Roommate Route

The Roommate Route

The idea of guys being roommates used to be more popular than it is now.  When women live together, they are roommates saving money.  Guys living together is sometimes thought of as, call it something more.  This is a sad thing, because two can really live as cheaply as one.  You really should look into this.

First Rent a Rom

When you first leave home, instinct is to find an apartment.  This can cost.  If you get a decent place in a commercial complex at best you will pay perhaps $700, probably more.  I paid about $550 20 years ago!  You can look for someone renting half a duplex or small studio converted on the cheap, it will still be probably $500.  You will in nearly every case have to pay some kind of utilities.  Electric, gas, and cable are common.  Water used to be included, less so now, that could go both ways.  Rarely will you have a washer/drier in your unit, so every laundry day plan on spending $5-10 for all your loads.  Easy to get your monthly nut up to almost $1,000.  This is to rent, money you will never see again.

I got an apartment because back in the day it was not easy to find a roommate.  You would buy a newspaper and see 2-3 ads.  I needed a place fast, so I just got an apartment.  I had two in two cities, both nice, the second nicer than the first.  I got eaten alive in cost.  Worse, I became a real prisoner to my job since I did make decent money and if I lost it I would take a big pay cut.  How people made due on what the average job seemed to pay I had no idea.  Later I bought a nice enough house, still hadn’t gotten the modern minimalists thing down.  I hoped to rent a room out to defray costs, so I got it a little.  Ad ad was I forget how much but IIRC $100 or more.  All for again IIRC 3 calls, none of which worked out.  Eventually I had to throw in the towel, relocate, sell, and start small.


Better Way

I traveled across the country, Rochester, NY to Phoenix.  I had to be told about craigslist. which was just coming big at the time.  I was amazed!  Before I left I started checking ads (my employer knew I was transferring and took a blind eye towards my looking at work, which I was in fact allowed to do by company transfer policy.)  I WAS AMAZED!  Dozens and dozens of ads.  I was answering them before I left.  I found an initial place in a week!  I moved my meager personal items that were not with the movers in, meeting 1 of 2 other guys renting rooms from the landlord.  In minutes we had kitchen storage decided, an hour later we hit the grocery store, and by that night 6 hours later we were having beers, overlooking ASU football fans letting out, telling each other our life stories.

The cost per month was a measly $400!  That is $500 today.  I had not sold my house, so had I went my own place I would have been completely broke.  Even later, it saved my butt over a higher cost place.  At the time, and probably now, it seemed EVERYONE in Phoenix had some sort of roommate or border.  Housing was on fire, so unless you made six figures you had to do this.  It gave a real sense of adventure.  Times ebbed and flowed, as they do in any situation, but the savings were worth it.

Your Roadmap

Getting the small place may not be an option.  Your city may not have affordable, small, old stock housing as if the first choice.  Or it does but you prefer this route to live in a more modern and large place.  Follow some simple steps and save yourself grief.

Pick the Right Place

If you are staying local and living somewhere, look for some time, weeks if needed, to find the right situation.  First thing is location.  What part of town do you want to live in?  Some people do roommate situations so they can live in the cool, hipster part of town.  Others need to be near work.  This part is kind of easy, unless you are new in town as I was.  Then it is a matter of reading a map, seeing what is close, and paying attention so you are not in a ghetto with a high crime rate.

Check out the room and the roommates, if you can.  The room of course you had better get to see.  Decide if the house feels “comfortable” to you.  Do the people seem nice.  Is it clean?  Ask about parking, laundry, and other nuts and bolts questions.  Do you have “house privileges” for all the common areas or does the owner expect you to limit yourself to a few rooms?  Do you have your own bathroom? How about parking?  This all affects your life, be sure to get answers.

Sign and Settle In

Sign some sort of lease.  Avoid signing anything more than 6 months, you do not want to lock in to a place you hate and be stuck.  Should you bolt, it is unlikely they will take legal action, but they may.  DO NOT PUT YOUR NAME ON MORE THAN A LEASE!  You are renting a room.  Cable, electric, water, everything else is their problem.  DO NOT AGREE TO “SPLIT UTILITIES.”  Say you want a simple price for the room, all included.  People who try to get you to even split everything tend to be trouble, and a high utility bill is a surprise you do not need.

Be quiet and settle in.  Don’t step on toes, don’t make a mess, don’t cook stinky food.  You might be best friends with everyone in the place, you might have a minimal relationship.  Remember, living is the first priority.  At that first place in Phoenix the landlord talked to me all of a minute the first month, brief conversation then to ask for the rent!  Another place I was there 5 minutes and helping the owner get a mortgage refinanced, it takes all kinds.

One more thing.  Renting a room in someone’s house is not like renting an apartment.  Owners are allowed to discriminate who they take.  If you see an ad that wants a certain age or race, that is how it is.  Move to the next ad.  I saw ads that said vegetarians only, others that told people who watched Fox News to look elsewhere.  On the last one, I did!  Don’t be a social justice warrior type, do you really want to live in that kind of tension?

Move On if You Must

Roommates are not forever.  That first place, it lasted 3 months.  The owner would lock himself in his suite area, maybe said hello if he passed us.  He was 29 and we were all 8 or more years older than he was.  To this day I think he was scared to death of the three older guys.  The location was not so good for one guy and the other wanted his own place.  I just didn’t care for it after I got the lay of the town.  Off we all went, our own ways.  Ships that passed in the night.  I looked on GoogleMaps once and was not even sure which house we lived in!

Flipping It

Eventually, you will probably end up buying a place.  When you do, if it is not the minimalist type house described as ideal, consider renting out some rooms!  The process is just reversed.  Decide if you like the person.  Limit the lease time.  Set a flat price.  But for crying out loud, never, ever I mean ever buy a home that you have to rent rooms out to make the monthly payment.  That is a recipe for disaster.  You will take people you do not like and have no end of misery.

Summing it Up

Privacy is what you make of it, but company is nice.  Who you meet is amazing.  One roommate I had was a gun broker.  I come home from work, get out of the car, and he asks how it is going.  He was carrying an Uzi.  My reply was, “You know, if before I left someone told me I was going to come home and see my roommate carrying a machine gun across the lawn and I would think it was normal I would have said they were nuts!”  He got a real kick out of that!

Some guys rent rooms out well past age 35, as much for the company as the money.  Just be careful who you rent to.  It could end up like living in a sitcom!