UT Reader Asks: A Roommate or a Tenant?

by UrbanTurf Staff

UT Reader Asks: A Roommate or a Tenant?: Figure 1

In this installment of UrbanTurf Reader Asks, a potential homeowner weighs two options: a tenant in a basement unit or a roommate in a second bedroom?

"I am considering making my first real estate purchase, and I am looking for a property that will allow me to lessen the financial burden by having a tenant. My question is: Which is better, a row house with a separate basement rental unit, or a two-bedroom condo in which I could rent out the second bedroom? The first option is better for some obvious reasons, but also more expensive, harder to maintain, and legally onerous (certificate of occupancy, etc.). The second option is more doable financially, but I would have to live with a stranger."

Readers, what do you think? Post your thoughts in the comments section. If you would like to submit a question for UrbanTurf Reader Asks, send an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/ut_reader_asks_a_roommate_or_a_tenant/5802


  1. anon said at 6:06 pm on Monday July 23, 2012:
    think long term...go for rowhouse
  1. anon2 said at 7:02 pm on Monday July 23, 2012:
    If you can swing the rowhouse purchase I think it'll be a better investment in the long run. I say this because you'll have a higher tax deduction (condo fees aren't deductable but your greater mortgage interest and real estate taxes will be), you'll have better separation from the tenant, and better resale value. You could even consider a rowhouse that doesn't have a separate unit but has a bedroom you could rent. The income wouldn't be as high but it would still offset expenses. Good luck!
  1. Lowet said at 7:05 pm on Monday July 23, 2012:
    While it would be easier from a legality aspect to just rent out your second bedroom, I think you would get tired pretty quickly of seeing a stranger roaming around your place all the time. A basement unit would mean needing to get a certificate of occupancy, but at least your life wouldn't be interrupted.
  1. Tim Touchette said at 8:57 pm on Monday July 23, 2012:
    I would consider 'both' if you opt for the rowhouse. If you buy a rowhouse, it will likely have more than 1 bedroom, so you can offset the higher cost by renting both the basement and renting the 2nd bedroom to a roommate. The nice part about that is if you get tired of sharing your living space with a roommate, you can eventually reclaim that space and still have the income from the basement rental. Plus, you won't have the condo fee with a rowhouse, as other commenters have mentioned.
  1. StringsAttached said at 9:00 pm on Monday July 23, 2012:
    So the UT reader states "I am considering making my first real estate purchase". So my answer is think about it a bit more. Either you can afford a home by yourself or you should wait a bit longer, save up a bit more, then purchase the larger property you desire to share with a room mate or rent out. That aside, we are given the option of a two bedroom condo or a row home with a separate unit to rent out. Sounds like two different price points because I don't think there are many row homes with just one bedroom (a two bed condo would leave you the other room) and a rentable basement with separate entrance. It would be nice to know why these two types of properties were chosen to compare/contrast otherwise any advice given would be the commenter's personal bias and not based on what the buyer is really looking for in the property.
  1. StringsAttached said at 9:03 pm on Monday July 23, 2012:
    Good comment Tim, your post appeared while I was typing but it hits the nail on the head for me. These are apple vs. orange properties.
  1. mona said at 9:03 pm on Monday July 23, 2012:
    Easy would be rent condo with roommate. Harder but not impossible would be rent basement unit. If you buy a row house make sure it can be a legal basement rental so you can get a C of O. Biggest reason for this is so that if you get a tenant and they decide not to pay rent you can have the support of the city to get rid of them. If not the city will just say "what rental unit" and your on your own to get them out. They are trying to make it easier to get C of O for units and can lay the steps out to you on their website. You have egress issues and ceiling ht issues are the biggest things that prevent a basement from becoming an apt. Go to www.dc.gov and search for certificate of occupation and you should find the info you need. This will help you purchase the right property
  1. jeffrey gordon said at 11:12 pm on Monday July 23, 2012:
    As the infamous James Strichous sp? always said, "Friends don't let Friends buy Condos!" buy a rowhouse first and you will enjoy the separation from tenant etc.
  1. christine brooks said at 9:33 pm on Tuesday July 24, 2012:
    So you have rented your basement? And reported that portion of the rental of your house for income tax purposes. What happens when it is time to sell? I have heard that you take a big tax hit for having rented that part of your home. Is it really worth in the long run??? would greatly appreciate responses from people who have been through it.
  1. Janel said at 2:37 pm on Sunday July 29, 2012:
    If you're considering buying a 2br condo for the purpose of renting out the 2nd bedroom, you should seriously review the bylaws of any condo you're considering. Some forbid renting out only a portion of the unit, so you may be SOL if you try to do so.

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