Ask Brian is a weekly column by Real Estate Expert Brian Kline. If you have questions on real estate investing, DIY, home buying/selling, or other housing inquiries please email your questions to [email protected].
Question from Brandie: Hi Brian, I’m 20 years old and just rented my first place two months ago. It’s an extra bedroom in a large house with the parents of a high school friend. I’m mostly comfortable here and the $400 rent seems reasonable. I don’t want to pay anything more because I have car and insurance payments. My job as a waitress only pays a little over minimum wage. I hope I’m not complaining but I was expecting more for my $400. My friend’s parents keep the house a little warmer than I like and I can’t adjust the heat in my room the way I could at home. There’s no cable in my room but there is Wi-Fi, so I stream shows on my laptop when I don’t care for what they are watching on the big TV. The wife has also told me that can’t throw my shower towel in the laundry after every use, she wants me to use it three times. I’ve adjusted to most of this but now the husband says that if I want to eat breakfast and dinner with them every day that I need to pay an extra $200 each month for food. This seems unreasonable to me. I thought the food was included with the rent. What should I do?
Answer: Hello Brandie. Really? You think that you’re paying too much for room and board? I don’t know what the going rent is where you are at but $400 for a room that includes all the utilities, and laundry service sounds like a tremendous deal anywhere in this country. Renting a room, even from a friend, normally doesn’t include food.
If I were a betting man, I’d bet you’re also getting a few other free services like the wife picking up after you a little bit, cooking meals for you, and almost certainly doing your dishes. I know that I’m old school, but I think at age 20 and with a job, that $400 a month would be a good deal in your own parent’s home. Including food for a total of $600 a month doesn’t sound at all unreasonable.
I get that you are new to living on your own. But consider what it would reasonably cost you for a small studio apartment. Conservatively, I think you would be paying $800 or more just for rent PLUS several other bills like cable TV, electricity, water, internet, and maybe trash. That would easily add up to $1,100 or $1,200. And that is still before you add in the cost of food that you would have to cook. Another $400 a month for food would be living on the cheap side and I bet your friend’s parents are feeding you pretty good food. So now, your up to about $1,600 without any extras and you’d have to pick up after yourself at the end of your waitress shift if you lived alone.
Quite honestly Brandie, I don’t think you know how good you have it for $600 a month. And... getting an apartment normally requires the first month's rent plus a deposit and maybe the second month’s rent. A smart move on your part would be to take advantage of the low amount you are paying now to save money towards getting a place of your own. And consider that these nice people will probably give you a reference when you do get your own place. That alone is worth being nice to them.
I might sound hard-nosed but in my humble opinion, I think you should graciously give both the wife and husband a big thank you for being so good to you and gladly pay the $200 extra for food! Heck, you might even buy a package of toilet paper for the home occasionally.
As a reader, what do you have to say? Am I being unreasonable? Please comment.
Our weekly Ask Brian column welcomes questions from readers of all experience levels with residential real estate. Please email your questions or inquiries to [email protected].