Handing keys over
Consider Renting Out a Room
While it's pretty common to let friends or family members stay in a spare room for weeks or months at a time, some people are now renting out rooms in their homes to strangers. Ryan Cowmeadow, with the National Shared Housing Resource Center (NSHRC), says the home share program he coordinates in Michigan has had more than 500 inquires in the past nine months.

"[Home sharing] has become a viable option for senior homeowners who are looking to increase their household incomes, off-set utility costs [and] supplement retirement income, which may have been decreased due to the slump in the economy," Ryan says. "This program is also a great option for persons who have been affected by the economic downturn who need affordable housing options."

Whether you are a senior or a family of five, before you open a room in your home to a renter, here are some things to keep in mind from the NSHRC's board of directors:

  • Get help from a local organization. Go to the website NationalSharedHousing.org and find an organization in your community that specializes in matching renters with homeowners.
  • Screen renters thoroughly. If there isn't a shared housing organization in your community, you can advertise your room for rent on Craigslist, community bulletin boards and more, but you must carefully screen each candidate who contacts you. "If you have a family member or friend who can help, it's always nice to have a second opinion during the screening and interviewing process," says Kirby Dunn of HomeShare Vermont.
  • Keep landlord/tenant laws in mind. There's often no lease involved in home share agreements, and most agreements are on a month-to-month basis, but Kirby says you should be aware of landlord/tenant laws in your state.
  • Know going rental prices: According to the NSHRC, you can typically charge a renters fee of about $400 to $500 per month, with utilities, laundry and kitchen privileges included, in a house share situation. You can also request chore assistance from your housemate and subtract $10 per hour off the rent.
  • Be flexible. "You have to be a giving person, and you have to be extremely respectful of one another's privacy," says Eva Gertzfeld, housing counselor at the Center of Concern in Park Ridge, Illinois. "But, it is a win-win for everyone. It brings affordable housing for people who are looking for such, and it brings an amazing enrichment in life for both [the renter and homeowner]."
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