9 ways to decide which flatmate gets the best room

Cost calculate housemates

Have you ever faced room envy in flat-sharing situations?

The problem: Your three bedroom share house has two tiny cave-like rooms that can barely fit a single bed and one palatial master bedroom with an ensuite, an air con unit, a balcony, a champagne fountain and a live-in butler. How do you decide which flatmate gets to live like a billionaire playboy while the other two to skulk off to their hovels? Here are a few methods for divvying up the rooms without destroying your flatmate relationships.

1. Calculate cost per square metre

This is probably the most straightforward way to decide on a fair price for a larger room. Figure out the price per square metre you’re paying for the property each week, measure the largest room and then subdivide the rent accordingly. Common areas can be left out of the equation, as everyone is assumed to pay an equal amount for equal use. Whichever flatmate is willing to take on the extra cost is awarded the largest room. If more than one flatmate is willing to pay extra, you can default to one of the methods below to decide who gets the room.

Calculate the cost per square metre

2. Blind bidding

In this method, all the flatmates put in a secret bid on the largest room. The largest bid wins. The best strategy for winning in this situation is to calculate the fair cost of the room with the method above and use that figure as your starting point. Don’t go too overboard and put yourself in financial danger, but don’t expect to win with a lowball bid either.

Homer blind bidding 1 small

Homer blind bidding 2 small

3. Open bidding

This method is a bit more fun than blind bidding, particularly if you have a friend who can serve as an impartial auctioneer. You can start the bidding at an even division of the weekly rent and then increase in $5 increments until you end up with a winner. For an added touch of mystique, you can spend the entire auction with your phone to your ear, pretending you’re serving as the proxy for an anonymous millionaire bidder.

Which flatmate gets the best room bidding

4. Amenities trade-off

In an amenities trade-off, the flatmate who gets the nicest room agrees to either forgo other creature comforts offered by the flat or take on additional burdens. For instance, if you have off-street parking one flatmate could sacrifice the car space in exchange for the larger room. Alternatively, they could offer to pay utilities, internet or pay TV.

Uneven rooms freezing

Pictured: You after agreeing to hand over the heater in exchange for the bigger room.

5. Finder’s fee

This method relies on the age-old wisdom of “first in best dressed”. It rules that whichever flatmate took the initiative to find the rental property is awarded the largest room (at no extra cost) for their effort. If you all equally shared the burden of finding the property, you could also take into account which flatmate put in the most effort to sort out the utilities, removalists or furniture for the common areas. A warning, though: This method can be highly contentious, so expect to employ one of the other methods in mind as a back-up.

Finders fee

6. Lucky dip

Australians love having a punt, so a game of chance is a natural fit when divvying out rooms in a flat. Any game of chance will do. You could draw straws, flip a coin or see who gets the highest number from a random number generator. The more sophisticated could add an element of skill (and class) by deciding via Texas Hold ‘Em, blackjack or a roulette wheel. When using this method, avoid the temptation to ask for best two out of three. A come-from-behind victory will lead to resentment and subdued loathing from the flatmate who granted you a second chance.

Lucky dip

7. Creativity contest

You’ll need an impartial judge for this one, but the concept is simple. Using whatever medium you desire, communicate the reasons you believe you deserve the best room. You could do this through interpretive dance, poetry, essays, sculpture or perhaps short film. Generally speaking, avant garde projects are looked upon favourably, but don’t go too surreal. It’s worth noting that, in spite of the technical proficiency of his entries, Luis Buñuel lost this contest in every flat he ever shared.

Interpretive dance

8. The amazing race

In this method, whoever physically reaches the room first gets it. You could do this the boring way and start from the kerb or the front door, but that decreases the suspense while increasing the risk of injury in your mad scramble through the house. Instead, plot out equidistant points in the city and use them as your starting point. Declare an official race start time, synchronise your watches and off you go! Paying bystanders to hinder the progress of your opponents is allowable, but is considered unsportsmanlike. For an added challenge, you could turn the race into a scavenger hunt with esoteric clues placed at waypoints by an impartial third party.

Uneven rooms - race

9. Feats of strength

Also known as The Festivus Miracle, this method awards the room to the flatmate who prevails in a series of physical challenges. The nature of the physical challenges is entirely up to you. You could arm wrestle, face off in a game of Twister or challenge your flatmates to a foot race. The less athletically inclined could stretch the interpretation of this category to include wins in video games or tabletop board games.

ezgif-1640061563Regardless of the contest you choose, avoid going full Tyler Durden with a flatmate fight club. It’s almost certain to violate some term of your tenancy agreement, and is likely to leave emotional scars even deeper than the physical ones.

Feats of endurance also fall under this category, and food-based feats of endurance are some of the best for separating the flatmate wheat from the chaff. A chilli-eating contest is perfect for awarding the nicest room, and even if you lose you’ll be thankful the winner has that ensuite in the aftermath.

Adam Smith

Adam has more than five years of experience writing about the Australian home loan market.

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