Home maintenance strategies for roommates

Key tips to remember

  • Keep the lines of communication open between you and your roommate.
  • Decide ahead of time how to split the cost for major service visits, like the semiannual HVAC service.
  • Consider hiring a lawn service to take care of outdoor maintenance needs.
  • Make sure you and your roommate agree on which tasks you won’t attempt to handle by yourselves.
  • Research home warranty plans — this may remove the stress out of trying to split maintenance tasks.

Living with roommates is one of those pivotal life experiences that reveals countless truths about who you are as a person.

Sound a little over the top? Maybe, but have you ever shared a living space with someone who didn’t see eye to eye with you on the acceptable length of time to leave dirty dishes in the sink? Have you learned the hard way that not everyone tells the truth when they say they’re “tidy but not a neat freak?”

Sharing space with a roommate can be tough, but the years you spend doing so are often filled with wonderful memories and experiences you’d never have otherwise. And you’ll probably gain a lifelong friend in the process! At the same time, you need to have a plan for dividing and conquering household maintenance tasks.

Once you get past the fun part of having a roommate — decorating your new home together, inviting friends over for the housewarming party and bonding over the occasional shared meal — reality sets in. You’re sharing a house with another person, and every house, whether it’s a cozy bungalow or a spacious suburban abode, requires maintenance. This is where communication and a written plan come into play.

Communication is the key to any successful relationship, platonic roommates included. And when it comes to home maintenance, having things in writing is always a good idea. The two of you need to be able to tackle home maintenance tasks individually or together, but you have to talk about how that’s going to happen — or it won’t.

So if you’re ready to take this important step in sharing your living space, grab your roommate and your laptop (or a pen and a pad of paper if you roll old-school), and work through the five important questions below!

1. Who pays for the spring HVAC service, and who pays for the fall visit?

Preventive maintenance is key to keeping a house’s major systems in good shape and functioning efficiently — and this includes the HVAC system. The last thing you want is to discover an issue with the A/C compressor on the first hot day of the year, so stick to a semiannual HVAC inspection schedule.

Experts recommend having a professional give your HVAC system a thorough inspection and cleaning, if necessary, two times per year: once in the early spring before summer temperatures hit and again in the fall before cold weather arrives.

Most heating and air conditioning companies offer a membership plan or service agreement that includes these two service appointments; in a roommate situation, this may be your best bet to avoid problems or disagreements down the line. Split the cost of the membership plan and put the service visits on a shared calendar. Potential issues avoided!

2. What thermostat settings are you both comfortable with?

It may seem silly to sit down with your roommate and discuss your thermostat preferences. When you’re sharing a house, however, this is an important detail — from both a personal-comfort and a budget standpoint. And keep in mind that the two of you might need to compromise or invest in a fan or a space heater (used safely, of course).

For a starting point, try to keep your thermostat at 68 degrees Fahrenheit during the winter and 78 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer. The goal is to keep the difference between the temperature inside the house and the temperature outdoors as small as possible. This will reduce the amount of work required by the HVAC system, which saves money and wear and tear on the equipment.

If the house doesn’t already have one, split the cost of a programmable thermostat with your roommate. And if it’s in the budget for both of you, spring for a Wi-Fi-enabled option to allow you both to keep an eye on the thermostat when you’re out and about.

3. What cleaning supplies do you need, and how will you share the cost?

Cleaning supplies can add up quickly, and one person taking on the lion’s share of the cost is a fast track to a resentment-fueled argument.

Keep an ongoing list of what’s needed — from all-purpose cleaner to specialized carpet treatments — and note who paid for what the last time cleaning supplies were purchased. Alternate shopping trips or split the costs down the middle to make sure everything feels fair.

And while you’re at it, this is a good time to talk about who is responsible for cleaning shared spaces — especially the kitchen and any shared bathrooms. In fact, you might even consider a chore chart! And before you roll your eyes too hard, remember that chore charts aren’t just for kids. Anything that brings visibility to shared household tasks is fair game. The metallic star stickers for a job well done are up to you.

4. Who will handle yard maintenance?

Yard maintenance, including mowing the grass, edging the driveway and pruning bushes, is part of responsible house stewardship. Unless you’re renting from a landlord who has arranged for property management services to take care of the yardwork, you and your roommate will need to come to an agreement on how to divide outside chores.

This might be another instance where a chore chart comes in handy. You can also split up tasks based on preference or skill level. If you both hate yard work or have severe allergies, your best bet may be to hire a professional lawn maintenance company to do the work for you.

If you decide to take the route of paying a pro, make sure that the company you hire is insured (and properly licensed, if required by your state) and that they receive plenty of positive, legitimate reviews online.

5. When will you call in the pros?

There are some home maintenance tasks that you could handle yourself but may choose not to, usually for reasons of skill level or safety. You should never, for instance, try to patch a roof leak on your own or attempt electrical work. Both require specialized tools and lots of knowledge and experience that the average person doesn’t have.

Talk to your roommate about what you both prefer to have professionals handle. Plumbing issues might not seem like a major problem to someone who has experience dealing with them, but if you’ve seen one too many DIY plumbing jobs go bad, that might be your line in the sand. And that’s OK! Just be sure to have the conversation so your roommate knows where you stand.

How a home warranty can help

Home warranties can take away a lot of the stress of home maintenance. When something goes wrong with almost any appliance or system in your house, a good home warranty company will take care of it for a small service fee. No need to talk to your roommate about who’s going to foot an expensive repair bill.

What’s important to remember is that not all home warranty companies are created equal. If you find yourself trying (and failing) to parse the fine print of a potential home warranty plan, keep looking. Getting your home maintenance needs covered doesn’t have to be a headache!

At Cinch Home Services, we make it easy for you—no fine print or crazy-complicated plans to be found around here. We’d love to talk to you about which Cinch home warranty plan might work best for you and your roommate. Learn more about how we can help, and then enroll for a Cinch protection plan online or give us a call!

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