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Campus Overload
Posted at 03:02 PM ET, 05/20/2011

Online calculator helps group houses split the bill


Let’s say you are moving to D.C. for an internship and renting a six-bedroom group house in Columbia Heights that costs $5,000 a month.

Not everyone has the same accommodations: There’s a couple sharing a small bedroom with a bathroom. Two people take the average-sized rooms up front, where it gets loud at night. Someone gets the enormous basement. Someone else takes the small room with awesome windows. And the last person gets a tiny room without a door (that’s technically a closet with a window).

How do you fairly split the bill?
(Simon Brubaker/The Washington Post)

A complicated spreadsheet. A massive fight. Or the calculator on SplitTheRent.com.

The calculator asks for the total rent amount, number of bedrooms and details about each room: Is the space tiny, small, a bit small, normal, generous, large or enormous? Is there an awkward layout? Awesome windows? Huge closet? A door?

And after reporting the size of common areas, the calculator spits out who should pay what. (In the case of my fake Columbia Heights group house, rents range from $488 to $1,175.)

The calculator was created by Jonathan Bittner, an astrophysics graduate student at Harvard who says on his online bio that ”there's something both fun and funny about using a mathematical way to decide what is fair.”

To figure out which real estate features should get what weight, Bittner said he surveyed ”42 of my gchat status checkers and facebook feed-readers.” Most of those surveyed said they usually split things evenly or adjust prices based on niceness. (You can read the other results, here.)

“Nobody tries to auction rooms, which would technically be the fairest but is in reality a huge pain and very stressful,” Bittner wrote. “The calculator's purpose in life is to provide a neutral opinion, avoid haggling, and not hurt people's feelings.”

Do you have another way to split the rent? Let me know in the comments.

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By  |  03:02 PM ET, 05/20/2011

 
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