A couple months back, I had an enlightening conversation with Melanie, a 63-year-old in central California who had decided to give homesharing a try. Melanie had an interesting account of her path to homesharing.
She explained to me that she’d been working with a life coach who asked her to think about the most fun and enriching times in her life. What came up was college, when she was living with three girlfriends.
Melanie talked about being able to share a glass of wine and the four of them pushing each other to try different activities and explore new hobbies. Having roommates expanded her world, and she thought, “Why can’t I recreate that in my home now? I have extra space.”
Melanie’s story illustrates the many reasons that homesharing can appeal to any generation. While living with a roommate (or two or three) might not have been something people had considered since college, they’re now getting a kick out of having roommates again.
In fact, AARP reports that 4 million women aged 50-plus live in U.S. households with at least two women, and that statistic is expected to rise. For some, the companionship is most attractive, while for others, it may be the financial payoffs or theability to “try out” a different city for a while.
People are realizing that homesharing offers many benefits that match their lifestyles and outlook for pre-retirement and retirement living. Here are five reasons so many people are homesharing.
Earning and Saving Potential
Even before the pandemic, millions of Americans were under financial strain – whether it was coming up short on retirement savings or having to pay unexpected medical bills or other expenses. That predicament has only compounded in the past year.
However, most boomers are house-rich – in fact, 80% own a home. Depending on where you live, it’s possible to generate an average of $10,000 a year in passive income by renting out space that’s likely unused or underused. Many homeowners save even more money by splitting bills and other living expenses with their housemates.
That extra income can be used to make mortgage payments, pad (or re-pad) your nest egg, make home improvements or take some amazing vacations.
The Social Factor
Even for people with an active social life, it can be hard to come home to an empty house, especially as we get older. Our circle of friends tends to get smaller, there are fewer opportunities to meet new people when we’re not working, and family is often scattered across the country.
With the pandemic, people of all ages have gotten a taste of social isolation and how detrimental it can be to our health and wellness.
While not everyone who decides to homeshare may be looking to forge new friendships, many are – and friendship is often a byproduct of homesharing arrangements, intended or not.
Whether it’s watching movies, walking dogs or preparing meals together, the companionship that comes with having a roommate can offer a sense of community and belonging. For many, it’s also the peace of mind that comes with having someone around the house.
Help Around the House
Maintaining a home is a massive undertaking that only gets harder with age (yours and your home’s). Keeping up with improvements, yardwork and routine tasks like changing lightbulbs can feel like a full-time job in itself.
In homesharing, these tasks are often split between housemates. In some instances, homeowners offer free or reduced rent to their housemate in exchange for help with household chores, errands, transportation, pet care or anything else where a barter arrangement makes sense.
These arrangements are particularly prevalent in instances where an older homeowner is homesharing with a younger counterpart, often a graduate student or service worker who’s stationed in the area and unable to afford the market-rate rents.
The list of personal homesharing benefits is a long one, but it’s also important to not overlook the host of benefits it offers on a macro level. So many communities – from Portland to Los Angeles to Denver and D.C. – are facing an alarming shortage of affordable housing, particularly when it comes to their aging populations.
One-third of Americans over 50 pay more than 30% of their income for housing, according to the Joint Centers for Housing Studies of Harvard University.
Homesharing can help older homeowners achieve financial and housing security and enable them to remain in the homes and communities they love. Also, by making use of existing inventory, it reduces the need to build new housing, which can cost multi-millions and take years upon years.
Renters Win Too
Homeowners are not the only beneficiaries in homesharing. Renters can also profit monetarily and otherwise. As more homeowners start opening up their homes, there’s more rental inventory to be had, and renters can often find space for below market rent. In fact, a Trulia study shows there are more than 3.6 million unoccupied rooms that can be rented out in top 100 U.S. housing markets.
Homesharing can also be an attractive shorter-term option for people who might be recently divorced, widowed or empty nesters. They may not be able to afford to buy or may just want to test out options, and renting space from someone who is compatible fills that need.
Nationwide, more boomers are also latching onto the “house surfing” trend that’s been growing in popularity over the past few years, renting space in communities where they may want to live or exploring cities where they want to retire.
Many homeowners are open to the idea of doing a three-month lease for someone who wants to test drive the area, which gives renters enough time to live like a local and get a true feel for the community.
Have you considered renting out spare rooms of your house? If you’re looking for a new place, what would it take to consider becoming someone’s roommate? What benefits will homesharing provide in your specific situation? Please share your thoughts, and any roommate stories that you find particularly interesting!