My friends wrinkle their noses when I suggest they share housing. They say, “I’m such a creature of habit. I don’t know if I could live with another person who is a complete stranger.” Others think about it and say, “It’s a great idea, but I’m clueless how to start the process and what to expect.”
For the past two years, as I’ve been writing about sharing housing, I’ve discussed this option with friends who wonder how they’ll manage with the expenses of home maintenance as well as grappling with social isolation and loneliness. There is a lot people don’t know about the benefits of shared housing, and how to find a good housemate. Here’s what I tell my friends.
If you’re open to sharing housing, but unsure what to expect or how to start the process, your first step is to do some preliminary research. Simply do a Google search, type in “How do I find a home to share” and you’ll get over nine billion hits. Fine tune that search to “home sharing experiences” and you’ll find a number of articles (the SharingHousing.com blog tops the list) that discuss the pros and cons of home sharing from people who have gone this route.
Consider other information-gathering tactics such as asking friends, colleagues, people you know from your community if they know of someone who has shared housing and would be open to speak with you about their own experience. Someone always knows a friend of a friend who might be sharing a home and would be happy to share their story.
If you decide that home sharing is an option to explore, the next thing to do is to do some self-examination or know thyself. Why do you really want to share a home? Do you not like being alone? Are you worried about how you’re going to pay the bills? Or are you looking for a care-taking situation as opposed to a true home sharing environment?
That self-examination is important because when you start asking yourself some real questions about why you’re considering this option, you’ll discover certain elements of yourself and the expectations that come with it that can make or break a potential home-sharing environment.
Once you have a good idea of what exactly you want in a home-sharing experience you can consider where and how to do your search. For me, this is a no brainer, but for many people, who have lived with spouses and suddenly find themselves widowed or divorced, this a challenge. Questions that come up: Do matching services exist? (They do, but it’s not a perfect answer.) Do you go the old-fashioned route and place an ad and post it on a local community board (coop, church, library, local university)? Does networking at church, face-to-face meet-ups, or social media actually work? The only way to find out is to get the word out. My suggestion is try the old-fashioned, face-to-face word of mouth and expand from there.
A Possible Match
After some elbow grease into the process, you might have found a possible match for a home-mate. It’s exciting that someone has shown interest.In that headiness, you might think you’re good to go. Absolutely not. You need to vet—have a few conversations with the person. Learn more about their financial situation. It’s great to find someone who seems ideal, but as I tell my friends this is similar to a job interview. You are both interviewing each other to see if it’s a mutually good fit. Don’t go by first impressions, ask lots of questions, get referrals, do a credit check, and if possible meet them on their own turf. That gives you a good idea about how they live in their home.
Last But Not Least
Last but not least, especially for friends who rather have a more structured process in further investigating shared housing. I always point them to the number one resource: this blog and the other articles on this site. Within the site, there are numerous resources that can be downloaded such as worksheets, an interviewing guide, a book section that features Sharing Housing: A Guidebook for Finding and Keeping Good Housemates which can be purchased via the site.
For actual interaction with other shared housing seekers, there’s the Discovering Shared Housing webinar that’s offered three times a year. I took this webinar when I first started writing for this blog. It gave me a clearer understanding of what sharing housing offers to individuals who might never have had a shared home experience outside the university environment. What I discovered was that as much as my fellow participants liked the idea of finding someone to share their home, or find a space to rent, they didn’t understand that there’s an actual process of doing it right—a way that could save them money and frustration. For the nose wrinklers who are hesitant or skeptical about sharing housing, read Mary Lou and Amy’s story in The Timing Was Right.
Finally this is what I tell all my friends, the process isn’t difficult. It’s just putting in the work. Follow the suggested commonsense guidelines, and you’ll find the right shared housing situation.