If you haven't already started to plan your summer getaways, you're behind the game. Even though you can't run off to Greece for the weekend every time you feel the need to get out of town, scaping the smoggy city is one of those simple summer pleasures. But, it requires that you plan now in order to secure a place in a share house.
Here's what you need to know in order to get the most from your weekend getaways during the summer:
Understand What A Share House Is.
A share house differs from a typical vacation rental in the way that it is divided up and shared between groups. If one group rents a house for the whole summer, that’s a full share. Now, say that you and your friends only want the house for eight out of 16 weekends, so the house gets rented to another group for the alternating weeks – that’s a half share. Third- and quarter-shares follow the same logic, with housemates getting six and four weekends, respectively (actual numbers vary depending on the house). Also keep in mind that “weekends” may actually refer to whole weeks, generally running from Thursday to Thursday, with a cleaning service in between the two groups. While most people’s schedules only permit them to be there Friday to Sunday, those with flexibility can stay until just before the next group’s arrival.
Find A House.
The most important part of any share house is the people, says John Blesso, author of Sharehouse Confidential and owner and manager of Chance Beach House on Fire Island in New York. If you don’t already know someone in a share house, your best bet is to search Craigslist in your locale of choice. Blesso warns not to focus too much on amenities; instead, look at the photos of past housemates and ask yourself if you could imagine hanging out with them. Once you have a shortlist of houses, contact the mangers and try to meet as many current housemates as possible. A high rate of returns from last summer is a good sign because it means that people had a positive enough experience to come back. Also, be wary of joining a house that is willing to offer you a spot without meeting you. "If someone is willing to let you in a house without meeting you, that means they’re willing to let someone else in without meeting them, and you really wouldn’t want to join such a house, " Blesso says. Be sure to ask questions about the demographic of the house to determine if you'll fit in: male/female and single/couples ratios, as well as an age range.
Pair Up (Or Go It Alone).
Whether you choose to join a house with a group of friends or on your own will depend on two things: your own comfort level and what you’re looking to get out of the experience. Blesso told us that it's standard is for people to join in small groups, especially for “factory-like” share houses that take whoever can pay without focusing on creating a good group mix. Of course, this can often result in conflicting priorities among cliques. That's why he advocates looking for houses where people have joined with just one friend, or solo. “You’re only doing this for a set number of weekends in the summer; you still have a social life, you still have all of your other friends. If you’re going to join a share house, I think you should do it with the attitude that, at bare minimum, you’re going to make a lot of new friends.”
Be Clear About Costs.
Before committing to a group house, have a good idea of how much the whole experience will cost. Make sure you know when payments are due and what they includes. Extras like utilities, house cleaning, and pool maintenance can add up, and you don’t want to get stuck with a surprise bill come Labor Day. Many houses stock kitchens with food and booze included in the price of your share, but if yours doesn’t, make sure you’re clear about how receipts will be divided up. Location can make a big difference, too. In New York, it’s best to steer clear of the Hamptons. Opt for cheaper alternatives like Fire Island or the Jersey Shore (no jokes, please), unless you’re prepared to “hemorrhage cash,” Blesso says. Factor in the cost of transportation: How much it cost to get to your destination every weekend? Will you need to rent a car or use taxis to get around once you’re there? Try to pick a house that is within walking distance to most attractions. Also, don't forget the cost of entertainment. Cover charges, cocktails, and taxis home in the evening can really add up. If you’re trying to cut costs, look for a group that is more interested in barbeques than in club-hopping.
Know When A Share House Is Right--And When It Isn't.
If you’re planning to get out of town multiple weekends this summer, then a share house is definitely the most cost effective option. We found a share house near Sag Harbor, NY that's advertising a rate of $1,300 for a quarter-share; that breaks down to $325 per weekend. A room at the nearby Sag Harbor Inn costs $389-$459 a night in the summer, with a minimum two-night stay. That means you could only get three nights in a hotel for the same price as four weekends in a house. However, if you can’t commit to multiple weekends, or if you're creeped out by sharing a house with people you may not have met before, then a share house is not for you.