Each month Washington is teeming with new residents looking to live and work in the nation’s capitol. Many come to the city with high hopes to change the world but without the income or budget to match their aspirations. A lot of you, along with your friends and co-workers, join together to find a group house which can translate into better housing for less cost per person.
Group houses are a great deal – if you can find them. But unfortunately, you are not alone. All of the new construction in the hot and up-coming neighborhoods are one, two, or (if you’re lucky) three bedroom rentals. There are precious few new row houses being built. So while demand is high, supply hasn’t changed much in recent years thus creating a very competitive market. Here are a few tips to help you secure and successfully live in a group house.
Successful Renting Tips from Magdieli Property Management
1. Early Birds Often Catch the House – You can’t overestimate the importance of diligently checking for listings as new rentals come and go faster than political news cycles. When you see a good fit, respond immediately, and ask the landlord for the first available appointment, and then adjust your schedules accordingly. Be proactive by asking for a rental application in advance so you can provide it on the spot if you find a winner. The landlord will be impressed with your preparedness and your advance effort will put you ahead of the other groups looking to rent the unit.
2. Communicate and Coordinate with your Roommates – Before beginning your rental search, make sure you discuss, and agree upon your needs and wants. The most important areas you should agree upon are budget, location, and house amenities. Make sure you differentiate between your ‘needs’ and ‘wants. Most houses won’t have what everyone wants, but you should not settle for less than you need. If you are clear with each other, you can make your decision to apply on the spot. Often, if you take a few days to think about it, you will lose out to another group who was able to move faster than you.
3. Ask the Right Questions – The house viewing is an opportunity for you to see the house, but also a chance to interview the landlord about the property and the management. Write a list of questions that you want answered in advance of your visit so you can make an informed decision quickly and reduce the surprises that may occur after you move in. At a minimum you should ask: What are the historical cost of utilities? Who’s responsible for shoveling snow, trash pick-up, and house maintenance? How big is the water heater? One of the most common complaints from tenants is not enough hot water for everyone to shower at the same time before work. A rule of thumb is 10 gallons per person is sufficient. If your group of six moves into a house with a 40 gallon tank, there will be cold showers if everyone is on the same schedule. Does the property have a current Basic Business License from the city (a requirement in Washington, and an assurance that the city has inspected the property for housing code standards)? Additionally, you should know how far you are from public transportation, groceries, pharmacies, and other essential services to make your stay is pleasant and convenient.
4. You Were Friends, Now You Are Family – When you apply for group housing and sign a lease you all are entering into a contractual relationship together with your landlord. The landlord views you as a single family, so you must trust and know your roommates as their actions can affect your living situation. A landlord may reject a whole group based on just one person’s poor credit, income, or rental history. If that happens, you may want to reconsider which friends should be part of your housing family.
5. More on Being a Family – Some landlords will only require one member of the group to be on a lease. This is a bad idea as it puts all of the responsibility for the group’s actions, and mistakes, on one person. Ask the landlord to put all the roommates on the lease. Likewise, make sure that you have a process for coordinating timely rental payments for all your roommates. Late rent by one roommate can ultimately affect all of you if not resolved. This extends to damages as well. If one of your roommates causes damage, you may all be held liable. Have a process in place to work together as roommates and to communicate problems as a group with your landlord. Finally, even if not required, everyone in the group should have rental insurance to cover issues caused by you or your roommates that inevitably and often accidentally occur.
6. Continue to Work Together Through the Length of Your Lease – Teamwork doesn’t end the day you move in. You are all responsible for the general upkeep and healthy living of the whole group. Early-on, create a schedule for cleaning common areas, paying the rent on time, communicating with your landlord, and resolving issues between yourselves as they arise. Your landlord will expect that you can work together as a group to manage internal problems. Your landlord can help resolve serious disputes, but most likely will not want to mediate group personality conflicts.
About Amit Magdieli
Amit Magdieli is the founder of Magdieli Property Management LLC is a full service property and tenant care company operating for 15 years in Washington, DC. He is a licensed real estate agent, member of GCAAR, and member of Multiple Listing Service (MLS)