Should I Share My Home?

By Robin Bush, ISR Communications

“Would you like to live with me?” That’s a question you might not have asked or been asked in many years. Did you live with others to share living expenses as a young adult? It could be a solution for you as an older adult as well. According to Annamarie Pluhar, author of Sharing Housing:  A Guidebook to Finding and Keeping Good Housemates, there are benefits – environmental, financial, and emotional, to shared housing for older adults.   “It allows for housing that is both affordable and offers social connection, companionship, help with tasks, and mutual support,” she says. “It is a viable and enjoyable answer to the joint crises of housing affordability and loneliness facing our society.”

Our society is shifting toward sharing resources in new ways that benefit the greater good. Look at AirBnB or VRBO, Zipcars, community-supported agriculture, and community gardens. Shared housing is another popular movement for boomers or cross-generational situations where an older person lets out part of their home to one or more younger persons. Boarding houses were popular in the Depression as a way for individuals to create income by renting space they weren‘t using to those who needed housing. Looking back, we can remember the many benefits and apply them today.

Think about how much less “stuff” is needed in a shared household vs. two people living in separate homes — one blender, not two, one toaster, one microwave, one set of dishes, one refrigerator, one lawnmower, one garden to water – all of which saves purchase and maintenance costs as well as conserves natural resources. 

How much easier would life be if you only had to clean or mow the lawn half as often because these became shared chores? What if you lived with someone younger who could move heavy items or get a box down from a high shelf? Would sharing expenses or exchanging chores for housing be the answer to how to remain in your home?

There are social benefits too. Today an estimated 27% of American households are people living alone who go all day without interacting with another person. Making and eating dinner together, having evening conversations, and sharing your wisdom by mentoring a younger person all help you feel engaged, valued, appreciated, and stimulated.   You may be concerned that shared living will sacrifice your independence and privacy, but humans are wired for interdependence, and by keeping an open mind, you may find both a new housemate and a new friend.

Having a housemate will likely help you in many ways, but you must proceed cautiously to do this safely. First, it’s important to do a background check through WA State Patrol to reveal any criminal record. Then do a careful interview to learn what you each can or cannot have in your home, what you each are looking for, and mutual expectations. You also need to check references thoroughly. In her book, Ms. Pluhar offers how to write an ad, a list of interview questions, a guide to negotiating details of living together, and more – a good investment if you consider sharing your home.

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