Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Room for Rent

Open-door policy
The word itself brings up ideas on times long past and encounters with mysterious strangers. Movies have played into the mystic of the evil stranger out to manipulate and control a family or other unfortunate outcome. With this impression it is no wonder that the idea of being a boarder or taking in boarders has gone out of vogue. At one time in this country it was a popular way for people to save money or for a home owner to bring in a little extra. The current economic situation has brought the option back into the realm of consideration especially for single people. Why spend all the money to rent your own place when for a fraction of the cost a room can be rented to help accelerate other financial goals such as debt repayment, building a savings, or having more disposable income. After all, most people are on the go all day long and grab meals at restaurants so why spend all the extra to maintain a place when you are rarely at home?

Our extended family has had many boarder situations over the years and most of the single people in the family have now chosen some type of boarder situation during this time. I'd like to share a few of the situations we have experienced. If you are currently having difficulty in making ends meet it may give some additional ideas to consider.

Situation 1. An energetic retired couple whose children have grown now rent out rooms in their large house with three bedrooms upstairs and three down. Currently they have the three downstairs bedrooms all rented to single ladies. In addition they have built a "mother-in-law" apartment on the property and rent that out to a couple. All the renters use a separate entrance while the owners continue to utilize the entire upstairs of the home. A substantial income is produced monthly to supplement their retirement.

Situation 2. I and my three children lived in a four bedroom home. We met a young Japanese college student who needed a low cost place to stay for the semester. A mutual acquaintance introduced us and the situation worked wonderfully for all involved. We became close friends and she taught my kids some basic Japanese. We laughed, talked, and learned to always take our shoes off when entering a home. Wow. What a savings on the carpet! Sachiko learned to cook some American food and when she returned to her country we all felt as if we had been greatly enriched by the experience.

Situation 3. A young single woman bought her childhood home. It was two stories with complete facilities on each level. She lived upstairs with her brothers family and the downstairs rooms were rented by single cousins.

Situation 4. The owner of a very expensive house moved out of the area. It was above the price level for the average family so he rented the home to a single professional man who managed the home and rented out to three additional professional people. Each had two bedrooms and 1 bathroom. They shared the kitchen and living room. All were constantly on the go so the house was often quiet unless they planned a gathering. This situation was replicated by a home owner whose income had been reduced and part of the room price included weekly housekeeping.

Situation 5. An older man bought a house in cash and did not want to live alone in case something happened to him now or in the future. He invited his nephew and his family to share the home and they pay for all utilities, do all the cleaning, and prepare his meals. Still with another extra bedroom the mother of the woman moved in and pays a modest amount for room and board and is a back up babysitter if needed.  The mother then has the opportunity to rent out her own home.

There are many other examples I could give but I wanted to list a variety of some of those that I know are working very well and benefit the participants not only economically but socially as well.

In reality, a boarding situation may offer the modernized version of the extended family with appropriate compensation established so that no one is being taken advantage of. Or, in the other examples is a professional arrangement for busy people. In most cases being in a boarder situation will require a person to severely limit their at home entertaining so make arrangements accordingly.

In my experience there are a number of things that are necessary to keep any arrangement successful. These will seem very simple and obvious but are often the downfall of good relationships.
  1. Establish fair financial expectations and no excuses for not meeting them.
  2. Sign rental agreements as appropriate.
  3. Always clean up your own mess including dishes, bathroom, and rooms.
  4. Smoking outside only and keep cigarette butts picked up.
  5. No overnight guests. When they say "get a room" that means someplace else.
  6. Don't eat someone else's food unless it is specifically offered.
  7. Don't leave personal belongings in common areas.
  8. Don't wait for someone else to empty the trash, or pick up something that's needed.
  9. Always change the toilet paper roll in shared bathrooms. This can start major conflict. And, of course the seat should always be left down. Even a bigger fight.
  10. Park in designate space and tell people who stop by where they should park. Even 5 minutes is too long to wait for someone to move.
  11. Remember that even if it is family many of the components of the situation are similar to a professional relationship. Don't push the limits.
  12. Most situations will not allow pets.
  13. When you move out leave the room the way you found it or better.
  14. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. 
One of the biggest blessing that has been brought about by the economic crisis is the revival of the extended family. Families are learning to respect, appreciate, and rely on one another and it is building stronger bonds and unity. Instead of being dependant on government programs people are realizing that it is better to work with others in situations that promote and meet the needs of all. Of course there are still horror stories of people taking advantage of one another but the family and community is only as strong as the participants in it.
You might also be interested in:
A history story of a large American boarding house 
Guidelines for running a boarding house from England
Open-door policy.  A story of renting rooms featured in Good Housekeeping.


Carrie said...

If you live in a college/university town there are often students looking for rooms. My husband and I have discussed this option for when we get older (many years away :-). We look at it as a way to be able to keep up with the maintenance. We could rent out a room and offer a discount on the rent for assistance with yard work and snow shovelling.

Everyday Tips said...

Those are some really great stories, I am glad all your house sharing experiences went so well.

I personally would be afraid to bring someone into my home, but that is because I love my routine and my privacy. (our house is totally not setup to have separate living areas.) It would be a great way to reduce your mortgage costs though if you had family or someone close you can have move in for awhile.

Carol said...

Carrie, thanks. That is a very good suggestion and there are so many colleges across the country that many have the opportunity to benefit.

Tips, I know what you mean. There have been times in my life that it just was not a workable option.

Practical Parsimony said...

I had to calm down before I could comment. I rented to two different men after I divorced. Both were from "good families," both in forties, near my age. Both were alcoholics, unbeknownst to me.

The room was furnished, on second story, and with their own private bath. (My bedroom and living quarters are on the first fllor.) We discussed cooking and eating. The room and bath and use of my refrigerator and stove for coffee were one price--$240/mth. There was a phone line they could activate or share with me.

The first ate my food--long story. The second expected me to cook for him AND be the maid, making the bed for him each day! I would, but for more money.

The first threatened to "kill the f****** bitch," me. The second walked naked, peed on the walls and threw up all over the bathroom since he partook in Mary Jane and booze.

Both were handed back to parents who did not volunteer to me upfront that the men just came from a halfway house!

I preferred not to rent to women--my makeup and toiletries, their visiting grandchildren, men spending the night, cooking sessions and dishes--who would have their own sets of problems I did not want to handle. Yes, the women told me their grandchildren would spend the night because they babysat for them. No way!

My experiences were harrowing and nerve-wracking. Never again. If I ever did this again, I would check for last address, drive by, or visit.

Carol said...

Sorry you had such bad experiences! When I was in property management we had some also until we learned how to select our applicants differently. First impressions are not always a tell tale sign because many of the biggest users use kindness and people skills to get their foot in the door of the unsuspecting. Careful screening is necessary in all relationships and especially with ones who will share your home. I have definately made more than my share of mistakes but have found there are still very good and considerate people out there.