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Will this put those Ask.Me questions to rest?
February 18, 2011 9:53 AM   Subscribe

How do you split the rent when one room is tiny and has no closet while the other is large and has great windows? Based on a not really scientific survey, Jonathan Bittner has come up with a decisive way to answer those 'who should pay how much' questions when it comes to apartment sharing.
posted by jacquilynne (30 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Bender?

Fry?
posted by kanemano at 10:05 AM on February 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


How about doing the cake splitting approach (one person cuts and the other person chooses)? One person sets the price for the two rooms and the other person picks.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:07 AM on February 18, 2011 [8 favorites]


How about doing the cake splitting approach (one person cuts and the other person chooses)? One person sets the price for the two rooms and the other person picks.

Theoretically, this is a great solution. In my experience, however, it is usually impractical because roommates often know which room will go to whom: for example, the person with more stuff wants the big room, and the person with less stuff wants the small room, but they just need a fair way to split the costs. It's a tricky problem when you can't just aim for that neutral price point.
posted by milestogo at 10:14 AM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


My first apartment had three bedrooms. Two were gigantic (I'm talking huge--a king size bed was dwarfed in one of them) and attached to the bathroom. The other was all the way at the other end of the building, only 100 sq feet, off the kitchen (i.e. servants' quarters), and decked out in crappy wood paneling.

I didn't care which room I had. My roommates wanted the big rooms. I pretended I wanted a big room, too, and staged a bit of a fuss about how there was no way I was taking the small room unless there was a price reduction. I ended up paying a lot less for my room. Everyone got what they wanted and everyone was happy.

(It wasn't until a month or two before our lease ran out that one of my roommates realized she had been played.)
posted by phunniemee at 10:17 AM on February 18, 2011


Lurgi: a few people suggested that. It probably works when the rooms are basically identical, but that's rarely true.

My room in a house has its own kitchenette, which presumably is worth something (I also pay the most rent). So this web site is entirely useless for my house. We actually have a lot of complications: one person's room is under the stairs, one has its own entrance from the outside (or you can go through someone else's room to get to it), one has a bathroom that's attached to it but that other people still use anyway... these are the things that happen when what used to be, I think, a four-bedroom house gets extra "bedrooms" carved out in a college-town housing market.
posted by madcaptenor at 10:17 AM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


How about doing the cake splitting approach (one person cuts and the other person chooses)? One person sets the price for the two rooms and the other person picks.

But once you get to 3 or more roommates you're gonna have to go into extra dimensions to figure out how to cut the apartment.
posted by kmz at 10:25 AM on February 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


What does "no door" mean? 'Cause I'm picturing some sort of setup involving a Scot and a matter-transportation beam.
posted by BeerFilter at 10:27 AM on February 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think "no door" means that someone's living in what's supposed to be the "living room" and it's separated off with curtains or something.
posted by madcaptenor at 10:27 AM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't care how the rent is split. It's still too damn high.
posted by Mountain Goatse at 10:30 AM on February 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Jonathan Bittner has come up with a decisive way to answer those 'who should pay how much' questions when it comes to apartment sharing."

For example
posted by cosmac at 10:30 AM on February 18, 2011


"No door" means doorway but no door.

"No windows" means you really shouldn't be calling that a bedroom.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:31 AM on February 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't care how the rent is split. It's still too damn high.

Maybe you could find a political party with this as its platform?
posted by explosion at 10:31 AM on February 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


phunniemee: "My first apartment had three bedrooms. Two were gigantic...The other was all the way at the other end of the building..."

I was going to say "you must have lived in the apartment I live in now or with one of my friends" but then I realized you were describing almost every 3 bedroom apartment I've been in on Chicago's north side.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:37 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oops - lost the initial part of my post -- I used the calculator to describe my current apartment as if my boyfriend and I were getting two new roommates for the other bedroom, and it actually seemed fairly right on.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:40 AM on February 18, 2011


Interesting.

The simplest answer really is that all parties interested in renting should agree up front about who's paying how much for what, and if they can't honestly come to an agreeable solution, either find new roommates or find a different place to rent.

"Fair" is whatever keeps everyone happy.
posted by TravellingDen at 10:47 AM on February 18, 2011


The apartment I'm in has two bedrooms of unequal size. However, there's a separate room off the living room that makes a fantastic little office space. I always split the rent equally, and make the deal with any incoming roommates that they get both the small bedroom AND that office space to make up for the fact that I have the larger bedroom. Everything else is community property. It's always worked.

There are ways around all of these.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:54 AM on February 18, 2011


A dying king calls his three sons to his bedside. He doesn't wish to split up the kingdom, but he can't decide which of them should be the heir. He envisions an elegant solution: a horse race. Each son shall ride a horse of their choosing. But how could the king ensure the race was fair? He instructed his sons at the start of the race with two simple words.

What were those words?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:01 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Really, what were those words?

Speaking of kings, my understanding of how you solve these problems is that you cut the apartment into two equal halves. This also works for child custody cases.
posted by twoleftfeet at 11:26 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Shouldn't the two roommates just bid on the better room? Doesn't that solve the problem? Or am I missing something?
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:44 AM on February 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Trade horses, I would've thought.
posted by CheeseLouise at 12:15 PM on February 18, 2011


Back door? Soundproof? Private bathroom with big porcelain bathtub? Vinyl floor? Painted over windows? Police lock on the door?

Priceless!
posted by Splunge at 12:21 PM on February 18, 2011


"Trade horses" works with two sons, but with three there's the question of which way you do the trading: A rides B's horse, B rides C's horse, C rides A's horse, or A rides C's horse, C rides B's horse, B rides A's horse.
posted by madcaptenor at 12:40 PM on February 18, 2011


Really, what were those words?

Hover over the link.

"Trade horses" works with two sons, but with three there's the question of which way you do the trading

Yeah, that's because I left out a rather fundamental part of the riddle! The winner was the owner of the slowest horse to cross the finish line.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:49 PM on February 18, 2011


This was reasonably accurate for my old place. Lacks a few important factors (ambient noise from street side of the house, distance to bathroom, proximity to washing machine noise, privacy from next door neighbours, furnished/unfurnished, balconies, etc.) and seems to add an envy discount for those with the worst room in the house, but I think this is a pretty damn good starting point and you agree on the marginal differences based on feel (some rooms are smaller and have no bathroom but just have a good feeling about them, for example), or what the market will bear.
posted by doublehappy at 2:36 PM on February 18, 2011


proximity to washing machine noise

Our washing machine is outside, on our back porch. This means that none of us suffer from washing machine noise nearly as much as our next-door neighbors do. But that doesn't lower their rent. (They actually have asked us not to do laundry late at night or early in the morning, which is perfectly reasonable given the circumstances.)
posted by madcaptenor at 2:56 PM on February 18, 2011


How do you split the rent when one room is tiny and has no closet while the other is large and has great windows?

You're describing my very first apartment. Not as bad as all that (the smaller room had good light), but one room was clearly much bigger and had a walk-in closet while the other had none.

My roommate and I flipped a coin for it and split the rent 50-50. Easiest solution ever. Each of us would have been fine with either room, but of course we both wanted the larger one. I won.

I tend to think of myself of the lucky sort, so whenever there's an opportunity to let chance help me out, I take it.
posted by mrgrimm at 4:05 PM on February 18, 2011


Auction is guaranteed to be fair.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 1:24 AM on February 19, 2011


I'm with the "why not auction?" crowd. that said, when I put in the particulars of the last place I shared with roommates, the calculator came up with something pretty damn close to how we actually split it (arrived at via auction).

I can't imagine letting a coin flip decide where I was going to live for the next couple of years, particularly if there are major differences between the rooms, but then again I am historically lousy at winning coin flips.
posted by chalkbored at 3:08 AM on February 19, 2011


About 5 years ago, someone did the same thing, but it was an online bidding sort of thing. Is this maybe the results of that?
posted by gjc at 2:23 PM on February 19, 2011


I can't imagine letting a coin flip decide where I was going to live for the next couple of years, particularly if there are major differences between the rooms, but then again I am historically lousy at winning coin flips.

Now that I think about it more, it wasn't a coin flip--it was best out of 3 rock-paper-scissors (a pretty exciting game, too. I think I won the third game on scissors cuts paper (the most exciting finish, imo).)

So not only would you have to live in the inferior room for the same price, it would be all your fault.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:59 AM on February 22, 2011


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