This post is a total brain dump so be prepared for more obsessing than I usually let through on here! Also please excuse any incoherence – it’s been a busy few days.
While eating breakfast on Wednesday morning, I received an email from our landlord informing us that she and her husband are moving back to the area and asking if we planned to move out by the end of our lease on August 25. No, we were not planning to move out! We would have liked to stay in this townhouse until leaving Durham entirely. Our lease has an automatic renewal clause, so we thought we were OK in not being proactive with our property management company regarding renewing.
I immediately yelled for Kyle, who was getting in the shower, told him that we had to move in a month, burst into tears and fell on the floor (can you tell I REALLY hate having my plans changed or not having plans?) and within 3 minutes we were rereading the email, checking our lease, and on to perusing padmapper.com.
Our landlord said in her email that if we needed more time to move she could be “flexible” for about a month – our lease stipulates that we must receive (and give) 60 days notice about moving out, so we legally can take until the end of September if necessary. Since prime moving season in this college town winds down in August, though, it might be easier for us to jump ship sooner.
The First Decision
I’m trying to think of this inconvenience as an opportunity. While we truly love our current townhouse and it is perfect for us right now, it’s not ideal for a roommate situation as the second bedroom is quite small. A year ago we were willing to say “worry about later later” regarding Kyle moving out and me finding a roommate, but now we’re a year closer to that coming to pass and we can search for a place that better suits our changing needs.
However, our first reactions to what size of a place were disparate – Kyle thinks we should get a 1BR and I think we should get a 3BR! His logic is that we have more space than we need right now so it’s time to downsize. While he’s still living here we can save more money for when we’re living apart and have to travel to see one another and after he moves I can continue to live there by myself. My logic is that the bigger a place we get the lower the cost per person is; we should go ahead and secure one roommate now and another when Kyle leaves.
I quickly looked up some prices and square footages for a complex that we were interested in when we were searching for a new place last summer. I’ve never priced out 1 BRs before and I wanted to see how they compare with 2 and 3 BRs. I looked at one location of this one complex because I wanted to sort of control for location, build quality, and amenities. Note: These prices are on the low side for Durham given the size and location of the units (and hence there is usually a long waiting list to get in).
This is kind of a classic price vs. value issue – the price total cost is least for the 1 BR but the price per square foot is least for the 3 BR. It makes my brain hurt – I can’t settle on either one or split the difference for the 2 BR.
In Which I Play with Excel
Using the formula I provided for calculating rent among roommates and from studying the floor plan dimensions provided by the complex, I figured out how much “my” rent would be in each of the sizes of units with different numbers of occupants.
(Side note: Does anyone else LOVE looking at floor plans? I’ve enjoyed it since I was a kid. There is one complex nearby that caught my eye with 3D renderings of their floor plans and I can’t stop looking at them! (The rent is a bit high and the location far from work, though.))
I think it’s a bit easier to understand the differences among the values in graphical form.
These plots further entrench for me the difficulty in deciding what would be best to do rent-wise! Living with Kyle in a 1 BR would be fairly inexpensive, but it would become the most expensive option when he leaves. Cramming into a 3 BR with two roommates is the cheapest possible configuration , but with just the two of us there it’s the most expensive after living alone.
What size place is actually the lowest price or the best value will depend on how long Kyle is in town for. He hasn’t set a graduation date or applied for jobs. While I am still optimistic that he could be moving on to his next job in the fall, even early fall, I also have to admit that there is a possibility that he could be here for the full year – just because we don’t know the future.
So I played with some numbers of different scenarios on what we would pay in total in rent over the next year. The x axis is the number of months after we move in until Kyle moves out and the y axis is the rent we would pay for “my” share of the rent over 1 year. Only my share of the rent is reflected because, while we would know what Kyle’s share would be in Durham, we can’t account for what he would be paying elsewhere after he moves. These calcs assume we don’t have a roommate while Kyle is in town as that is his preference.
I find it interesting that for this particular company, all the options equal out in total rent if Kyle is here for about 7 months after we move. Getting a 2 BR is the safe option as it would be easy to budget the same rent the whole year, first with Kyle here and then with one roommate. If we think Kyle is going to leave sooner than 7 months, the 3 BR would make the most sense, but if he’s going to take longer we should go for the 1 BR. But we don’t know!
Anyway the numbers above are only a little case study of how 1, 2, and 3 BR places compare. And it leaves me more confused than when I started!
What Do We Actually Want?
Kyle and I are still talking through what we want out of our next place – we haven’t had much time alone together in the past couple days so we’ve had a lot of disjointed gchat conversations. As I said, I initially wanted to go for a larger place for a potentially lower rent and Kyle wanted to go for a 1 BR. I don’t really want to live alone after Kyle moves so the 1 BR isn’t very attractive. Then again, finding roommates is a process and definitely introduces an element of uncertainty. Kyle is pretty adamant that he doesn’t want a roommate while we’re still living together, which I can appreciate, and now that we’re fairly sure that he won’t be involuntarily unemployed.
Last summer we made a list of what we liked and didn’t like about our then-apartment. Now that we have lived in another place together we can add to the list of what we appreciate in an abode. (Chiefly, we love our current location with a short commute to school.) The main reason we didn’t consider a 1 BR last time around is that we love to entertain and we’ve observed that the 1 BR layouts available in this area come with not just fewer bedrooms but also a smaller common area. If we could find a 1 BR with a good layout for the common area, it would be an attractive option.
In addition to Kyle preferring not to have roommates, I’ve gotten indications from talking with friends that we might be more undesirable as roommates than I had anticipated. I mean, I get that anyone would want to be cautious about living with a married couple because of the relationship dynamics. But my friends indicated that a roommate might feel like she was moving into a space dominated by the other couple instead of like a full housemate – even if we were renting as well and had only recently moved in. It doesn’t help that we wouldn’t be able to tell the roommate exactly when Kyle would be moving out!
You might be thinking that getting another 2 BR is the clear choice – it’s more stable number of occupants-wise, it’s affordable. I do think it is the safe choice but I kind of want to shake things up! Going to a 1 BR would be an opportunity to downsize, which we’ll need to do before leaving Durham anyway, but potentially challenging for our marriage. Our second bedroom is Kyle’s office; when Kyle gets into his crazy-focused work mode, as he will be when he’s writing his dissertation and preparing for his defense, he stays up all night working, and I’m concerned that he might get on each other’s nerves more easily in a smaller space during that stressful period. Going to a 3 BR with a roommate would add the challenge of finding and living with roommates, but would make Kyle’s moving away probably easier for me as I would have some continuity in where and with whom I’m living. (Also note that the rent on the 3 BR I cited above is less than what we were paying for our last apartment, which was 2 BR/2 BA.)
It’s all so much to think about! And unexpectedly, too. I’m feeling pressure to make a decision quickly so that we can get on a waiting list for a complex.
Have you ever been told to move out when you didn’t want to? Do you tend to look more at price or value? What are you highest priorities when you are choosing a new place to live? Would you ever consider living with a married couple if one was moving out soon?