- Listen to the podcast “#267: Married + House Hacking with Nina and Walker Noon” on the Denver Real Estate Investing Podcast
- Watch the YouTube video (at the bottom.)
- Read the blog post. Note, the blog is an executive summary. Get the in-depth breakdown from the podcast or video.
Why would I want to live with roommates?
When I first brought up the idea of house hacking to my wife Nina, I pitched it as buying a house with extra bedrooms that we could rent out. Unsurprisingly, she said no. I’d spent the past few months learning about the concept: how we could use it to essentially live for free, build wealth, and be able to invest in other rental properties. I thought the start of our house search was the perfect time to bring it up, but I didn’t take the time to fully explain why it would be beneficial to us.
Realizing my mistake, I asked her to read articles and listen to podcasts talking about it so she could understand why this was something that excited me so much. She took the time to learn about the idea over the next few months and started to see the same benefits I saw. At the same time, a former college roommate of hers moved to Denver and needed a place to stay, so we offered her the extra bedroom in our rental property. By the time we were seriously starting our house search, we’d already been living happily with a roommate and both of us understood the benefits of house hacking.
Finding the perfect house hack
We initially kept our house search to the Cory-Merrill neighborhood near Washington Park. After looking at a lot of houses, we had a better idea of what we wanted. A lot of older houses had two or three bedrooms but only one bathroom, something that would be tough if we were going to live with roommates. So, we expanded our search to nearby areas that gave us more options.
I was working in commercial real estate during this time, though my interest in residential real estate was growing. I acted as our agent and did a lot of learning on the fly. We submitted a total of five offers, the first four of which were rejected. After every failed offer, I called the real estate agent to learn how to improve my next offer.
Soon, Nina found a house in Virginia Village that she loved and that came with both extra bedrooms and bathrooms. The only problem was that it was out of our price range. A few days later, the COVID shutdown started, and no one knew how long it would last. Nina convinced me to tour the property, and we agreed that it was a great house for us. I decided to call the listing agent and be honest: we really liked the house, but it was out of our price range. Surprisingly, the agent told me to submit our offer anyway. Due to the uncertainty surrounding the shutdown, her clients were concerned about the possibility that the house could sit on the market.
The house is in Virginia Village, just across from a commercial retail center that we can walk to. It has four bedrooms and three bathrooms. On the top floor is a master bedroom with master bath, two other bedrooms, and a bathroom. In the basement, there’s a suite with a bedroom and bathroom. There’s also a wet bar with sink that acts as a kitchenette.
Because of the how the beginning of COVID and the shutdown affected the market, we were fortunate to get the house for $555K, $10K under list. We got a 30 year loan and bought down the points to a 3.25% interest rate and paid off the Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) up front. We put down 5%, which came to $36K in total. Our monthly Principle, Interest, Taxes, and Insurance (PITI) is around $2600.
What’s it like to live with roommates?
We moved into our new home with our current roommate and soon added another when a second college friend moved to Denver and needed a place to stay. This friend told us upfront that she only wanted to live with us a few months while she figured out where in the city she wanted to live. For us, this meant guaranteed upside for the months she lived with us in a room that would otherwise be empty.
Eventually, the temporary roommate found a place to live and we were able to replace her with one recommended by an old high school friend. Knowing my good friend could vouch for this roommate made Nina more comfortable with the idea of adding a male roommate she didn’t know previously. He ended up being everything we were told and was a great person to live with.
By the end of the year, Nina had made a complete turnaround on the idea of roommates. Someone contacted her through a Facebook group looking for a temporary place to stay before moving out of state and Nina actually convinced me to agree to it, even though it meant giving up our office space in the spare bedroom. Nina was right—in the two months the roommate stayed there, we only occasionally crossed paths with her and in that time our entire PITI was paid with the money we collected in rent.
Making the situation work for you
The key to successfully living with roommates is knowing ahead of time what you’re comfortable with and what’s acceptable to you. Because we were able to do a trial run with a roommate in our rental property, we had a good idea of what we were looking for when we moved into our new house.
Nina and I sat down and created a roommate agreement that outlined the guidelines for everyone living together. Since we knew the people we were living with initially, it allowed Nina to feel at ease putting in things that were important to her that other people might find silly, such as no shoes in the house. We realized that as homeowners and adults, our roommate situation didn’t need to look like it did in college; we could decide the terms and expectations ahead of time and hold everyone, including ourselves, to them.
We don’t always love living with other people; sometimes I just want to leave a dish in the sink or clean something up later. But by taking the long view, I know the sacrifices we are making now will set us up for the future. And knowing that, it’s easy to focus on the positives of having roommates, like always having someone to talk to or do things with.
An “unconventional” lifestyle
One thing that Nina especially has had to deal with is explaining our so-called “unconventional” lifestyle to family and friends. For a lot of people, it’s hard to fathom why a married couple would want to live with other people. Sometimes they even ask if we’re having money trouble, unable to understand that we would willingly live this way.
Nina explains to them that this is a choice we are making now that will allow us to have a lot more choices in the future. We’re already thinking about our next house, which would mean that we would own two properties by age 26. And every time we discuss when we want to retire, our goal age drops. When we got married, she didn’t see us buying our first house so that we could live with other people, but by doing this, we’re changing what our future will look like.
Looking to the future
Now that we’ve been living with roommates for 15 months, we’re starting to think about our next house. We always knew this living arrangement would be temporary for us, so we are looking at smaller properties that would be comfortable for just two people. After house hacking worked out so well for us, we’re considering other creative ways of investing, such as Nomading.
Looking at houses this time around has been a lot less stressful and more relaxed because we already own a house in which we can raise a family. We don’t mind living in smaller or less nice places for a few years as we acquire more properties because we were able to purchase a forever home thanks to house hacking.
House hacking as a married couple is seen as an untraditional lifestyle choice, but if you can look at the big picture, you’ll see that you’re giving yourselves more options for the future. Making sure you know what you’re comfortable with ahead of time and having open and clear communication will go a long way to making this a fun experience rather than a sacrifice.
My advice to men
- Bring up the idea with your partner early and make sure you explain why it’s a good idea; focus on what it means for the future.
- Make ground rules ahead of time: set your expectations, figure out what you want and don’t want in a roommate; remember you can be selective when you’re finding someone to live with.
- Start with a short-term lease so you can figure out if the situation and roommates work for you.
Nina’s advice to women
- If you’re interested in the concept at all, take the time to read and listen to learn more about it.
- It can feel very similar to other roommate experiences; you’ll get frustrated at times, but if you can remember that you’re making money in this situation, it can shift your perspective.
- Keep in mind that you’re giving yourself the option at a younger age to not have to work, or do work that you enjoy that might not pay as well.
Reach out to Walker and Nina
If you have questions about house hacking or are interested in learning more about Denver real estate, reach out!
- Walker Noon: Walker@envisionrea.com
- Nina Noon: NinaBNoon@gmail.com