Marriage + a Roommate
Would you live with a married couple? Or, would you allow a roommate to live with you and your spouse? On three separate occasions we've had a roommate live with us in our house -- and each time they approached us. We didn't have an ad out to fill our guest bedroom, but the opportunities arose and we didn't have a hard time saying yes. We actually were approached a fourth time by a potential renter but in the end both parties decided it would not be the best fit.
As with any living arrangement, there are pros and cons to be considered:
- Rent. We certainly weren't looking to make a lot of money off our roommates, but we knew our water bill would be higher while they were showering, cooking and washing their clothes at our house. Our roommates got a nice sized bedroom and a bathroom and I think we asked $300/month.
- Company. Our friend Brenna lived with us two summers in a row, and during one of those, Eric had a second job. Not only is she one of my best friends, but because Eric wasn't around two evenings a week it was nice to have her company.
- Doing good. Eric lived with a married couple between his junior and senior years of college for a very low rent, and it was a great arrangement for him. We felt having roommates of our own was our opportunity to pay it forward.
- Less privacy. You don't feel comfortable walking around in your underwear or cuddling on the couch when you have a roommate (and I certainly wouldn't have wanted to make them uncomfortable). You also have an audience for your arguments. It didn't cramp our style too much, but it's always in the back of your mind.
- Obligation. Depending on your roommate, you may also feel obligated to hang out with them. We didn't have this issue (actually, I felt like I never saw our roommates!).
- Less room for other guests. This is probably self-explanatory, but once we rented out our second bedroom (which is now Rooney's nursery), we had no other bedroom left for other guests if they wished to come stay with us. This did cause an issue once when my mom wanted to come stay.
Since we had three experiences with renters, by the end we had established a couple rules that really made things easier for us:
- Move-out date. Each time we had a roommate, we knew an approximate move-out date. No one lived with us more than five months, and that certainly helped us to know what we were getting ourselves into. That way, there were no hard feelings or us thinking they had overstayed their welcome.
- Communication. We didn't set a curfew (since they were responsible adults and we weren't their parents), but we did ask for a tentative schedule of comings and goings. It was nice to know when they would be home at night so we could lock up the house and not worry if they were OK. (They had a key to our house, of course, but it gave us peace of mind knowing what time they could be expected home.)
- Set expectations. You'll also want to discuss boundaries and talk about basic things like when payment is due, if they can eat your food and use your TV, etc. Will they be asked to empty the dishwasher or wash their own dishes? Will you be sharing bread or milk, or buying separate groceries? Who will clean the bathroom?
A funny* story: While our friend Brenna was living with us, I accidentally** put a metal pan in our microwave. I ran to the bathroom and when I came back, the metal pan had melted a hole through our microwave door. It was embarrassing, and when Eric came home and saw it (he spotted it right as he came in the door so I didn't have time to explain myself before he got upset) it was not pretty. During our discussion and research of microwaves, I realized it was going to cost $800 to replace our over-the-range microwave. We were bummed. Luckily, Brenna stepped in and asked, "Don't you just need to replace the microwave door?" She was totally right and saved us more than $700!
Now that we have a kid, we've decided we won't have any more roommates, although it could sort of be like a live-in babysitter, if that was part of your arrangement...
This post was inspired by the recent article "Would You Live With a Married Couple?" in the New York Post.
*It's funny now. It wasn't at the time. **OK, it wasn't an accident, but I really didn't think anything bad would happen...