scenarios and my dad has been a landlord/owner with roommates under several circumstances.

I lived in five roommate situations in my 20s:
1) Acquaintance rented two bedroom cottage from landlord (who lived in other cottage on same property) and I moved into the second bedroom after she'd been there for awhile. Awkward for many reasons. Main lesson learned: Get to know an acquaintance better before living together; don't assume you'll do well together just because you have some things in common. We had plenty in common (good/average things) and yet she was addicted to men with bad habits and she didn't know how to budget and/or pay the rent and utilities on time. I paid her since I wasn't on the lease, so I was out the money when the power was cut off. The landlord was easy-going, so rent wasn't an issue but it was late all the time and I felt very uncomfortable with that.

2) When the above roommate's boyfriend broke into our house (with me in the house on the phone with 911) for his drug stash, which I previously had no idea existed, I decided a stranger would be infinitely better! This was before online avenues existed, so I used our local off-beat paper (limited readership vs only major paper in major city) to find a single woman offering a room in her home. I found a woman 10 years older than me who owned a two bedroom two bath condo. I instantly felt safe in her condo and around her. We had a terrific roommate situation for a number of years until she fell in love and her boyfriend moved in and then they decided to get married and raise a family. The three of us got along great, too. They needed to sell the condo in order to buy a house in a family-oriented neighborhood. The main lessons learned here: a) Trust your instincts! b) Work out details like cleaning, cooking, laundry BEFORE you sign a lease. She had this in writing for me to see before signing a lease and paying a deposit. I could live with her rules easily, but some friends thought I was crazy. c) If you do end up going with a "stranger", do a phone interview first. I ruled out a ton of places based on that alone.

3) When the wonderful situation above was ending (with ample notice and consideration), I decided I wanted a little more control over my residence. This time, I used the same resource (off-beat paper), but looked for a more equal partnership. I found a single woman roughly my age in a two bed two bath apartment where her current roommate was moving for a job. All three of us met and we all liked each other. (The roommate who was staying was going to have to move if she didn't find a replacement, so the outgoing roommate was still there. I was fine with meeting them both. I could have done it differently.) This situation was perfect for about a year when she met the man of her dreams and moved into his house (ample notice). We were both on the lease and were responsible for half the rent paid directly to the management company. I don't recall how the utilities were set up, but we each had our own landline phones (my dad is an electrician and did this for me in the above condo and taught me along the way). We had a perfect blend of "togetherness" and alone/private time. We hung out together at home and went out to dinner and clubs sometimes, but we had our own circles of friends.

4) When the above roommate let me know about moving in with her boyfriend, I decided to find a new roommate and stay put. I put in an ad in the same paper I had always used, plus I sent emails to everyone I knew for friends of friends, etc. I ended up with a male roommate whom everyone liked. (I didn't meet with him alone. He invited me to his then-current place to a party with some friends of mine.) We had a great time being roommates! We threw Academy Award parties (his big thing) and pool parties (my idea) and probably spent the most "together" time of any roommate situation, but still had our privacy. We isn't gay and neither am I, but we never were attracted to each other in a romantic way. Main lessons learned: a) Don't be afraid to try new things. b) Look for what you want, but don't expect it in the same ol' package. This man kept our apt as neat as I did and we never had to discuss a thing (after the initial chit-chat about housecleaning standards). He was the most hassle-free roommate I ever had on many levels. c) Trust your instincts and take people with you when you are not comfortable meeting a new person.

5) So, as luck would have it, the above perfect roommate situation was ended when a good friend of mine was moving across country and he had the best set-up ever and was inviting me to take over. I have known this friend since my 17th birthday and we had a long, complicated history. He is a good guy, though, and he promised me I'd be happy. I trusted him. I moved into a house by the beach and shared the house with a widowed grandmother. I had my own wing of the house, closed off by two doors (one from living room and one from laundry room) with three bedrooms and one bathroom. I had exclusive use of two bedrooms and shared use of the kitchen, laundry, bathroom (in my wing), garage, and backyard. For most of the time I lived there, the empty bedroom was a guest room and rarely used. I was able to use it for my mom and dad (separately) and my aunt. My housemate used it for her grandchildren. I only paid rent and my own phone here. No utilities. We had no heat or A/C, which was fine, and she didn't want to deal with shared bills. I set up the smaller room as my bedroom and the larger room as a studio: small sofa, small dining table, desk, etc. Living at the beach was really, really fun! Main lessons learned here: a) It is hard to go from equal control/partnership to living in someone's owned property where they also live. It wasn't a BIG deal or I would have moved, but it is important to note it was a lot easier for me before I had the equal partnership roommates. b) You never know when situations will change. My housemate retired during my time there and she needed more money. She raised my rent a reasonable amount and then got another roommate for that third bedroom. I went from basically having my own wing, including easy, private access to the bathroom, to sharing the hallway and bathroom...with a man I didn't like.

I moved out when DH and I met and fell in love and decided to get married.


I'm adding my dad's experiences now. My dad found himself all alone in a rented house, stuck in a lease, due to our family falling apart. (He created the mess himself, but did finally take positive action towards bettering himself.) He found random roommates to fill all three bedrooms (except his) and put up with a lot of crap in order to save enough money to buy his first house in CA. (He had owned homes in Colorado 7-8 years prior.) He learned the hard way.

When he purchased his house, he went about finding roommates in new ways and mostly had good roommates. He owned and rented out rooms for 15 or so years. The best situations for him were men who were in that area (Bay Area) strictly for work. They pretty much stayed during the week, working all day, and then going elsewhere most weekends. Sometimes, he had roommates who worked with him and they'd carpool and save time and money. This was during the Silicon Valley boom and his house was in a good location. He made good money sharing his house and he became financially savvy along the way.

The worst roommates he had were the friends he took in like stray animals. He unwittingly enabled their existing issues and they sucked him dry until he finally wised up and kicked them out. (I can think of at least two such "friends", but there may have been more since I didn't live in that area.)

He was forced to retire early and he waited a year or so before selling that house at the height of the boom. When he moved down here to be close to me (only child for all intents and purposes and his only grandchild), he was able to purchase his house outright and he has since purchased two places in a retirement community in AZ (one condo and one single-level detached home). He rents out the places in AZ to snowbirds and visits himself during late spring and late Fall (tolerable times there, weather-wise, on either end of his renters' contracts). He lives here otherwise and doesn't have any renters here, but he did take in one "stray" for a period of time. That didn't last long, thank goodness.

He chose his properties well in AZ. The condo had a regular tenant for certain months and the previous owners had a few tenants over another few months. Dad contacted them all and had new contracts worked out for everyone's benefits. His rental income for the condo (5 months) completely covers all his expenses for the entire year. He has a plan to sell this place and make a profit.

The house had regular tenants for the typical snowbird months and Dad contacted them through the management company to inquire about staying on before he even decided to purchase. They worked out an even better deal all the way around. Dad stays here now when he goes to AZ, so he doesn't want another tenant. He could get one and completely cover his expenses, as with the condo, but he chose to enjoy this place and pay that opportunity cost. He really likes the retirement community where both places are located and may end up moving there more of the year.

He communicates directly with his tenants because he had years of experience already. Most other homeowners in this development use a management company. They offer roommate finder services, too, not just tenants.

Best wishes! I hope all this jabbering helps you in some way (or someone else)!!!

"Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless." - Mother Teresa

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#6 of 6 Old 06-02-2010, 06:29 AM
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I haven't lived alone since I had a single dorm in college! For the past few years, I've lived in co-ops. If you have these in your area, it might be worth taking a look. They tend to be inexpensive and have rules that govern how things work in the house. My experience has always been that I can be alone when I want to be alone, and chill out in common areas when I want someone to talk to. I've found my experiences with co-ops to be much better than plain ol' roommate situations.

Mom to Thora, born at home 9/28/2011. Currently in Madison, WI, but gearing up for a move to Providence, RI in August! I'd love to meet some folks.
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