Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Need Money? Have an Extra Bedroom?

A year after my husband and I bought our 3 bedroom home, a friend needed a place to stay for a little while. Our guest bedroom was open and our friend was living in an overpriced hotel. When he offered to pay $350 and half of the utilities per month, we happily agreed. Since our mortgage payments are only $740, it was a win-win for everybody.

Three months later, our friend moved on. We thought we’d love having complete privacy again, but we missed the money more. After a 20 minute discussion, we decided to list our spare bedroom on Craigslist.

I knew nothing about actually renting out the room, so I looked up ideas online. I listed the room in detail with pictures of the spaces that were being rented out - room, bathroom, laundry area, and kitchen. I asked questions on the phone about pets and smoking habits. When they showed up for our scheduled meetings, they filled out their job and housing history and signed off on background checks.

I’ll be honest, I knew exactly who I wanted to live with by the time they walked back to their car, but I did a background check and verified their employment anyway. We signed a lease the next weekend.

He was the perfect renter. He paid on time, cleaned up after himself, and stayed over at his girl friend’s house more often than he was ever around ours. He stayed for a little more than a year. Dude, if you’re reading this, we miss you.

We quickly relisted the room since we were so happy with the set up, but we didn’t get as much response. When we finally found someone we were okay with, he ended up being completely immature and flippant. He even ordered a different cable service for his room since he didn’t like the one we paid for...without telling us. Needless to say, it didn’t work out and he moved out in less than 5 months.

At that point, we decided that our stress-free life was worth more than $500 a month.

So, yes, renting out a spare room can be very helpful fiscally. Just be careful to properly weigh the costs and benefits of the situation for yourself.

If my husband and I ever need some extra money again, this would be our first choice. Even though our last roommate was a putz, we never had any real issues. We just didn’t need the money as much as we craved a place to ourselves again.

Do you need any extra money? Would the rental rate in your area be worth more than your complete privacy? As always, it’s a personal decision, but it’s good to know all of your options, right?


  1. I certainly like the idea, but for me I know it's not practical (no way the wife would go for something like that) or feasible (only 2 bedrooms right now, both occupied). It does force people to think differently about how to earn some extra money. By earning extra, you can either achieve your goals faster or have more fun along the way. I get paid to take on-line surveys about products and such, usually earning an extra $25-$30 a month on average. I use that to augment my fun money.

    So, if a roommate isn't your cup of tea, there's no shortage of things you can do to increase your earnings.

  2. MikeS, yep, I don't know many people who have kids and would want to rent out a spare room in their actual house (if they even had one).

    But, like you said, there are tons of other ideas for those people too! Mr. BFS is a sports official after school. I Craigslist things for family and friends (and am given about 25% of the profits). We know other teachers that tutor on the side and people who petsit and babysit as their second job (I did that during part of last year for some extra spending money).

    There are a ton of ideas...pretty much anything can make money if you are much better at it than other people or persistent or it's something other people don't want to do.

  3. BFS,

    Sorry for the long silence, but I was busy having a baby ;) (Yes, I tend to have looong labors... multi-day long labors).

    I wish we could rent out a room, but my husband's reasoning for buying a home and his general pickiness about cleanliness leads to this being a big no. My mother is living with us for the next few months helping with the baby so there isn't really an empty room anymore anyways.

    Since I am going into extended maternity leave, there will be a period of time we will be a one-income family. To supplement our income, I most plan to cut back but will probably participate in some consignment sales to make a few bucks off of some of my older daughter's used things that did not work for us.

  4. Julie, WOOT!!! Congratulations!!!

    I'm sorry, did you say "multi-day long labors"...ummm, yep, I'm not doing that. :-)

    YAY for you anyway!!! Hope everything turned out awesome (healthy baby, healthy mommy, etc). Congrats again!!!

    Nah, renting out a spare room is not everybody's cup of tea. If I had kids, I wouldn't do it. You already have regular family stress, so why push it, right?

    Thanks for checking in on BFS when you obviously have bigger things going on. Use your mom. Get some sleep. I promise I'll keep this thing going until you're back into a regular routine. :-)

    Yay for Julie!!! I'd remind those kids about the labor like every year...especially when they start talking back or dating...you are one strong woman!

  5. I've known friends who rented out one of their rooms in San Fransisco. It was a 'so-so' kind of thing. They really liked the extra money and when they had a good roommate it was great. And when they had a bad roommate--it was not so good! I think you have to chose carefully, of course, but you never know a person really well until you actually live with them!

  6. Simple in France, that is so true. Our last roommate did not seem nearly as dumb when we first rented the room to him...