I live in a college town and see many university students splitting rent on apartments and houses. Five or six students will get together and go in on a one- or two-year lease. This gets them out of the dorm without breaking the bank.
My husband and I, tired of paying hundreds of dollars every month on housing that lacked even a backyard for our daughter to play in, decided that if it was good enough for grad students, it was good enough for us. We found another couple and went house hunting together. The result? A large house with a big backyard and a two-car garage, in a good neighborhood, for less than the price of a two-bedroom apartment lacking these amenities. Now we live in a place we like and have money left over to stick in a savings account labeled "Down-Payment Fund."
How can this work for you? Having done it for a few years now, with more than one couple, I have these suggestions for sharing a house:
Choose the right housemates. These are the people who you will have to trust to lock the door when they leave, not steal your stuff and to come up with rent money each month. After finding trustworthy people, make sure you find people you can live with. If they like horror movies, and the faintest noise of a chainsaw makes you sweat, find someone else.
Choose the right house. We were blessed to find a house that splits easily into two domiciles, with the kitchen in the middle. If all the bedrooms are in one wing, privacy will be harder to come by. Try also to find a house that has a den and a living room, so that both families have their own space to spread out and relax.
Let your new landlord know what you are doing. If your landlord is not okay with two families in one house, don't even bother looking at the lease papers.
Be clear about the rules. One couple we lived with didn't mind overnight guests. The other couple did. Was this okay? Sure, because they let us know their preferences before they moved in. Make sure you talk through all the different things your house will be used for. Are you planning on having lots of parties? Who will do the yardwork? How will you split the utilities?
Have one person in charge of the finances. It goes without saying that if you're that person, you should let your housemates know about any changes in utility or rent costs in a timely manner, and always have the bills themselves available if your housemates want to look them over.
Remember that you're housemates, not family. Friendliness is important to ease day-to-day contact, but privacy is even more important. You need to be able to ignore your housemates and live your life the way you would if they weren't there. Expect them to do the same. It's one house, but it's two households.
And finally, think positively about sharing a house. At times I've been tempted to be depressed about having to share a house with another couple. But then I look out my window at my lawn and vegetable garden, and remember that dinky little one-bedroom apartment with its prime view of the dumpster, and realize what a smart idea house-sharing was and what a lucky person I am. This isn't a housing situation, it's a housing solution.
Jessica Snell a college-educated stay-at-home mom, creatively making ends meet in high-cost Southern California. She blogs at churchyear.blogspot.com.
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