Dear Splitwise returns this week to settle the issue of shelf space in a fridge that is owned by a roommate. This is common in places like Europe, where household appliances being included with a rental isn’t necessarily the norm.
I live with three other people in a four-bedroom share house. One of my housemates owns a 400L fridge. She uses between 40-60% of the fridge space, depending on how much food she has at the time. She also claims sole use of the largest and most convenient shelf (there are only three shelves, so no-one else can have their own shelf) and says that this is fair because it is her fridge. If we wanted to have unfettered fridge access, then we should supply our own fridge.
The problem with this – aside from the logistical issues with placing multiple fridges in an average-sized, inner-suburban house – is that the kitchen of a shared house is shared space. We all rent that space. If a housemate wants to carve out a fridge empire or own other large ungainly objects that others can’t freely use, they should do so in their bedroom and leave the common areas to be used equally by all housemates.
I feel odd linking to a NASDAQ page about shared real estate, but there was a nice article on one of the NASDAQ blogs recently about renting out rooms of a house or apartment that you own – that is, being a landlord in your own home. Apparently, the 2011 US Census has concluded that over 30% of households in the US now have unrelated adults living together, which comes to 69M roommates (and a 10.7% increase over the 2007 figure). This means the potential market for property owners to share their residence with renters is increasing rather quickly.
Renting part of a place you own is an appealing option for people who are living in a house that is now too big for them to afford. For instance, parents who have an empty-nest can rent out their kids old bedroom to get some retirement income. Or a young professional who wants to go back to graduate school can get some positive cash flow if they own some property.
If you’re able to get a mortgage, renting out the other rooms of a residence can also be a good way to live affordably while slowly buying the place you’re sharing. With interest rates low, and the sale-price-to rental-price-ratio declining in many major US cities, it’s getting easier and easier to pull-off paying off a mortgage with rental income.
The main trick to doing this well yourself is to find and keep good tenants / roommates, which can be a tough proposition. Finding roommates means ensuring your personal security and doing appropriate tenant screening. There are also a couple of things to watch out for: have some legal protection, pay taxes, and follow Fair Housing rules when advertising for tenants. (the NASDAQ article does not mention this, but the exact rules of fair housing legislation seem more subtle now in light of a recent court case).
One of my passions is to help people be fair to their roommates. But how fair are you required to be to your potential roommates? Roommate.com is a popular roommate finding site, which allows you to search for roommates based on sex, age, sexual orientation, and family status. Is this fair? The Fair Housing Council of San Fernando Valley thought not, and the case landed in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Continue reading Court Allows Discrimination in Roommate Selection
“Should we split the check?” This dinner table cliché is just one part of an age-old sharing conundrum: should group costs be divided evenly among all parties, or allocated based on actual usage?
On holiday vacations with friends or other families, we are frequently confronted with these anxiety-inducing decisions. Items like lodging and transportation are often paid in advance, and a single person will often purchase groceries or supplies for the whole group. To add to the confusion, people will occasionally lend each other money (“Don’t worry, I’ll cover you and you can pay me back”).
It’s never pleasant to deal with these questions after the fact, so allow me to present some original research and a helpful tool that should take the stress out of settling the bills. While some cost-sharing choices remain a matter of personal taste, there is broad consensus on how to share the most significant vacation expenses. Continue reading How To Split A Shared Vacation House
With the financial crisis still fresh on our minds and wallets, sharing costs and being thrifty has become increasingly important for many people around the world. SeveralUSnewspapers wrote stories this week about how having roommates is often part the solution to dealing with a tough economy.
In this “Dear Splitwise”, we return to the always tricky issue of live-in significant others.
If my roommate has his girlfriend move in, what would be a fair price for him to pay me additionally? My roommate currently pays $435.00 for his share of the rent out of $995.00 per month. Electric is a total of $210.00 (which we split two ways) and cable is $60.00 each. He only wants to pay $50.00 more per month, which is way too cheap. What would be a fair amount for her share of rent and utilities per month? He’s trying to justify the low amount by saying she’s not going to use TV even though there is TV with cable in his room.
I think that many Americans share a similar mythology about roommates – it’s a challenge that happens in college, or in your 20s, on the quest of growing up. Part of this myth is the horrors that must be overcome to save money. The often-discussed issues of dirty dishes, loud noises, and unpaid bills lead us to think that the only way to be civilized is to escape from shared dwellings as soon as possible.
While not everyone makes a good roommate, sharing living space with good people can make you so much happier. I found this article by Leilani Clark a heartwarming story about how her new housemates cook, brew and grow things together, and how it cured the loneliness she felt after a divorce. (I found the article via a google alert). Continue reading Living Alone Is Overrated