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Renting out rooms, finding a roommate is like fishing

A Common Question I get from readers weekly: 

What’s the likelihood of having one or two of the rooms being rented out given my proximity to a certain university or being located in <insert description of a popular place here> a certain area of town.
I completely understand the rationale for the question – you want to buy a house and rent out a room, but you’re a little worried that you might have a hard time finding a roommate and be a little hurting for cash.
This is a completely valid thought running through the minds of the aforementioned homeowners especially if you’re cutting your expenses close to what you’re taking in. But to predict the probability of a roommate moving-in given a certain location or description of the house is extremely difficult.  The best analogy I can think of is fishing.
A fisherman goes fishing in a lake or ocean because he knows that there are fish in the water. To predict whether he will catch a fish on a given day depends on which fish passes by his bait and how attractive it looks to them.  Additionally, a fisherman who’s more diligent will probably end up with better results than say a fisherman who’s less diligent. Likewise with renting out a room, the potential to finding a roommates depends on all the attributes of a fisherman trying to catch a fish.  It depends on the timing of a roommate passing by your advertisement and the appealing nature of the room and terms.  If you’re more diligent in finding a roommate by getting your message out, you’re more apt to find a roommate.
There’s no simple answer as to how easy it will be to find a roommate given that they purchased a house in a certain town or location. Now, I don’t want to discourage anyone, but here’s some advice for first time and future homeowners:
  • Put yourself out there – Without throwing a line, you’re never going to catch a fish.  You as the homeowner, like the fisherman knowing there are fish out there, know that there are people looking to for a place to live, by taking action you’ll be sure to get some “bites.”  Naturally as the fisherman gains more experience and tweaks his approach to fishing, you’ll surely tweak your approach to finding a roommate to see what works best.
  • Be Diligent – There are probably fisherman who have made many fishing trips without catching a fish or even a bite, but they’ve never given up.  Likewise with renting out a room, if you get discouraged too quickly because of the lack of result, you’ll be making the task much harder on yourself.  I’ve gone several months without a roommate and I can say those months without the extra income are bit of let down, you have to keep yourself focused on the goal, which why I stress the importance of setting a goal before renting out a room(There’s more about this in my “Quick Start Guide.”)
  • Never rely on your rental income – Never strap yourself into a mortgage where you’ll need the extra income from your roommates to make the monthly mortgage payments.  This seems obvious, but I’m sure some people will say “oh, I can afford this place if I can just get one roommate.”  This is wrong.  It’s important not to rely on an unsteady source of income every month.
Be the fisherman, go out there and throw a line out in the water and see what opportunities will arise.
What do you think of the fishing analogy to renting out a room?

Creative Commons License photo credit: raneko

{ 1 comment }
  • Tri May 14, 2012, 6:01 am

    The last point is something I gotta keep reminding myself. Thanks for taking the time out to answer my question Mike!

    Reply

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