The Surprising Way That Seniors Are Saving Money on Housing

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Sharing the Cost

The increased cost of living is particularly challenging for seniors on a fixed budget or relying on retirement funds. High inflation costs have driven up food, gas, utility, and medical expenses. The result is an affordability crisis that has prompted many seniors to consider an unusual alternative: Home sharing.

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Home Sharing Is More Popular Than You’d Think

Older Americans largely want to age in place, and many of them are willing to entertain a different living arrangement to be able to stay in their homes. An AARP survey found that 75% of adults over age 50 either would or would consider living with a family member. Additionally, more than half of adults over 50 said they would consider or currently live with a friend. Eight percent of survey respondents reported that they would or are currently living with a stranger.

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The Appeal of Senior Home Sharing

According to The Hill, home sharing offers several appealing benefits for seniors. By renting out empty rooms, seniors can save money and remain in their homes. That extra income can be particularly helpful in paying rising property taxes, which are frequently a financial challenge for seniors. Having a roommate can help to reduce the isolation that seniors living alone often experience.

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The Appeal for Women

Home sharing is particularly appealing to women, according to AARP. Four million women aged 50-plus live in households that include at least two women 50-plus. Since women live an average of five years longer than men, and one out of three boomers likely enters old age without a spouse, more women may explore home sharing. Home sharing can allow roommates to share chores and feel safer since more people are present in the house. 

Related: 17 Ways Women Miss Out on Retirement Savings

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Common Arrangements

While a senior might rent out a single room in their home, it’s also common for three or more people to share a home. AARP describes an arrangement where three women in their fifties pooled their resources to purchase a five-bedroom home in Pennsylvania. The women all deposit equal amounts into a joint checking account for utility, property tax, and repair expenses. They also buy and share groceries together by contributing to a grocery gift card.

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How the Senior Home-Sharing Process Begins

Michele Higgs, Community Outreach Coordinator for the Housing Initiative Partnership in Montgomery County, Maryland, tells The Hill that the home-sharing process hinges on building trust between the homeowner and the renter. The Housing Initiative Partnership counsels clients, helps them find a match, and even arranges meetings to resolve issues between the homeowner and renter. 

Related: Ways to Jump-Start Your Retirement Savings

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Simplifying the Housemate Search

Several platforms have emerged to help senior homeowners connect with compatible housemates. Silvernest is one such platform. Platform applicants answer a few questions to create a profile or list a room for rent, and can browse roommates available in their area. The platform offers the ability to privately message users and request background checks. Amy Ford, Vice President of Silvernest, tells The Hill that while most of the platform’s clients are in their 50s, users have ranged from age 18 to over 100. Applicants have the ability to specify a desired age range for their desired housemate.

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Shorter-Term Homeshares

Nesterly offers a shorter-term alternative for older adults looking to rent a room in their homes. The platform offers the ability to connect with verified people using in-app messaging and video calls, and users can remain anonymous until they’re ready to book an arrangement. The Nesterly booking system is entirely online, and homeowners can rent their room for 30 days, a year, or longer.

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Matching Homeshare Services

Senior Homeshares, a national platform, acts as a matching service to help homeowners and home-seekers connect. Users fill out a personal profile that includes questions unique to older users. Then, the platform’s algorithm identifies promising housemates. Users can exchange emails and find a home-sharing arrangement that’s a good match.


Screening Questions to Ask

When screening potential senior roommates, AARP recommends asking certain questions. A senior should consider the factors that an ideal housemate should have, including their values, a productive lifestyle, and a realistic understanding of what living together will be like. Consider deal breakers, such as a pet, lack of boundaries, or being messy. Think about whether the housemate is financially stable, and get and contact at least two references.

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Potential Pitfalls to Home Sharing

Home sharing isn’t always a smooth process. AARP reports that problems can occur when expectations are unclear or there isn’t a detailed home share agreement. If conflicts aren’t addressed before the move-in date, or during the first few weeks of the home share, that can lead to problems and disagreements. It’s important to put rules in writing, including details on how and when to pay bills, and how common rooms will be used and cleaned. All of the housemates should also meet ahead of time, whether that’s in person or via Skype. Finally, all housemates should have an exit strategy planned just in case the arrangement doesn’t work out.