Donor Stories

Monday December 22, 2014

Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

Shared Housing can Help in Many Ways

What can you tell me about home-sharing programs? Since my father passed away last year, my 70-year-old mother is interested in renting out a room in her house for some extra income and for the companionship. Is this a wise idea?

Renting out a room could be a great idea if your mom has the space and can find the right housemate/renter.

Shared housing has received increased attention lately as people recognize the opportunity to use their home to generate income, receive help with household chores and find companionship.

However, home sharing is not for everyone. Your mom needs to carefully consider the pros and cons of renting out a room in her house and should make a list of what she wants and doesn’t want in a housemate/renter.

The National Shared Housing Resource Center offers a 16-page “Consumers Guide to Home Sharing” that provides a self-questionnaire to those considering renting a room, a list of questions to ask a potential renter and a sample home-sharing lease agreement. This guide costs $10 and can be ordered at

Finding a Renter

After going through the guide, your mom should contact a home-sharing program in her area to find a renter. These programs match adults who are looking for shared housing with older adults who are looking to rent.

These programs handle background checks and consider lifestyle criteria when making matches. They can also help your mom with the leasing agreement that the renter would sign that covers issues like smoking, pets, chores, overnight guests, use of common rooms and more.

Most home-sharing programs are free to use or request a small donation. Others, however, may charge the homeowner and potential renter a fee for this service.

There are dozens of home-sharing programs throughout the U.S. You can find a list of them at the National Shared Housing Resource Center website,

If you don’t find a program that serves your area, you can also search for housemates through national resources like Let’s Share Housing (, the Golden Girls Network ( and Roommates 4 Boomers ( All of these programs offer national Web-based matching programs and charge membership fees that run anywhere between $30 and $39.

If you don’t have any luck with the home-sharing programs, call your Area Agency on Aging (call the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116 for contact information). They may be able to offer assistance or refer you to local agencies or nonprofit organizations that offer shared housing help.

You can also check with the local senior or community center, church or temple that your mom attends to see if you can post an ad on their bulletin board or in their newsletter. Alternatively, you can advertise in your local newspaper or online at or

If your mom finds someone on her own that she’s interested in renting to, ask the prospective renter to fill out a “rental application” (see to download and print one for free), call their references and run a full tenant background check. Background checks can be ordered online through companies like and for a small fee.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published December 19, 2014

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