Home Sharing Gains Popularity

By Kevin Chiu

Home sharing is gaining in popularity as consumers look for ways to save money with the economy sputtering and more homeowners rooms to rent losing their homes to foreclosure. People are turning up at agencies across the U.S. looking for a place to live, where they can save some money to eventually either rent a place on their own or buy another home.

Renting a room to a boarder has been in and out of style for decades as homeowners look for extra income, but recently more homeowners with mortgages are struggling to pay the bills and are taking on a boarder to help out. A sampling of agencies determined that three to four times as many people are seeking rooms to rent compared to just two years ago.

Homeowners charge from a few hundred dollars a month to thousands depending upon the size of the house and extras. Some provide meals for a higher price.

At the St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center in Baltimore, Maryland a small staff screens prospects for a home sharing program, which has been assisting disabled and elderly homeowners for their program since 1985. Sharing a home historically started with elderly homeowners to supplement limited incomes. The executive director at St. Ambrose, Kirby Dunn says that times have changed. “Money is the bigger issue,” said Dunn. “There’s definitely an increase in people looking for a revenue stream.”

Boarding House

Homeowners who would have never entertained the idea of renting a room or part of their home before are taking on renters in order to have enough to pay their mortgage. Some have lost jobs. Others have suffered cutbacks in their hours at work, and seen their incomes dwindle. Hard economic times often call for hard measures to be taken.

In Barre, Vermont Home Share is an independent agency that matches homeowners with those looking for a place in a home to live in exchange for household services such as yard work or cleaning up other parts of a residence in exchange for reduced rent. It seems that sharing a home programs creativity is only limited by the people who are looking for a way to keep a roof over their heads.

Depending upon the agencies involved, some do criminal background checks and credit checks to determine the suitability of possible boarders. However, in these days of record foreclosures few even consider foreclosures as being a blemish on a renter’s record. “Those days are history,” said Jack Hansen, a housing coordinator in Los Angeles. “The banks robbed the country and kicked millions from their homes because of their own greed. Why should that be counted against anyone?”

Many who rent rooms in others homes make too little in wages to afford a place on their own. Some homeowners opt for several roommates in order to raise their income and even find friends along the way.