The Housemate: We Have a Man in Our Basement!
“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. 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?
Finding a roommate who likes ugly houses-and toddlers!
“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.”
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. Matt 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). 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!