Can House Sharing Work for You?

House Sharing the Retirement Way

Note:  This article is another part of an ongoing series of alternative housing arrangements.

While everyone’s definition of retirement may differ one thing is certain – Retirement should be a time in life where you do things in new and fresh ways.  This is sort of like college and young adult life where you went from the easy security of your family’s home to something new.  For many this meant sharing a house or apartment.  It made sense then financially, and provided a supportive yet easy come and go arrangement.

Give House Sharing a Chance! 

For similar reasons house or apartment sharing might make sense for retired couples and singles.  This won’t work for everyone, and I’m sure some of you are rolling your eyes and saying “no way!”  But give it a chance and at least look at some of the pros and cons.  Make sure you are not dismissing it simply because you have become too set in your ways!

Financially, it May Make Sense

The financial reasons are obvious.  With a limited retirement income you are looking for ways to bring the housing part of your expenses down to a more manageable level.  A house or large apartment may be a better alternative to a small apartment or other options.  You can manage the burden of a mortgage (maybe), taxes and maintenance with little left over for other things or you can share those expenses and use the saved funds for travel, hobbies, or whatever else.  The situation is similar when renting.  Two or more couples or singles can share a house a larger apartment for a fraction of the total rent.

Ideally a shared arrangement can provide a better supportive environment for everybody involved.  There are simply more bodies to share the work.  This can be as simple as watering the plants when someone is away to sharing cooking and maintenance activities.  As people get older it can even help with handling illness and provide a more secure environment.

Sharing can help you get up and go when you want.  Someone is usually there to watch the house, and the extra dollars you save can be used for all those activities you envisioned in retirement.  This might include travel, hobbies, volunteer work, eating out occasionally at a fancy restaurant, etc…

Let’s consider a simple example.  John and Mary Smith own a 4 bedroom McMansion in the suburbs.  It has a couple bathrooms, and living and family room, and a rec room in the basement.  It is too much house for two people and more urgently it saddles the Smith’s with a $2000 mortgage payment.  Bob and Jane Jones love to travel and camp, but need a home base.  George and Evelyn Public have roots in the Smith’s area but like to travel to Florida for three months a year.

Here we have a perfect sharing arrangement.  Each couple could pay $667 a month.  The house is big enough that when they want privacy one couple can go to the living room, one to the family room and one to the rec room.  That really isn’t much of a problem anyway however because the Jones are hardly ever home, and even the Public’s are away three months a year.  Obviously this is a simplified example but there are lots of possibilities out there.

It is important in a sharing arrangement to discuss and write down all the arrangements and responsibilities for each party in advance.  Don’t forget the details like “Is smoking allowed?”, “Is drinking allowed?” or are there any quiet times.  It also might be good to spell out in advance a procedure for misunderstandings.

I’ll explore more on this topic in a future article.