Taking in a Lodger #4 – Benefits of a lodger

The most common unexpected benefit of taking in a lodger is something we touched on in our last email: friendship.

We get thousands of emails from SpareRoom users telling us about their experiences. Probably one of the most commonly used phrases amongst them is ‘friends for life’. There have been bridesmaids, best men and women and (while we’re on the marriage theme) we’ve had a surprising number of SpareRoom weddings. I should stress at this point that one of our golden rules for choosing a lodger is not to select one you’re attracted to, but romance can spring from unexpected places!

That’s not to say you should expect to become best of friends, or feel like the arrangement has been a failure if you’re not. There’s a very comfortable middle ground that many lodgers and landlords occupy, where both get on with and respect each other, have the occasional conversation or meal together but otherwise get on with their own lives.

Another great benefit that doesn’t always occur to people is security. Have you ever gone away for the weekend or on holiday and wondered which light you should leave on so it looks like someone’s home? With a lodger chances are there will always be one of you at home. Unless, of course, you’re one of the ‘friends for life’ ones who goes on holiday with their lodger (as several SpareRoom users have reported!). If you have a pet then your lodger may well be happy to take care of feeding duties whenever you’re away.

There are many other weird and wonderful benefits we’ve heard about. For instance, several people have taken in lodgers from overseas and learned a new language. You never know what skills, talents and interests your lodger may have. Some landlords had their laptops fixed, gardens manicured, dogs walked and even driveways cleared of snow by their lodger.

Of course the money is the reason why most people take in a lodger, but nobody said there had to be just one upside.

Taking in a Lodger #3 – How much can I charge?

This is one of the most important questions people ask us when they’re thinking of getting in a lodger. It’s hardly surprising as the extra money is the reason most people do it – we polled 2,500 people with lodgers and 59% said they wouldn’t be able to afford their mortgage without a lodger.

The answer is, of course, ‘it depends’. Several factors will affect what your room is worth. Location, the type of property, the decoration, fixtures and fittings – all of these will affect what you can charge. The current UK average for a double room, including some bills, is around £90 per week. In certain areas (London for example) you’ll get far more than this whereas in others it can be as low as £70.

Your best bet is to visit SpareRoom and have a look what other people nearby are charging. Just pop your postcode or area into the search box on the homepage and click ‘search now’.

If you do the same but check ‘Rooms wanted’ (instead of ‘Rooms for rent’) you can also see a list of all the people looking for a room in your area, which will give you an idea of who’s looking and what their budget is likely to be. Also have a look at the ‘Check average rents in this area’ link (on the right hand side of the ‘Rooms wanted’ search results page) to see average rents for different room sizes (with and without bills) in your area.

Don’t forget, you’ll need to to say whether your rent includes bills or not. Don’t just say ‘bills included’ without working out what they’ll add up to or you could end up cancelling out some of the financial benefit of having a lodger.

Taking in a lodger #2 – How do I know who I’m taking in?

In the U.S. there’s a saying that they’re just friends we haven’t met yet; in the UK we’re told from a young age never to talk to them. It’s no wonder we Brits are more likely to treat strangers with suspicion.

If you’re British and visited the US you’ve probably experienced the surprise (and initial discomfort) of a complete stranger suddenly launching into conversation with you, perhaps on a bus or train. Many of us have also been surprised when, talking to a stranger, we realise that they are in fact not a freak and we’re actually getting on quite well with them – but really the odds of a stranger being a nice decent human being are pretty damn good, it’s just easy to forget that!

“How do I know who I’m taking in” (and variations on that theme) is one of the most common questions we get asked by people thinking about taking in a lodger.

Here are our top 3 tips to help you feel more reassured about who you’re taking in:

  1. Take your time. Not only do you not have to take the first lodger that responds to your ad, you also don’t have to make up your mind after one meeting. Try meeting for a drink in a cafe or pub. It’s neutral ground so you can both relax and get a more natural impression of each other. The more time you spend with them, the more opportunity there is to realise that they aren’t right for whatever reason.
  2. Get references. You should try to get previous landlord, employer, bank and personal references.
  3. Trust your instincts. Your instincts have thousands of years of evolution behind them. Sometimes you just know when something’s right or wrong, even if you can’t say why. It’s often best to use gut instinct over any list of pros and cons.

More than 9 out of 10 lodger landlords (of the thousands we’ve polled) have had a positive experience taking in a lodger. And 59% would even consider their lodger to be a friend. Out of the small % that had a negative experience, most were down to domestic fall outs and lifestyles differences that could’ve been avoided with the right preparation. Over the coming weeks we’ll give you our top tips straight from the mouths of other lodger landlords who’ve been there, done it and learned through experience.

Taking in a lodger #1 – Who makes the best lodgers?

As promised, here’s the first post in a series aimed at anyone thinking of taking in a lodger. There’s plenty more info and advice to follow but you’ve got to start somewhere so we started with a question:

Who makes the best lodgers?

Something that causes great debate between our users (and us at SpareRoom) is whether existing friends or strangers make the best lodgers or flatmates. On the surface it seems like the answer would be obvious, but in fact it’s not so straightforward. Of course, existing friends can make fantastic flatmates, but this should be approached with caution because there’s a danger of losing them if things don’t work out.

The trouble is that living with someone is a wholly different kind of relationship. When friends fall out it tends to be over the important things in life, but in a household it’s more likely to be relatively trivial things (that in an ideal world no one would ever fall out about). Things like who last bought toilet paper and the maximum time washing up should be left for. Some of us have experienced moving in with partners only to have the honeymoon period brought to an abrupt end once the bickering over domestic chores starts!

The other issue is that, if you know someone well and are very comfortable with them, you’re more likely to take things for granted and abuse the situation – often unintentionally. If, for instance, your friend is struggling for money one month, he or she might think that (out of the people they owe money to) you’re the one who would mind least hanging on. Because they’re your friend you might not feel comfortable saying ‘actually I really do need the rent on time this month because I’ve got to pay the mortgage’.

Out of 100s we polled, only 28% said existing friends make the best flatmates. Most felt that strangers were better, mainly because they’re more likely to know where the boundaries are and it makes it easier to establish ground rules from the outset.

Of course some friends end up living together and loving it so don’t be put off by any of this – all we ask is that you consider the options first as the great thing about taking in lodgers is there are plenty of options.

If you’re considering advertising for a lodger, the next post will try to answer the question almost everyone asks: “How do I know who I’m taking in?”.