Maryland native Anthony Zmoda has lived with three housemates in the same four-bedroom, Santa Clara house for two and a half years. The only tell-tale sign that they are more than a traditional family of four — parents and two kids — is the extra cars parked on the street outside their rental home.
The housemates live on a tree-lined street just a few miles from their various high-tech workplaces. It is an established residential neighborhood where the homes, dating from the 1960s, used to be occupied exclusively by single-family owners. When the aging home owners moved or passed away, their kids rented out the houses or sold them to others who rented them out.
For college-educated young professionals like Zmoda and his housemates — men in their late 20s and early 30s — renting the unfurnished house together was about more than pooling their money to afford the monthly rent and save for their 401(k) retirement plans. It was a step up from the confines of apartment living.
“Apartments aren’t fun. In a house, we don’t feel that we’re bothering our neighbors, like with music,” said Zmoda. “It’s really nice to have a warm and welcoming home environment to come back to after work.”
Their first year living together, they had occasional “house meetings” to iron out responsibilities. Now, they seldom need to do so.
Each housemate keeps his own room with its individual entertainment center in whatever state of order or untidiness he can live with. In the communal living spaces, each picks up after himself.
Weekends, they sometimes host friends at backyard parties. They play house and techno music that Zmoda blends himself. They play darts and watch sports events together on their large-screen TV in the living room.
The four were connected through mutual friends or work colleagues. Though once strangers, they have become compatible friends.
Competitive Home Rental Market
The home rental market is competitive.
“You could be competing with 20 or 30 other applicants,” said Zmoda.
However, having four steady incomes gave the housemates an edge over one- or two-income families. Plus, the day they viewed their house, they came prepared with a contract signed by all four of them, the first and last month’s rent, a security deposit and verified credit checks.
The previous occupants of Zmoda’s rental house were a family of four. They could no longer afford the monthly rent when the mom stopped working.
Down the same Santa Clara residential block a simply-furnished, five-bedroom home is shared by one woman and four men in their mid-to-late twenties. They rent rooms on a monthly basis.
On the opposite side of the same street, a senior widower rents out three of the four bedrooms in his home by the month. His reasons are two-fold.
He wanted to supplement his retirement income. Plus, despite having a medical alert device, he wanted to have someone around in case he had a medical emergency.
As a bonus, his renters, usually well-educated, electronically adept young men in their twenties, are happy to help him with his computer. They come to California from other countries and states, staying long enough to earn graduate degrees or serve internships with local companies.
A quick online search shows single rooms renting for anywhere from $750/month at the low end to entire homes starting at $4,000.
In October, another house on the same residential block sold for $1,550,000. The former owner died in 2012, and his children rented it to a retired, married couple before deciding to sell it this year.
Now, the four-bedroom house is unoccupied while workmen complete interior renovations for the new owner. And curious neighbors are wondering who the new kids on the block will be.