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It Pays to Share – How a Housemate Can Help Ease Mortgage Stress

When you were young, your parents always taught you that it’s nice to share your things. But did you know that when it comes to your housing investment, it can actually pay to share? There are various benefits to getting a housemate, both financial and non-financial – you just need to choose the right person.

We talked to Jay, a Canberra home owner, to get the scoop on the benefits and drawbacks, so you can make an educated decision on whether a housemate arrangement might be right for you. So what are the main benefits?

You Can Share Costs

Firstly, there’s the obvious benefit – being able to charge rent. Housing is a significant investment, so the idea of getting a housemate to help pay the mortgage is worth considering for this reason alone.

But then there’s also the household bills – electricity, gas, water, Internet access – all these things can really add up, so it (quite literally) pays to share the costs with a housemate. Jay says it can be useful to include the cost of bills in the rent, making it easier for your tenant to make payments each week.

However, she cautions that sometimes this method can leave a landlord short if tenants decide to take advantage by overusing the utilities – so make sure you do your sums before deciding on a figure.

You Can Claim Tax Deductions

Renting out part of your home to create income means you can claim tax deductions for associated expenses including part or all of the interest on your home loan. For more information on this, you can visit the ATO website.

You’ll Have Company

While everyone probably enjoys a bit of me-time, coming home to an empty house can be both creepy and depressing. It’s nice to know you’ll have someone to chat with at the end of a long day.

If you get along well, you might even find yourselves forging a friendship and helping each other out with things like groceries and cooking. “My housemate and I cook for each other once a week”, says Jay. If you like similar foods, you could even split the cost of groceries, too.

Safety

Of course, living with a housemate means there’s a greater likelihood of someone being home at the property, which can help to deter would-be thieves from trying to enter the home. It also means you can look out for each other.

You Can Expand Your Social Circle

If you live with someone, it’s likely that they will have friends over at some point. And if you get on with your housemate, you might find you get along with their friends, too. This could be the start of a whole new circle of friendships – and who doesn’t want that?

Help with Chores

Hands up who thinks chores should be called ‘bores’? Us too. The good news is, when you’ve got a housemate, you can split them up. They might even like doing a certain chore you hate, like washing the dishes. Imagine getting out of that task – winning!

Jay also provided a couple of useful tips for finding and living with a housemate, which we thought we’d share with you:

Get a Referral

Rather than opting for a complete stranger (things can get weird – check out our Housemate Horror Stories article for all the gory details), it’s often good to source a housemate through your social circle.

Have a Comprehensive Occupancy Agreement

Putting an occupancy agreement in place protects both the landlord and the tenant, setting out the expectations and responsibilities from each side. It can cover things like the amount of rent, what to do in case of conflict, which party can terminate the agreement and on what grounds, plus pretty much anything else you want in writing.

Keep the Communication Open

Honest, open communication means both you and your housemate will always know where you stand. This is especially helpful when resolving conflicts. “It really needs to be a two-way street”, says Jay.

While Jay has almost always found living with a housemate to be a positive experience, she cautions that there are some negatives, too. It’s just as important to consider these as it is to look at the positives, so take a look below.

Significant Others ‘Freeloading’

If your housemate has a significant other and you constantly find them sitting pants-free on the couch when you come home from work, this is probably a sign that it’s time for a chat. The problem is, these chats can be awkward.

But if your housemate’s boyfriend or girlfriend has overstayed their welcome and they aren’t contributing to the rent or bills, it’s important to address this. The housing arrangement needs to work for all parties if it’s to work at all – and that’s that!

Party Animals Causing a Ruckus

When housemates decide to turn your living room into a mini Moosehead’s, this is a bad time for the landlord. Lay out some ground rules in your occupancy agreement around who can have parties and when, that way everyone knows what’s ok and what’s not.

Holidays = No Rent or Bills, Right?

Wrong. Make sure your housemate knows that if they go away, they’ll still be expected to contribute their share of the rent. If their trip is going to be for an extended period, you could negotiate on the amount of the bills they’ll need to pay. Just ensure it’s all discussed in advance so nobody gets their nose out of joint.

Overall, having a housemate can be an extremely positive experience. Preparation is key, so be sure that each party has discussed their expectations and you have solid plans in place for when things go wrong – including (at the risk of sounding like a broken record) a sound occupancy agreement.

Image credit: http://revandy.org/2013/10/08/friends/

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