Published on December 15, 2019

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Photography by Cody Guilfoyle

In most cases, no two rooms in the same unit are exactly alike. Unfortunately, determining how to calculate each roommate’s rent (especially in high-priced cities) can make it difficult to divide that monthly payment into numbers that make sense for everyone involved. 

And since living alone as a young person has become less and less of a reality, having to divvy up rent and living costs is pretty much the standard. “As rents have outpaced incomes, living alone is no longer an option for many working-age adults,” Zillow senior economist Aaron Terrazas explained in a 2017 report. But, he says, there’s an upside: “By sharing a home with roommates, you can afford to live in more desirable neighborhoods without shouldering the full cost alone.” That just leaves the problem of splitting the rent. We’ve outlined five solutions to help you do the math and avoid any roomie awkwardness.

Grab the Measuring Tape

One of the easiest ways to divide the rent among multiple people is to base each person’s payments on the square footage of each person’s room, and we have a surefire formula: Calculate the footage of each bedroom (length times width), including closets, bathrooms, or balconies located in or off of the room. Then divide the square footage of each room by the total footage of all bedrooms—this will give you the percentage of rent each person should pay. 

Make Technology Work for You

Sometimes it’s just easier to let a computer do the hard work for you—luckily, there are dozens of online rent calculators at the ready. Some of our favorites include Splitwise, RoomieCalc, and Spliddit.

If you find yourself in a position where all rooms are pretty much the same, head to The Rent Is Too Damn Fair. This website allows each roommate to “bid” the max rent they are willing to pay for each room in the apartment. Once everyone has submitted their bids, the program computes the most economical arrangement for you and your crew, and it will also assign rooms to each person based on their bids, thus eliminating any resentment anyone might have about getting the “better” space—a major plus.

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Illustration by Phuong Nguyen

Go by Aesthetics 

If one room has massive windows, cool exposed brick, and a walk-in closet while the other has…well, none of that, it only makes sense for the lucky resident of the former to pay more. We love this tactic because it’s clear from the second you take your first tour of the place which ones are better; so again, no hard feelings on either side. 

If you want to get more granular, try assigning an extra cost to each amenity and tack it onto a fairly divided room price. (We recommend making these features cost no more than 2 to 5 percent of the total rent.) For example, in the case of the above floor plan, if the total rent was $2,000, the windows and brick could cost $40 each, while the closet would go for a little more at $100. This means the person in the larger bedroom would be paying $180 more than the person in the small bedroom ($1,180 versus $820).

Use an Income-to-Rent Ratio

As a general rule of thumb, you should never budget to spend more than one-third of your monthly salary on rent. And if you and your roommate have vastly different salaries, that will definitely be a factor when house hunting. So have a discussion beforehand to see if the one with the larger paycheck might be willing to shell out more in return for first pick of the rooms. 

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Illustration by Phuong Nguyen

Play Fair

If all this is too stressful to figure out (and all parties are okay with it), just split the rent evenly across the board. Perhaps the rest of the space makes up for inequality in rooms, or one roommate has a smaller space but is still willing to pay because of location—at the end of the day, it’s an entirely personal decision. Just be sure to draw up a contract in case things get complicated down the line. 

See more stories about renting: 
How to Negotiate Down Your Rent
Should You Rent or Buy? We Have the Answer
What $1,500 Will Rent in 11 Cities Worldwide

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