“Mr. Matt! Wake up! It’s time to eat!” my son yells as he pounds on the door to our housemate’s bedroom.
“Shhh!” I hiss. “Come back here! Matt is sleeping!”
Kenny thumps back up the stairs, and he drops a toy racecar on the kitchen floor, which startles Shelley. She wails.
I quiet her down, and Rob puts some food in front of Kenny to quiet him down, as well. “Thank goodness Matt sleeps like a rock,” I muse.
The Stranger in Our Basement
Matt lives in our basement, and sometimes, I can’t believe that he pays to live with us. He’s a single guy, but he puts up with toddler shenanigans, wailing babies, and house renovations.
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When Matt first moved in, I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of having a strange man sleeping in the basement, but he’s become a friend, and he's a rock star with the kids.
Rob and I started toying with the idea of having a housemate when we started house shopping. A lot of the properties within our price range had four bedrooms and two or three bathrooms. As a family of three (at the time), we didn’t need that much space.
“If the right person comes along, and we have a house by then, we can rent out a bedroom,” Rob told me, as if housemates just plop down from the sky. I didn’t think we would actually seek out a housemate.
Months into the onerous house-hunting process, we jumped on a screaming home deal.
A split-level house in a cul-de-sac, just two blocks from the greenway that would allow Rob to bike to school. And the house was cheap, since it needed extensive repairs. We bought the house, and a few days later, Rob got an email from Matt, an old friend.
Matt would be starting school in our town in January, and he needed a place to live. Did Rob know of anyone looking for a roommate?
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Finding a Roommate who Likes Toddlers and Ugly Houses
“My wife and I just bought a house, and the basement is open,” Rob replied, “but we are going to do some renovations. The house is ugly. Rent will be $450 a month. This is the address.”
That night, Rob told me about the email. I was upset that he didn’t discuss it with me first, but I figured that there was no way that this “Matt” person would want to rent a bedroom in an ugly house that he had to share with a toddler. I was wrong.
It turns out that housemates like Matt show up at just the right time.
Matt moved into the house two weeks after we did. He signed a seven-month lease – enough time to get through the school year. At the time, his bedroom had 30-year-old, industrial-grade carpet and roach-turd-encrusted closets. “Spacious,” he said. “I like that I get two closets.”
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Learning to Live With a Roommate Again
I didn’t make much of an effort to get to know Matt at first, and I unconsciously shielded Kenny from him. It wasn’t that Matt was creepy, but the whole situation felt weird.
A month after Matt moved in, he came home with a Little Caesar's Pizza and a six-pack of craft beer. He saw me give the stink eye to his pizza. “It’s not the best,” he said, “but I’m out of pizza rolls, so I bought this instead.”
Indeed, the only things he kept in the fridge were hyper-caffeinated beverages, pizza rolls, and green apples.
“Please eat with us instead,” I told him. I didn’t want him to die of sodium poisoning. Matt agreed, and he provided the beer.
That night, we struck up a friendship, and I started to appreciate all the benefits of having a housemate.
Renting the basement provides a reliable income stream that covers utilities, insurance, and property taxes on our house, which means that we pay minimal housing expenses (outside of renovations).
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This is one of the most important things that we’ve done to make it possible for me to quit my job while Rob is in school.
I also recognize the non-financial benefits to renting out the basement. Rob, Matt, and I became friends as well as housemates. Kenny adores Matt, and Matt willingly cues up an endless variety of monster truck videos on his phone for Kenny’s enjoyment.
I never expected to have a housemate after we had kids, but now that I’ve experienced it, I wouldn’t want to live any other way. Having a housemate provides so many benefits – both financial and otherwise – that it’s difficult for me to picture our life without Matt. For us, renting out the basement isn’t weird – it’s awesome!