Where should I live next year?
June 11, 2011 4:22 PM   Subscribe

Within the next month, I'm planning to move out of my studio apartment to a house with roommates. I have two housing options available and I'm not sure which one I should choose....

About me: single female, mid-20s, living in the heart of mid-sized midwestern city. I work full-time and I'm going to grad-school part-time. I've been living by myself for two years, but I want to move out and live with other people to save money (rent at both places is about half of what I'm paying now) and to avoid loneliness. I The two housing options are:

Housing Option #1:

Friend of a friend recently bought two houses next door to each other that he's refurbishing and has a room available in one, though I would have access to both houses (house 1, that I'd be living in, has a better bathroom, but house 2 has a bigger kitchen), so it's sort of like a commune....but not really.
- landlord/owner is really cool, very eclectic, as are the other housemates (mostly artists, musicians, etc.)
- housemates are into urban gardening and we're considering getting chickens/goats
- I'd have a chance to learn how to remodel and do basic home repairs, which is something I find very interesting
- Fun part of town, close to my job

- I fear that living in the house(s) would be a time suck because there are so many great potential projects that can be done (finishing the sunroom, repainting various rooms, installing installation). I work full-time and I'm barely a year into my master's program, plus I have other outside activities. I tend to overcommit myself. But still, this seems like a great opportunity.
- I worry about something going wrong in the house (pipes busting, something breaking down). Not sure how that would work out...

Housing Situation 2: Three-story house with three other girls, same age. In a slightly rougher, but still safe part of town. A little bit further from work (10 minute commute), but closer to a bus line.

- House is fully remodeled with modern amenities (central air, dishwasher, disposal, etc.)
- Fewer housemates

- I guess the biggest 'con' is that it's too "safe", I guess, compared to the other place? The housemates are very nice, but they seem to sort of keep to themselves, whereas I'm a very social person. I like to have people over for barbecues and dinner parties.
- The housemates who are moving out are taking most of the furniture with them, so we'll have to buy more.

It's really hard to sort all of this out in my head. I'm really attracted to House 1 because it seems like such an interesting opportunity. But House 2 seems like a somewhat more traditional situation. What should I do?
posted by calcetina to Home & Garden (17 answers total)
In House #1, would you get reduced rent for "helping out" with the home repair & remodeling projects? Would it be expected of you, especially if the other housemates are doing it too? Of course such projects can be fun and interesting -- but not if you feel pressured into doing them when you've got other work/school/social activities filling up your schedule.

If you can resolve that issue about House #1 and feel comfortable with it, it does sound a bit more interesting than House #2.
posted by lisa g at 4:32 PM on June 11, 2011

House #1 sounds like a lot more fun, provided you're able to opt out of the remodeling stuff if it gets overwhelming.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 4:37 PM on June 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, just figure out the expectations with House #1. "I'm going to be pretty busy; are you guys going to mind if you don't see me for six weeks during finals?" "I don't know how to repair things -- is that the kind of thing I'd need to be able to do?" Even if your roommates in house #2 are less "cool," you might relate to them better if they're in a life stage that's similar to yours (working all the time). But if you can fulfill the expectations at House #1, and if you won't be annoyed by partying or whatever fun they're having during the times that you're busy, it might be really great.

The one bit that confused me was commute vs. bus line. What does parking cost near your work? If you're in a city where parking is difficult, I'd plan on primarily commuting by foot, bike, or bus -- so maybe recalculate travel time on that basis? The "fun part of town" in House #1 sounds like a real bonus, but then you say that the other neighborhood is closer to a bus line, so at house #1 will you be able to travel to work without having to drive, if driving means paying $12/day for parking?
posted by salvia at 4:40 PM on June 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

House 1 sounds awesome. Go for it!
posted by guster4lovers at 4:42 PM on June 11, 2011

I work full-time and I'm barely a year into my master's program

Live in the quiet house and go socialize in the fun house(s). When you've got finals/a big paper/project for work, how will you feel living in fun house when people might feel resentful that you're not pitching in, or you might feel irritated that NOISY THING is happening when you're trying to work (or sleep), or sad that you can't do fun thing because you have to study? Home doesn't have to be a fun-free zone, but living in a situation where you might not have a lot of control over when and how the fun happens doesn't sound all that awesome if you have a lot on your plate already.
posted by rtha at 4:50 PM on June 11, 2011 [9 favorites]

If I was studying plus working full-time, I'd probably go for House #2. House #1 sounds like it would have a lot of distractions (some good, some bad).

Or, maybe see if you can find a House #3 that has people who are a bit more social and might also be interested in putting in a garden, but where the house is not under renovation and full of people all the time.
posted by AnnaRat at 4:52 PM on June 11, 2011

Option #2 You do not need additional distractions from your living situation. The living situation should be able to help facilitate your other stuff like work, school and free time.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 4:57 PM on June 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't understand how House 1 is a "great opportunity"? It sucks to live in a place that's being renovated. Fixing up a house is hard physical labour. There is no way in hell you should do this for somebody for free and if this person is suggesting you should work on his house for free (it seems both spaces have comparable rents, if I read right?) he is not remotely cool and you don't want to live anywhere near him. If you want to learn about house stuff, volunteer for something like Habitat for Humanity, or find an elderly relative or impoverished friend who's struggling to keep up with maintenance and do it for them. Really, really not a "great opportunity" to live in dilapidated housing and do hard work for nothing.

(I speak as somebody who bought a poorly maintained house and did a great deal of the fixing up herself. It is sort of neat to acquire the skills, but it is also back-breaking, and endless, and there are many things you will not be able to do a good job of -- there are reasons properly qualified tradespeople make good wages. Wait until you buy your own house to bust your bum on this stuff)

The nicer kitchen next door is also useless; would you really want to tote pots and pans over, have to run back when you realise you've forgotten your paprika, etc?

I apologise if friend of a friend has offered substantial compensation for any help with the repairs, but you don't mention it so I'm assuming he hasn't. And that really does make him a total dick, to buy a fixer-upper and try to hustle tenants into building his equity.

Can you keep looking around for a House 3...?
posted by kmennie at 5:06 PM on June 11, 2011 [8 favorites]

You sound much more excited about House 1. You have my permission to do what you want to do.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:46 PM on June 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Option 2. Option 1 sounds like "fun." But in the long run, I think it would not be so much fun. I lived in a situation like that. The expectations on your time are great and opting out will put you in an awkward position and cause friction with your housemates and landlord.
posted by fifilaru at 5:55 PM on June 11, 2011

House #1 sounds like the one you want, but you're self-aware enough to know you tend to overcommit and that your situation just doesn't allow for a whole lot of free time. Also, if you haven't lived with them yet, how do you know that the housemates in #2 aren't as social as you are? If you're only going by first impressions, don't. Plenty of people don't really open up until they know a person a little bit. You can always suggest a group cocktail night or game night as an icebreaker. Whatever you're interested in.
posted by cmgonzalez at 6:43 PM on June 11, 2011

I've lived in situations similar to both of your options. My version of your #1 was an industrial artists' collective with 14-odd roommates (and lots of communal projects, cool stuff going on, ways we were able to mess around with the space). My version of your #2 is where I live now - a three bedroom apartment with two women my same age who work in my field.

I think it depends on what your time constraints are like. Realistically. I loved living in the "commune" style setting, until I finished school and got a job that required 12+ hour days. Suddenly I couldn't make the weekly house meeting, didn't have time to pitch in with any of those cool projects (which my housemates came to resent, as I was happy to reap the rewards), and a lot of the perks became meaningless in the face of that guy who wanted to listen to Joanna Newsom at full blast and solder kinetic sculptures all night, or the heat that failed every winter, or the five European couch-surfers we had at any given time.

That said, when I had the time to be involved I loved all that stuff, and I wouldn't be the person I am now if I hadn't done that for a few years.

On the other hand, I love where I live now. My roommates and I are grown adults who all get how hard our line of work can be and just want to come home at the end of the day, drink a beer, and fall asleep in front of Netflix. We have an apartment. With a real life residential landlord who has to adhere to housing codes. We don't need meetings or working groups or an email listserv. Aside from the occasional filthy bathtub or stopped up toilet, everything maintains without needing a committee to run it. We respect each other and don't really do anything crazy.
posted by Sara C. at 7:09 PM on June 11, 2011

I was happier when I lived in creative, social, activity-driven houses than I was when I lived in polite, reserved, convenient houses. You sound like you would be, too. Why not give it 6 months and see how you like it? You can always move, it's not that big a deal to move out if it's not working for your sched.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:37 PM on June 11, 2011

You sound like you really want to live in House #1. Your main objection is kinda weaksauce, no? You might find it too interesting? C'mon, I'm sure you already know that you're the only one in charge of keeping your work/school commitments.

Are you afraid that if it doesn't work out, you'll have to endure a bunch of "I told you I thought that madhouse was a stupid idea?" Sure, you probably will, but the nice thing about being a grownup is that we get to have our own preferences and make our own decisions.

Additional Note: Stuff can break anywhere.

Another additional note: If you want to live in a group house, this is the time in your life to do it, no?
posted by desuetude at 11:34 PM on June 11, 2011

House 1 sounds great, but only if the landlord is not essentially expecting the tenants to fix up his house for him for free. If I rent, my basic expectation is that if something goes wrong, the landlord will fix it, because that is the obligation they have when they provide a place to live for money. If he isn't keen to do this, then I would be very wary - you do not want to be without an oven, a washing machine or a shower for longer than it takes to get a repairer out. Find out about this before you commit to it.

Mind you, I would love to live somewhere where I could paint the walls whatever colour I liked and get involved with things - when you get older, you can live somewhere more sedate if it suits you.
posted by mippy at 5:40 AM on June 12, 2011

What happens during noisy (power tool, hammers), dust that goes absolutely everywhere producing, all kinds of other horrible mess producing, furniture having to be moved out of a room that's being worked on so you fall over it everywhere else remodelling activities?

Will these take place when you are trying to prepare for exams? Will you be expected to study outside the house? Will you be expected to cope with these when work, study and sleep are all you have time for and when the remodeling means you can't do the last two comfortably at home due to said remodelling?

At least ask the question...........

As somebody who once foolishly moved in with a friend who had just bought a house and was doing the place up the whole time I lived there. I found that it was impossible for me to study at home because remodelling happened evening/weekend time , a fair few of my possessions were destroyed because all manner of angle grinding and other dust producing stuff happened without anybody thinking to cover anything with dust sheets and it was absolutely impossible to do any kind of relaxing outside my bedroom because the place was a permenent building site.
posted by koahiatamadl at 5:49 AM on June 12, 2011

I don't have anywhere near the patience to live in a place like House #1. I've had friends that have gone that route, and most of them liked it to begin with, and it wore off over time. Sometimes it took 5 years, other times 5 months. I think it just depends on your personality and where you're at in life. That said, I agree with other posters that your post seems to imply that you're more excited about house #1. If that's the case, go for it, especially if you don't have a ton of crap that would make moving again in 6 months a pain, if you don't like it. It would probably be a good experience for you one way or another. The important thing to keep in mind is that you want to give yourself some outs; if it's not a good experience you don't want to be trapped in the house due to inertia or contracts or social pressure. Good luck.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:45 AM on June 13, 2011

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