How to Split Rent When Some Rooms Are Better Than Others

How to Split Rent When Some Rooms Are Better Than Others
Photo: goodluz, Shutterstock

You and your future roommates have successfully found a new apartment. Congrats! Now, the hard part: Who gets which room? And how will that impact how you split the rent?

No one loves talking about money with their friends, but the rent conversation is an important bullet to bite. You don’t want to assume you’ll split rent evenly, only for the person who gets the tiny room with no windows to wind up with a raw deal. Here’s your guide to figuring out how to split rent fairly when some rooms are clearly worth more than others.

Use a bidding system

There’s no one right way to determine what different rooms are worth to different people. Sure, you can figure out the bedroom square footage and set rent from there — but the value of a room isn’t always so cut-and-dried. How do you account for sunlight, bathroom access, closet space, and all the other factors that impact how much one person is willing to pay for those things?

A bidding system is the solution to figuring out how much different renters are willing to pay for their room of choice. This Reddit thread features a few examples of how bidding on rooms might play out. One approach might be to divide the rent into equal parts initially, and from there, everyone bids in $US10 ($14) increments until they reach the limit of what they believe that room is worth. Our tip is to keep the bidding under control, or else someone could wind up paying for more than a reasonable proportion of the rent.

Another route is to try sealed bids, with everyone writing down the highest amount they’re willing to pay for the best room. Of course, you don’t necessarily need to hold someone to the exact number they bid. The auction process is inherently useful to reveal who really cares the most about getting which room, as well as how much that individual can afford to care. On that note…

Divide rent by income

Sometimes all the rooms are comparable, but you and your roommates are working with vastly different budgets. In this case, it might make the most sense to break down rent by individual income.

One way to approach this is by figuring out your share of the rent from your percentage of the total unit’s income. To do this, add the total income of you and your roommates; then, take your individual income and divide it by that number. The resulting percentage could be used to figure out your portion of the rent.

Turn to an impartial calculator

An online calculator is a safe way to avoid interpersonal drama when breaking down rent costs.

The New York Times Calculator is your top choice if you want virtually bid on different rooms, while the Splitwise Rent-Splitting Calculator is perfect for figuring out a fair breakdown after factoring in things like room size, layout, windows, and so on.

And if you need a straightforward calculator to split rent based on total size of the rental unit, the size of each contributor’s bedroom, any private bathrooms, and shared bedrooms? Then Good Calculators has you covered.

The bottom line

Some rooms are clearly worth more than others, while some people are willing to pay more based on your different incomes. Even if you’re certain it makes the most sense to simply split rent down the middle, this is an important conversation to have with your future roommates. Talk about splitting rent now, or risk a whole lot of resentment building up over time.


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