Shared households; 'It's no fun to come home to an empty house'
Roommates are a fact of life for many. Kate Perkins (not her real name), who graduated from college in the early '70 s, has lived with several roommates since she arrived in New York nearly four years ago.Skip to next paragraph
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"I do it for financial reasons now, although when I first came to New York, I definitely wanted a roommate while I got used to the city," she says."i would live by myself now, but I can't afford it."
Andris Lapins, an environmental scientist in Vienna, Va., shares a house with two other men. He does it partly to save money, but mostly because he enjoys the company.
"It's no fun to come home to an empty house," he says.
Annette Lynn, who runs a roommate referral service in Miami, Fla., lists some reasons why people chose to live with roommates. Part of it is economics. Two or more can live more cheaply than one.
"And in Miami [as in other cities], a lot of apartments are being converted to condominiums, and there are only a few rental places available -- at high prices," she says in a telephone interview.
"Then some people buy a home or condominium, but they can't afford the payments, so they take in roommates," says Ms. Lynn, who has two renters in the home she recently bought.
To people like Mr. Lapins, the cameraderie of a shared household is important. To others, it is a good stepping stone from their family.
"A lot of people who are new to the city want to live with a roommate for a year," adds Ms. Lynn. "They don't know the good and bad areas of town when they first arrive, and they feel more comfortable with another person."
Some also like the security of having a roommate.
"The companionship is nice," Kate Perkins says. "someone will always know when and if you come home."
Roommates include a wide cross section of society. College students, young professionals, older widows, and divorced parents with children are all among the ranks of roommates. For example, the bulk of Ms. Lynn's clients are between 20 and 45.
"When I first opened I thought I'd have a lot of college students, but they would rather find roommates through bulletin boards at school," she says. "Many of my clients are professional workers who are too embarrassed at 35 to admit they need a roommate."
One social worker in Portland, ore., lives in a house with three others while she goes to graduate school. She speaks enthusiastically about having roommates.
"Since I am gone all day, I like to talk to someone when I come home," says the social worker. "And because I am in graduate school, the support I get is nice."
She also appreciates the diversity of all her roommates.
"Otherwise it would be too monotonous," she says.
But sometimes the differences can mead tradeoffs. While Kate Perkins gets along fine with her roommate, she admits there are disadvantages to sharing a small one-bedroom apartment.
"There is a lack of private space," she says. "And decorating is hard. The apartment is not really an expression of you."
And like the two bachelors in "The Odd Couple," the proverbial slob and Mr. Neat- as-a-Pin, Miss Perkins finds that different definitions of cleanliness can be a sore spot.
"But sometimes we adapt and help each other out, like I suppose married partners do," she says. "She is better at some things that I don't really care about."