Mon. Afternoon Rental Option – Starting a Group House Follow Up – U St, NW

This rental is located at 11th NW at V St NW:

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The Craigslist ad says:

“The house was built before the Civil War. It is what you’d expect from a pre-air conditioning, pre-Home Depot house: hardwood floors, lots of plaster, remarkably high ceilings, radiator heating, front and back yard, floors are mostly level. But we just finished a major renovation, so the kitchen is entirely new, the floors and walls are pristine, the wiring is certified to not start fires, and the foundation is now structurally sound.

Yes, every ad says this, but we mean it: this is a great location. You can walk a leisurely pace to the U Street Metro entrance in two and a half minutes. If you’re a music buff, we’re on the same block as Bohemian Caverns, and about three blocks from the 9:30 club, Twins Jazz, DC9, Velvet Lounge, and U Street Music Hall, and are five blocks to the Black Cat and Subterranean A. For the restauranteurs and bar-hoppers, this isn’t by the U Street strip—it’s _on_ the strip: the house is zoned Commercial, which is why some of the townhouses on this side of the block are taken up by restaurants (Chix, the Greek Spot, Tap & Parlour).

There will be five people living here, including ourselves. More about us: the 36-year old guy’s job title is statistician, but he swears to you that he is at least vaguely interesting. The 27-year old gal is an analyst for a well-known government bureaucracy; she frequently hosts game nights. Both have been living in the mid-Atlantic long enough to be really used to the humidity.

Room #1, facing 11th street: 215 sq feet, $1200/month

Room #2, North-facing: 150 square feet, $1050/month

Room #3, back-yard facing: 180 sq feet, five and a half windows, $1200/month

In case the numbers don’t give you an image, the rooms (esp. #1) are big enough for you to have your queen-sized bed, a full-sized desk, and still have room to walk around. They’re not just a place to sleep, but a space where you can actually spend time doing whatever it is that you do. Being a group house, everybody has the run of the first floor (~870 square feet).

Some bullet points:

* New washer/dryer right by the newly renovated kitchen.

* The kitchen is meat-free. The successful applicant will think this is awesome and not a constraint.

* About that back yard: if you can successfully garden, please do. I’d estimate it’s maybe 400 sq ft of farmable back yard. It’s fenced in with the yard of the church admin building, so the total space is suburban yard sized.

* If there are N people in the house, you pay 1/N of the utilities, including FiOS Internet, gas, electric, and house cleaning (which is essential if there are five people living here). The house has no phone lines. We’ve installed a high-efficiency boiler and lots of insulation, and the house was designed to stay naturally cool in summer, so the bills shouldn’t be too high.

* Parking: the house doesn’t have off-street parking. For what it’s worth, you can get a zone permit from the city. Did we mention that you can get from the front door to the U St Metro station in two and a half minutes, and that there’s a Capital Bikeshare bay still closer, and that gives the location a rating of “walker’s paradise”?

* We’re next door to a church. So we effectively have no neighbors in the evenings, but you only get to sleep in until about 10:30 Sunday morning. The church is often a-rockin’ Wednesday evenings.

* No pets. Srsly. The guy sneezes, a lot.

This is a follow up to the how to start a group home discussion from last week. $1050 and $1200 sound realistic?

74 Comment

  • I think it would be more helpful if the ad had more pictures of the house / bedrooms, rather than talking about the amenities of the U Street neighborhood, which I imagine most apartment-hunters are familiar with already.

  • For a house that was recently renovated, I find it strange that the CL ad has no interior photos.

    • Yeah, it would’ve been nice if they would’ve focused a little less on trying to write something clever, and a little more on taking some photos.

  • The bathroom sharing conditions are crucial to setting room prices. Some prospective roommates might care more about whether the room has its own bath than the age and job of the other roommates or even the size of the room.

  • Guys making a killing with renting out 3 rooms for $3450 and only paying $560K for this house plus whatever he paid to renovate it.

    • I was wondering how a statistician and a junior analyst would make enough to qualify for a mortgage on a house like this (which must be worth 2-3 times as much now). It must have been in horrible shape when they bought it.

    • Yeah–$3450 basically IS the mortgage, maybe the mortgage and then some, on $560k with 10% down at 5% interest. Even if he put $250k into renovating it, the owners are probably paying less per month than the renters–and that’s between two of them. Not to mention the fact that he/they are building equity.

      • My uninformed guess is the renovations cost about as much as you can charge on a half dozen gold cards between the two of them. More like $125 – 150. Fixed to livable — not flip — condition. At $250k, I’d have added another bathroom or two.

      • that’s the whole point–owner assumes the risk and the work, renter pays more $$. every rental situation is like this unless the owner is bad at business.

        • I wasn’t saying it’s inherently wrong–maybe just a little greedy, to have three renters paying nearly all of your mortgage. Of course, that’s what landlords always do, but they’re not usually living *with* their renters. Given the circumstances, it seems to me like the division should be a little more equitable. The whole ad rubs me the wrong way, though, so maybe I’m being extra critical. Definitely not someplace I’d want to live.

          • If the renters are willing to sign onto the/a mortgage — that’s when an equitable split would be considered. Otherwise, it’s ridiculous to expect the owners to give unrelated parties handouts in the form of discounted rent.

            Looks like the rents are (suprisingly) priced right-ish w/o all the stipulations. The OP can do one of a couple things. Rent the rooms one by one, over a period of a month or two. Lower the rent by $200/room and rent everything in a a week or two. Remove the stips and rent at market in a week or two. IOW, choose two: fast, good, profitable.

          • , it seems to me like the division should be a little more equitable. The whole ad rubs me the wrong way,

            I see what you’re saying, but the truth is that the rooms are being rented out at market rates, so it is “fair,” all things considered. If the owners weren’t living there, but it was a 5-bedroom house being rented out at those rates, would you bat an eye at this?

  • 1200 seems high for a room in a house with 5 others. i most likely would not rent a room in a group house for more than 900-1000. bathroom information would be good to know too as another poster suggested.

  • Wait, U Street has FIOS coverage?

  • and i agree re: the pictures. there need to be some. if i were to open that ad, i would scroll all the way down to look at the photos first, and if i only saw that one there, i probably wouldn’t bother to read that novel above it.

  • $1200 to get the luxary of living with 4 other people? I think that’s nuts.

    • +1 Sure you’re close virtually on U street, but you can save BIG BUCKS just moving 4 blocks north to Columbia Heights. You’ll be 7 minutes max from the metro, and an average 15 minute walk to the same music venues…

  • +1 on the need for interior photos and information about how many people are sharing the bathroom(s).

    Also, the most important information (price per room, cost of utilities, etc.) ought to be at the beginning of the ad.

    I remember this house was on the market when I was looking last year, and there was a huge gap between its asking price and its assessed value. Maybe the people who bought it feel like they need to take in roommates not only to pay the mortgage, but also to pay the property taxes.

    • Yeah, they’re looking at nearly $8,500 in property taxes next year. Am a bit surprised they didn’t contest the new assessed value. Even fixed up, I don’t think that place is worth a million bucks.

  • Are the 36-year-old guy and the 27-year-old woman a couple? By the way the ad is worded, I guess I would assume so, but I think you should state it explicitly. Some people would prefer not to live with a couple.

  • “The kitchen is meat-free. The successful applicant will think this is awesome and not a constraint.”

    I like eating meat and have always been considerate of vegan roommates cooking in my own pans & using my own plates. But to find it awesome to have to do so, as opposed to just being a good roommate. FAIL

    I hate militant vegans. People should respect other ways of living & not required to find other people’s viewpoints “awesome”.

    • I’m glad somebody else was bothered by this. What in the world does it matter? Can you not even stand thought of looking at a steak sitting in your fridge?

    • To be fair, they’re picking out people to live with, not be friends with. (I happen to (possibly disrespectfully) eat dead animals in front of the OP all the time, and he has never said a word about it.)

      I have friends who run the a/c at full blast in the summer, or own cats, or are Republicans, or love Bjork, but I do not choose to share my living conditions with them.

  • I think they might have a hard time filling it. The rent is too high for a group house and the meat-free kitchen will put off a majority of applicants.

  • $1000-$1200 to live in a _five person_ group house?

    Unless it has a jacuzzi, movie theater, five-car garage and a doorman, that’s kind of insane.

    $1000 should at a minimum get you the privilege of sharing a kitchen with at most two other people, if not your own bathroom.

    • pricey for a 5 person house share. When i was looking for places, I wasn’t willing to pay more than $1000 unless I had my own bathroom. And even that was a bit high to live with that many people including a couple. For this price, I could just have one other roommate.

      I think the ad definitely needs to state that they are a couple and they live in one room–you’ll have to tell them when you meet and this will just save everyone’s time. It’s a dealbreaker for a lot of people. Second everyone else on the bathrooms–is the rent based also on who shares a bathroom?

      • Never lived in a group house like this, nor will I at this point, but curious why couples are a dealbreaker. Wouldn’t that just lower everybody else’s rent?

        • You would think that it lowers the rent, but usually the couple is in one room and the rent is divided by rooms so it’s really the couple that saves money. It’s mostly the dynamics of living with a couple, especially ones that own the house. There’s seems to be this sense that it’s their space and not yours, but maybe this isn’t the case here since they’ll be lots of people in the house.

          • Also, if the couple breaks up, am i still paying my same share of the utilities or am i now taking on their share because the room isn’t going to be filled?

  • Have to agree with comments about the pics and bathroom situation.

    I think the ad itself is worded properly based on how the OP(s) seemed they wanted the house to be. They seem to really want more of a community feel in the house rather than just 4 bedrooms with 5 people all being roommates.

    Also, based on some of the prices I know around this area the prices are within range, if not slightly on the lower end. I know of places that are a small room with 3 people sharing a bathroom for 1100+.

    Not for me (even if I didn’t have my own place) but I think they will be able to rent this place out quickly. If for no other reason other than the location is absurdly amazing.

  • $100 this is foreclosed upon in under 2 years.

  • ridiculous! rent prices are outrageous in this stupid city.

    get real buddy – a room in a group house shouldn’t cost someone half their paycheck.

  • looks like the last two lines of the ad got cut off above:

    “* The house is, as we speak, getting fixed up (which is why I’m holding off on interior photos for another day or two; sorry). The construction will be done well before you move in; if not, we’ll knock a few bucks of the first month’s rent.

    * So, what have you been reading lately? Are you a handyman|designer|show producer|literary agent|chef|gardener, or do you have something else especially interesting and useful to bring to a DC group house?”

    Personally, if I were looking for a place I would want to know right off the bat how many bathrooms there are and the ad is somewhat misleading about not stating that the current occupants are a couple. Also, I don’t like ads such as this which ask you to prove “how cool you are” to live in their group house. I would much rather know whether someone is a good person vs. an inconsiderate jerkface, rather than if they have a “fun” or “impressive” profession.

    • So in addition to your $1200 for 200 SF of personal space, you have to bring a skill and contribute to the commune?

      In my opinion the ideal roommate is not someone who starts a village mentality, it’s someone you never see. That’s just me though.

      I think there are plenty of people who like living in hippie enclave type housing. But those are not the same people who would pay that much to be in a 2,500 SF house with four othe people.

    • I read it not as “prove how cool you are” but “prove how useful you are,” which is even worse. If I were a handyman (one that could somehow afford a $1200 room and didn’t mind parking my work truck on a busy street) I would lie about my profession– otherwise they’ll have me doing everything.

  • I’m trying to figure out where this house is. I think there’s one getting renovated right next to Chix, but I thought that was a condo split. Regardless, i think it’s a bit too much.

  • The rent is too high, especially living WITH a couple. Also, they seem to like setting rules for the house rather than letting group house rules evolve based on the preferences of those paying them 4 digits a month. Do you want a 36 year-old in your group house?

    I live separately in a basement with my girlfriend and we rent out the upstairs. This works well because we don’t force them to accommodate our preferences. We don’t tell them what they are allowed to eat and don’t make them pay for a cleaning service.

    Furthermore, I’d encourage explicitly stating that you are a couple in your ad so as not to be deceiving.

    • Good points… but the fact is, they probably feel they can set the rules since they own the house. Personally, if I were looking to live in a group house, I would prefer not to be in a situation where my landlord was also my roommate. I just think there’s too much potential for issues that way.

      • if I were looking to live in a group house, I would prefer not to be in a situation where my landlord was also my roommate.

        Exactly. There is too much room for problems here, especially with the sort of entitled tone of the posting. The best roommate situations are always, “I’ll stay out of your way if you stay out of my way. And we’ll have the occasional party.”

        I sympathize with someone who owns a place being concerned about his personal space with other people living in it, but the truth is that if you’re that concerned, don’t have roommates, and if you must have roommates, don’t seek them out on craigslist.

  • I’m surprised they found four people who don’t have pets, don’t eat meat, don’t mind living with a lot of other people, and are willing to pay dearly for the privilege of all the above. Good luck on the fifth.

    • ugh, pregnancy brain, must read closer. I don’t think they’ll find THREE people who will jive with them. Plus, living with a couple is WEIRD. Always.

  • Lots of good observations above re: lack of information on the bathrooms and the sense that the rent is too high and the need for pictures.

    Here’s my addition to that discussion: It seems to me like OP set rent based on his total mortgage expenses. But here’s the rub: OP and his chica are pocketing equity every month, probably $700-800 or so, if my math is anywhere close. That’s essentially their savings. So they may need the rent to make their mortgage payment, but residents in a group house shouldn’t be expected to carry a set share of the monthly mortgage expenses (i.e., total mortgage payment is $4000, and there are 4 bedrooms, so everybody pays approx. 1000/mo..) if some of the residents are equity owners. They should be expected to pay what is a fair market value for the space plus a fair share of the utilities. Personally, knowing people who rent 2BRs within 4 blocks of this for under 1800 (yeah, I know that’s very few people, but they do exist), I think these prices for single rooms are high by 25-35%.

    And to the OP, apologies dude. To be fair, you asked what a fair rent would be earlier, and so much of this didn’t come out in that post. Welcome to PoPville.

    • Doesn’t “fair market value” = “what people will pay”? High school econ was a long time ago but I seem to remember something like that from capitalism day. It *is* scary “what people will pay” for housing in this city, which I suppose is why I always live in crappy little holes…

      • Yep, and if he can get that, he’s charging fair market value and my point above is completely moot. I’m just making an observation that the math, to me, seems not be based on an estimate of what people will pay but on what OP feels he needs to make his mortgage payment. And who knows? The two may be exactly the same number.

        Ask yourself this: could the 3 people who OP envisions would want to take these rooms get a great 3BR house or apartment in the same area for $3450/month or less and, if nothing else, share the kitchen with 2 fewer people and not have to figure out life with your couple-landlords? I’m betting the answer to that is: yes, pretty easily.

  • I think the asking price is not that high. This house is in one of the most desirable neighborhoods for renters, and it’s right on top of the metro.

    I’d find a cheap amateur photographer to take some interior shots (I’m sure someone in the PoPville Flickr pool would be willing to do it). Before taking the pictures I’d get rid of whatever that scary looking contraption is in the middle of the room.

    It’s great that you guys measured the square footage of everything. I think it would make more sense to split the ad up into separate ads for each room. If you think you can estimate what cable & utilities might run, it would be best just to charge a flat rate each month. Splitting bill and collecting the money from all those people sounds like a headache. Besides, the first thing people will ask is what the utilities are likely to cost them.

    I’d cut the description down to just the basics. You can chat about your jobs and such when you meet the applicants in person.

    I’d also consider putting the vegetarian part in the title. It’s a major requirement that will attract some applicants and rule out many others, but it’s buried way down in the description. Believe me, people do not read things that are lengthy, and you’ll be saving yourself a lot of frustration if you put that part in the one area of the ad they do fully read.

    • I’ve always been really opposed to flat-rate utilities–just no incentive to turn out the lights. Even if they’re paying a fifth of the bill, I think people behave differently. So it’s worth the hassle of sending out lots of emails to me.

  • Thanks again for all your comments. I’ll get right on the interior photos as soon as I get home.

    There are 2.5 baths; have revised post to clarify this.

    Yes, this isn’t a house for everyone, and I wrote a post that is not aimed at just anybody. Since posting three days ago, I’ve only gotten 22 non-spam replies, and if you’ve ever run a CL ad you know that’s on the low side. But many of those are already pretty enthusiastic, love the kitchen, and seem like we’d actually get along. We’ll see how the interviews go…

    Gonzo: the rowhouse you’re thinking of is two doors down from me, and is indeed a split, with the owner living in one of the units.

    • Good luck man. Hopefully you can get the right mix of people for the price you are asking. I am pretty sure it won’t be too much of a problem.

      Maybe you can get PoP to re-update once it is rented out just so we can hear how the process went.

      Also so you can show that you proved the nay-sayers wrong. 😉

    • Agree with some of the others previous to this…as someone who recently did the group house search:

      – it is absolutely necessary you state you are a couple…I’ve done that living situation before and Im not sure I would do it again.
      – the bathroom thing…whos sharing what with whom is important.
      – there is no way I would pay $1200 plus utilities to share a bathroom in a group house.

    • commentors here are usually pretty out of touch with the city at large. good luck with the search. i respect you knowing and being upfront about the kind of person you want to share a ouse with.

    • I see that you’ve put the number of bathrooms in the ad, but since the ad doesn’t make it clear that you are a couple, I don’t think it makes it clear that the three potential renters will be sharing a bathroom with each other. I think it’s important to know that you will be sharing a bathroom with two other people, which is not exactly the easiest thing to do.

      • +1.

        The ad should clearly state that:

        – the statistician and the analyst are a couple;
        – he and she are sharing the bedroom(s?) and bathroom on the top floor;
        – there is one bathroom on the middle floor, to be shared by the three renters; and
        – there is a half-bathroom on the main floor.

        (Or adjusted as necessary, if I haven’t guessed correctly on what’s where.)

        • “- there is one bathroom on the middle floor, to be shared by the three renters”

          That’d surely a deal-breaker for most people.

    • Are the 2.5 baths available to the whole house 24/7? Or is one an en suite for the couple? Critical information left out makes a reader very suspicious.

      Everything about this place makes me grateful that my group house days are behind me. But even then (most of the 80s) – a 5 person house always meant much lower rent than a 2-3 person share.

      With shared utilities – even with a crazy rental market and a decent location – these rents are nuts.

  • cool…good luck. I live around the corner on V.

  • this sounds like a downer. Sorry. There really is no way I’d pay $1200 for a room to live with 4 other people. 4 other people who, right off the bat, have all these rules (I have to work for my keep, no meat in the kitchen, etc.. etc..) this sounds like the worst situation ever. If I had $1200 to spend per month on rent, I’d rather live in a tiny tiny studio, with my own bathroom, a “do whatever you like” refrigerator and silence when I get home after work.

  • Wait, you can get FIOS in residential houses near U Street? Since when?

  • I wouldn’t pay that much money to live with a bunch of strangers. Actually even if they were my friends, that’s still a lot of people to live with for that much money. Unless one of them is actually a separate basement suite or something, should be $900 max, especially since the rent doesn’t include utilities, and even $900 is stretching it. Anyone who would pay more than that is crazy and needs to look more.

    • Agreed, especially since you’re effectively living with your landlord, which means you’ll never have an even say in the overall tone/rules of the house. You’re living on their terms, which is already apparent in their ad which calls for a strictly vegetarian kitchen, and seemingly admonishes potential roomies who might want or need to utilize a car.

      So for less money you can probably find a similar house that will allow you to sleep-in on Sundays, create your own norms and not live with a couple you’ve never met before (which can be brutal) or score a decent studio for a similar price. Good luck to them, but I simply can’t see the motivation there.

  • The rent is TOO DAMN HIGH.

    No way would I pay $1200 to share a bathroom with 2 other people and a kitchen with 4 other people. You can easily find a good two bedroom apt in a good neighborhood for equal rent with only ONE roommate.

    But if someone is really looking for the kind of living situation offered by OP, then it could be worth it. Maybe some people would pay a premium to live in a meat-free house with landlords who want to be your friend. Personally, I hate people but love meat, so I would self-select out of this particular house.

  • that novel was pretty douchey, but it is really missing a “we work and we play hard” line to get it up into that upper echelon.

  • I just have to say I love how we got the question last week and now we get to see and comment on the ad. Good job, PoP! Please the photos when they show up. And maybe the OP would submit to a variation on the GDON interview with you so we can all find out how it turned out — did they get people to move in, have to lower the price, give up exclusive access to their bathroom, allow some meat in the fridge, etc.

  • 1200 a month to live with 5 people and share a bathroom?

    I don’t care if Barack offered to rent me a room at Camp David with my own bathroom, and had Metro extend the redline to the literal front door, there is NO way I would pay $1200 for a room in a group house with 5 other people when I was sharing a bath. It sounds like these people have gotten themselves into money problems and hope some serious rubes come along.

    I’ve been in DC awhile, have lot of friends and acquaintences who are always in the rental market and so I consider myself pretty in familiar with DC, but these people are delusional from the lack of protein in their diet if they think they are going to get $1200 bucks for a room in their 5 person group house

  • Ugh, this is all wrong.

    First off, yeah, I would never live with a couple. The dynamic is weird to begin with, and even if they are the coolest people on Earth, I still don’t feel that rent is equitably divided when a couple lives in a one-person space. They act as if rent covers only a bedroom, and it doesn’t – a couple only takes up one room to sleep, but they take up plenty more space in the house since they are two individuals. I know that, in this case the couple isn’t paying rent per se, but it is still worth noting that I always think that price division is super unfair in these situations. Especially since the 27-year-old gal’s frequent game nights are sure to be held in the common space.

    And it is true that being roommates with your landlord is a terrible idea – especially if he is also the homeowner. Get ready to walk on eggshells. Also, if this guy owns the house and is acting as landlord, who the hell does he think he is that he is asking for what skills each resident could bring to a group house? If I am paying $1200 plus utilities to share a bathroom with 2 others and a kitchen with 4, I am sure as hell not spending my weekends fixing the toilet. That is the landlord’s responsibility.

    For people saying that this is ‘market price,’ I do see plenty of rental options in U St for 1200 or more – but they are definitely not group houses with this many people crammed into one space.

    Also, maybe this is nit-picky, but it annoys me that he says ‘180 square feet’ instead of listing the specific wall measurements. That matters – is it a square room, or 2x90ft? Is it one of those odd hexagon spaces that nothing fits properly in?

    He’s right about the walker’s paradise part. But if I were apartment hunting, I’d walk far away from this place.

  • I agree with WTF? but have no doubt that this group house will fill up easily. There are plenty of lazy rubes out there.

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