Living in community.

Girl Ninja and I love our current rental. We have a sweet landlord and really affordable rent. Even though our lease is up in April, we will likely stay here through June so GN can finish out the school year (her work is only 4 miles away). The only downside to our tiny little abode is, well exactly what I said, it’s tiny. Without a garage, a second closet, or a kitchen pantry, space is extremely limited (we’re still rocking plastic tubs underneath our bed). We could definitely use a few more square feet.

Since Girl Ninja and I like keeping our housing payments well below our means, we aren’t really interested in coughing up some dough to rent a bigger place. But, and this is a big butt but, we would totally be willing to go back to the days of college and find roommates. Communal living at it’s finest.

Well, not just any roommates. More like two of our really close friends, that are renters, that are married, and would be willing to live with us. Unfortunately, not too many people fit that billet.

Our rent is $975/month for 700 square feet of living space. If we bumped our budget up to $2,000/month though, we could literally rent a three or four bedroom home in a great location. In fact, here are a few of the available rentals in our area…

4bd, 3,000 sqft = $1,800/month
4bd, 2,500 sq/ft, brand new = $2,000/month
3bd, 4,300 sqft, full water view = $2,100/month

We can get more bang for our buck if we double our rental budget. If we lived with another couple in the first house pictured, we would have quadruple the space, quadruple the rooms, for cheaper rent than we are paying now. It almost seems silly not to do it.

Looks like Girl Ninja and I need to make a “recruiting list” and pick our favorite couples. We then will have to convince them that they hate their current living situation, that they have no desire to buy a house in the near future, and that they don’t want kids anytime soon. After we’ve brainwashed said victims potential roommates, we would then hold formal interviews and run detailed background checks. The couple with the cleanest background and the best resume becomes our new roomies. Sounds like a genius plan doesn’t it?

Okay, I know. There are definitely issues that come up when space is shared. Heck I’m already battling Girl Ninja trying to keep her on “her side” of the bed at night. Couldn’t imagine what drama might ensue with two more people in the mix. A little bit of drama is good though right? It keeps life interesting. Like The Bachelor or something.

Alright, I’m done pitching my communal living idea. Would you ever go back to the roommate lifestyle? Do you know anyone that lives like this? Does it work out for them? What are the pros and cons of communal living as you see it?!?!

35 thoughts on “Living in community.

  1. My hubby and I did this recently. We were married for a year, then when we moved to Seattle from the ‘burbs we knew we couldn’t afford the insane rents, especially since I was going back to school. We found an apartment with an old mutual friend who we had lived with in college a few years back. We knew he could handle living with a couple (he had lived with us plus 2 other couples before), he was low-maintenance, drama-free, and could speak like a grown-up about who owed who money for electricity and who needed to do the dishes. A few years after that, we added his girlfriend to the mix (another easy-going mutual friend), and we rented a 4-bed/2-bath gigantic house for super cheap.

    I highly recommend it, but definitely choose your roommates carefully! Make sure you sit down and discuss expectations about visitors, chores, bill splitting, parking situations, use of communal spaces like living rooms, decor visions, pets, and the plan when the lease is up for renewal. You don’t want to get stuck with a place if they decide to bail and you don’t want to move for another year!

  2. On another note, I fear you will be tasting the good life of having a nice, big home. Dangerous territory you are treading hehe.

  3. Ugh, I wish there was a way to edit posts… That last house would be a no brainer winner between the 3. Do the Cullens live there?

  4. Not sure if I could do this. I don’t think my wife could either but I really don’t have to think about it now. I am trying to get the kids out of the house (getting rid of my current freeloading roomies).

  5. Bathrooms (but you Americans seem to build houses with a bathroom for every bedroom). Kitchens at mealtimes can be tricky. Visitors. Cleaning. Bills. Bah!

    The only up IMO is saving money, and if you’re the social kind which I’m not, living with others could be a good thing in that respect.

    The only way I would consider flatting with others again is if we buy a house and want to go gangbusters on paying down the mortgage for a year or so before having kids.

  6. It all comes down to how good of a chemistry you have with the other couple.

    Sadly I think a lot of times people tend to lose friends and have giant messes with friend/roommates.

    Just take your time an make sure you find a couple that absolutely will fit the bill. Go to their house and have dinner a couple of times and vice versa — really make sure you know them.

    I think you are wise not to buy a home especially if you location. I have a 1700 sq foot home and it’s costing me $886 all in (plus utilities) a month, but I live in a very cheap part of America.

    Best of luck

  7. My old college roommate joke about moving back in together with our husbands, but I don’t think either one of us is really joking.

    Just make sure you have REALLY good chemistry and sorta similar lifestyles if you do it.

  8. I don’t think I could do it. Last year hubby and I moved from Toronto to Ottawa, however I moved in May (to start my new job) and he stayed to finish him MBA and came in August. We were lucky enough to have his parents offer to put us up until we found a place (moved in November). Although it was extremely generous of his parents, it was really tough to adapt to other peoples living styles and expectations. I know this is a bit different than living with roommates, but I don’t think I’m one for co-cohabiting aside from my hubby. Well at least until I turn into a Golden Girl.

  9. Besides my family, I’ve only ever had 2 roommates… my now ex, and my now husband. I know myself well enough to know I couldn’t live with a roommate, even when I was single; I like things a certain way, I like lounging in my pj’s after work, I don’t like pop-in visits… the only person I can share my space with is my Hubby.

    When we were engaged, my future in-laws offered us their basement (with full kitchen and full bath) to live rent-free in order to save money to buy a home; even though that seems to be a typical offer in their culture (they’re Eastern European), giving up my privacy for free rent just didn’t sound like a good idea. Hubby thought maybe we should take them up on the offer, but I reminded him that when he moved out to live with me, they called him all the time to come and “move this” and “fix that”; could you image if we lived under the same roof? I was 35 when I got married… I hadn’t lived with my own family in over 10 years at that point; no way did I want to live with someone else’s!

  10. My question is are you willing to submit to the same interview/background check as your potential victims (future roommates)? Seeing a mediator/counsler wouldn’t hurt either. Almost like pre-marriage counsling. Living with people really brings out their true selves and a lot of times that is not pretty. I don’t think i could ever live with anyone other than my wife (and even that’s hard sometimes).

  11. If you move now, how long do you think you’ll stay in the new place before getting your own house? Seems to me like you guys are gonna be ready to get your own place soon. Why forgo a good thing now for a shared space? It’s not like you’ll be shaving money, from the comps you presented, you’re likely to pay a higher rent if you move. Higher rent means less money saved for your own house, means a longer renting situation. Not having to share also means you have total control over how you choose to spend your money and there is less social pressure to join in on activities that might not fit in your financial plan, even the small things. You guys are doing a great job saving, sharing would only make sense if it significantly increased your savings towards your own house which this situation does not really do. Being newly weds, i should think you guys wouldn’t mind being on top of each other (pun intended).

  12. We are about to get some roomies. We actually have three kiddos and a younger friend of ours is moving in. We realized we needed some forced community. Can’t wait.

    Just make sure the bedrooms have some space between them so you are not hearing the others enjoy wedded bliss.

  13. We’re going through a similar line of thought now – our current apartment is cheaper and bigger than yours here in PA ($800/mo for 1000sqft with lots of closets, and $40/month discount if we shovel the sidewalks). But we are slowly transitioning from “hip urban dwellers who like to walk to bars” to “old farts”.. haha! We would love to have a yard to plant some veggies, and a garage or shed so my husband can get some of the equipment he needs to start his business.

    But we run into problems when we look at the cost – any place that meets the above criteria and is in a decent neighborhood runs $1000+/month. We don’t really want to spend more. But we also don’t want roommates. We currently have a family of 4 above us (two small children who cry and run back and forth all day), and a couple with a barky dog below us, so we are kind of over the whole “living near other people”.

    So given the fact that we enjoy our privacy, don’t know anyone here that we could share living expenses with in this city, and we want some peace and quiet, we’ll have to keep looking until we find the diamond in the (hopefully not too) rough, and find a house/townhouse we can rent within our budget.

  14. Going through the same thing as you two are, Ninja. While my wife and I aren’t considering LIVING with another couple, we are considering how we could use a house (i.e. more space) to bring more glory to God and live in community. We’ve started thinking that there may be decisions you have to make in life that might not be optimal financially, but might be “optimal” in another area of life.

  15. I’m suprised you would entertain a living situation like that, after wedding such a beautiful young lady(despite the black bar she has over her face), and having her all to yourself. I personally could never see myself renting again, as just learning to live with a spouse can be a challenge.

    I think there is always a threat of ruining a friendship in these forced situations. I don’t get along 100% of the time with even my best friends, so it wouldn’t work for me. Plus, why would you want to increase your rent, even for more space? Doesn’t help your goals or meet with your past financial goals of saving more.

  16. After college i lived with room-mates for at least 4 years and there were good and bad things assoicated with room mates. Echoing the above a good chemistry is vital with out it you will hate each other and ruin a friendship. having enough space is essential too or having your “own” dedicated space and dedicated “communal” areas. two master suites would be a good option for you. Buzz word time – Transparency with bills, obligations, chores, etc will help keep disagreements at bay early.

    i loved my room mate time, i recommend it, with caveats

  17. Why not find a smaller home for rent with a separate “mother in law” apartment atop the garage or adjoined to the house to rent out to a couple or individual then that may be a good idea to recoup part of the payment.

    Point is, you need your own space. Sure, those homes are great, but I’m sure there are other places to rent well within your range of affordability that offer more square footage. They may not be as aesthetically pleasing, but that’s the tradeoff.

  18. I lived with roommates all they way up until I was married. There are advantages, but you have to get the right roommates. Now that I am married there is pretty much zero chance I could live with another couple for more than a couple months. I like having my own space and not having to deal with other people’s drama and habits.

    I have rented a room in my house to a friend but that was only for a couple weeks and had a date when they were moving out.

    Of course this is easy for me to say since I don’t have a housing payment.

  19. I just moved from a big house with 4 roommates where I lived with my boyfriend. Here are a few rules that were supposedly agreed on but that eventually became lax:

    No smoking – one of our roommates was a smoker and while he originally went outside, soon he was opening the door and smoking half in, half out then soon it was just all inside. It was so gross! I implored my boyfriend to say something to him but it was useless.

    Everyone puts their dishes in the dishwasher. This was good in the beginning but soon it just got to be everyone throwing their dishes in the sink, without even rinsing. *shudder*

    Clean up the communal areas – pretty much same situation as the dishes

    We don’t need to use the central air in the summer because it will be too expensive – Summer comes and I’m waking up in the middle of the night FREEZING because someone turned the A/C down to 68!! Like we’re Rockefellers! This happened constantly and we were never able to nail the culprit.

    Ultimately, this was something that could’ve been handled with a community meeting but, in that house, everyone was ready to pass the buck. THEY weren’t the one who was leaving food in the living room and they ALWAYS loaded their dishes. Just be prepared for confrontation if things start to go downhill. Also, the utility bills for a bigger house are way more. Especially if you live with a secret polar bear.

    The best day of my life was when I moved in with my boyfriend into our “380 sq ft” (upon remeasuring, it’s closer to 290) studio, even if we do have to pay $1195 of my hard earned money every month. Roommates are just too much extra work.

  20. Make sure you have a decent fridge, or maybe two, if you do this. My boyfriend lives with four other girl roommates (!) and they only have one small-ish fridge. Since they all cook for themselves and don’t share food, they end up with five milk containers and there’s really isn’t enough room for everyone’s food. My last roommate situation had one couple, myself, and another guy. The couple shared one fridge and the guy and I shared the second fridge, which worked out much better. It comes down to how much you cook and how many groceries you’ll buy at a given time and who shares what.

  21. When my best friend split up with his wife, we rented out a basement bedroom to him.

    Things that suck:
    I lost half of my garage.
    Our guest room and office got combined.
    Utility bills went up.

    Things that don’t suck
    Rent.
    Someone to let the dog out if we take off for a weekend.
    His room is at the opposite end of a different floor of the house.
    He travels for work, so he’s gone 12 days of every 14.

  22. I feel as if I have been on all sides of this equation. I’m in no way a social butterfly, never had roommates in college, only child up until age 17 and love my space. But the concept of sharing your home isn’t really a huge deal, especially when it breaks down to saving tons if not all of your monthly living expenses while others flip the bill. I bought a 3BR town-home and basically rented the two rooms and bathroom on the 2nd floor out to guys who were dedicated to leaving every weekend. I lived free with utilities paid while they bought a home for me, the rent for them in a decked out, hardwood floored, granite and stainless kitchen was the best deal of their lives. Everybody won. It’s all personal preference in the end.

  23. We brought a friend into our home who needed help and to be perfectly honest, I can’t WAIT till we don’t have him in our basement any more. I wouldn’t do it again, not for all the money in the world.

  24. I would live with roomies again but with very different guidelines now than I had in college. I’d be less worried about background checks than making sure personal habits are compatible and no one will become nails on a chalkboard to be around.

    Things that went wrong/What I’d do differently the next time…

    Set visitor guidelines. If more than 4 people are being invited over, you shall ask permission from roommate and give 24 hours notice. It’s not fun to come home from work and see your living area transformed for a keg party.

    Loud music turned down by 1pm. Pets agreed upon by all roommates. All fines paid by the people that occurred them. Everyone agrees to pay for damages caused by their guests and themselves. Smoking outside. Dishes washed by the end of the day. Who cleans what, when?

    The simplest things should be written down and signed by everyone. This will keep tensions down. If you roommate with friends I’d also say to have a set monthly dinner date planned, specifically for talking about roommate issues.

    Good luck!

  25. Don’t get roomies! You’d never know if the other couple is psychotic – what if the male tenant lusts after GN, or what if they make crazy sex noises in the middle of the night???

    Small spaces are great – the less space you have the less rubbish you hoard. I pay USD 750 for 350 sqft of space in Hong Kong, I was bitching about it initially but after a year living in my pad I realise I have less clutter and I would never want to get roomies in exchange for a bigger space!

  26. We rent out our townhouse in Northgate for $1200. It’s 2 bed, 1 bath with a w/d and parking space. Given that you could rent our place for only a few hundred more, I’m sure you can find a bigger apt for around what you’re paying.
    Personally, that would be my choice. I would give up a lot before I give up my privacy.

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