My writings have all been from my male perspective of renting out a room, but what happens if you’re a female and want to or have to rent out a room? As expected, it’s kind of tough for me to write about a female perspective. So I did the next best thing – I found a female homeowner who does what I do. Without further ado, I would like to introduce Linda who blogs over at awindycitygirl.
Last year, I decided to rent out rooms in my house to boost my savings and defray the costs of home ownership. To some people this may have seemed like a radical step for me, a woman in my early 40’s, to take. To me, it seemed like a sensible way for a newly-divorced person to address the financial blow that goes with the divorce process, and to soften the transition to being on my own again.
I had wanted to keep the house for many reasons, but after the divorce I was left with pretty much just the house and no cash assets. I had no emergency fund, and since I would now be self-supporting I thought it was very important to get one established as soon as possible. Not having children meant that I had rooms to spare and only my own life would be impacted by the decision to rent those rooms to others.
As the idea to rent rooms took shape for me, I sought out information from others I knew who had recently lived with roommates or were landlords. A colleague at work who owns and lives in a two-flat building (two separate living units in one building) told me her personal experiences in screening tenants to live in the unit below her. Another friend who had shared a three-bedroom apartment for many years gave me advice on screening roommates to find the best fit. I also scanned the Internet for sample roommate questionnaires and rental agreement forms, and found a few that could be adapted for my purposes.
One of the questions I asked my colleague and my renting friend was how they found their tenant or roommate. While putting a “For Rent” sign in the window may have worked for my colleague, I live on a little-traveled side street and knew that wouldn’t work for me. Everyone else I talked to told me the best way to get my listing out there was to use Craigslist. Part of my research time was spent reviewing rental and shared housing listings, and I wrote several drafts of my rental listing before I was ready to post it.
I had decided to rent the entire second floor of my house: two bedrooms and a separate bathroom. I was quite comfortable living on the first floor of the house where I had my own bedroom and bathroom. The kitchen and laundry facilities would be shared. In my rental listing I did not specify preference for a female roommate. I wanted to get many responses to my listing so I had several options from which to choose, and limiting by gender wasn’t going to help me achieve that goal. Based on my neighborhood (quiet, residential, no nightlife or cafés) I expected to receive responses mainly from older singles like myself, or possibly a couple.
The same day I posted my rental on Craigslist, I got a response I had never expected to have interest – two male students in their mid-twenties. I met or talked on the phone to others who responded to my post, but these two young men were the ones that (surprisingly) seemed the best fit. After meeting in-person and talking with them, as well as checking references, I based my decision on schedules, habits, and security. Our schedules would ensure that the house would never be unoccupied for long, and I thought having men in the house also would offer a better measure of safety from intruders. One of the guys was moving straight from his mother’s household and the other had been sharing apartments with others for years. The former guy’s lack of experience in living with others would be a risk, but his references were very complimentary.
It’s now just over a year later and I only have one of the roommates remaining. After nearly a year, I had to terminate the agreement with the inexperienced roommate due to his breaking a key part of the written agreement: he brought home a puppy not just once, but twice, despite the prohibition against pets. Terminating him as a roommate was a bit stressful to me since I dreaded a protracted struggle to get him to leave. But I had been clear to him about the pet prohibition, given him more than one chance to address the infraction, and my manner in confronting him was direct and matter-of-fact. He apparently understood and moved out within the time-frame specified in the written termination, leaving only normal wear and tear in his room. He has come back to the house a few times to visit his friend who remains living here, and we’ve had cordial conversations during those visits.
I think my ex-roommate may have looked at me as sort of a “house mother,” too, and I was uncomfortable with that role. His habits in the kitchen were less than desirable to me and I was tired of encountering sticky appliance and cupboard handles and having to toss out food he had let rot in the refrigerator. I was left with the impression that his mother must have cleaned up after him a lot, and even his friend admitted that it was hard getting him to clean their shared bathroom and hallway.
My remaining roommate and I have developed a respectful and friendly relationship with each other. Traveling for business and leisure has become much better for me knowing that the house isn’t sitting empty. He even takes care of my two dogs while I’m gone, saving me kennel fees. I’ve developed such trust in him that I lend him my car on occasions when public transit is insufficient, too.
I achieved my original objective of saving up an emergency fund, and have also been able to save for travel and car replacement. I’ve enjoyed getting to know my roommates and the different perspectives they bring due to our varied backgrounds, ages and genders. While I’ve decided not to fill the open bedroom with a new roommate right now, I’d definitely consider renting to a man when I’m ready to get someone new.
With only one roommate I am much more comfortable, although I am missing out on the full income I could be getting. Even though we don’t spend a lot of face-to-face time with each other, it’s comforting knowing there’s another person just upstairs who I can call on for help if needed. Overall, I’d say “the roommate experiment” (as I referred to it with friends) has been quite successful and worth repeating.
Thanks Linda for sharing your experience and thoughts. I’m sure some of my readers enjoyed your story. For those of you that are wondering who she asked for references from on the two mid 20’s roommates, she asked current and past roommates to determine whether their character was inline from what the they claimed to be. This is a great tips for anyone looking to determine the legitimacy of your potential roommate.