What’s Senior Home-Sharing? Pros, Cons + How It Works

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Certified Care Manager, Aging Life Care Professional, and National Master Guardian Emeritus

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Senior home-sharing is a concept that is growing in popularity due to the growing number of older people and the desire for more flexible, cost-efficient choices. Not everyone wants to age in place, especially if they are alone, nor do they want the traditional assisted living model of care. Senior housing options continue to grow as older adults look for creative solutions to their living needs.

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There are several different models of home-sharing, and each one has its pros and cons. Deciding on which one is best for you or your loved one will require some investigation and examination of your personal preferences and budget. You will likely need to compromise on some things, but that is the case with any senior living option.

What’s Senior Home-Sharing?

Senior home-sharing, like the name suggests, is sharing a home or space with other seniors. The emphasis on the word “home” is an important distinction from other types of senior living. Even though board and care or residential care homes could be considered senior home-sharing, they deviate from home-sharing in that they offer some support services on site.

Senior home-sharing is more independent and allows people to share in costs and community. There are no set rules on how to do home-sharing, and people can be as creative as everyone is willing to be. But as always, buyer beware.

You don’t want to make a decision that will be difficult to extract yourself from later if it doesn’t work out. Your health or financial condition may change while you are in a home-sharing situation, and you will want to be prepared for that.

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How Does Senior Home-Sharing Typically Work?

Generally, home-sharing is when two or more unrelated people arrange to reside in the same home, apartment, or condo. Most home-sharing situations allow for everyone to have their own private bedroom while sharing a kitchen and sometimes a bathroom. Let’s look at the possible arrangements.

Homeowner rents rooms

Let’s say a senior homeowner has plenty of space but is living alone and would like someone to keep them company and share in expenses. So they decide to rent out rooms to other seniors. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? It can be, but there are questions to ask about the legal arrangements and house rules. 

What are the terms of the lease?

Is the rental arrangement month to month, six months, or a year or longer? What are the penalties for breaking the lease, and is subletting permitted? What percentage of utilities do you pay? Having a lease in place protects you and the homeowner.

What are increases in rent?

Going into a home-sharing arrangement at a specific rent you can afford is great, but what if there are significant increases? Ask about whether rent increases are at a certain percentage per year so you can budget accordingly.

What if you need to leave temporarily?

What if you go to the hospital and need a stay in rehab? Are you expected to pay your full rent and utilities while you are gone? Having these scenarios spelled out in a contract makes everything clear from the start, so there aren’t misunderstandings later.

What if the homeowner sells?

A homeowner has the right to sell their property, and hopefully, your investment would be protected by a lease. But when the home sells, you will need to find other living arrangements. No one wants to buy trouble, but keeping another plan in the back of your mind if you have to move (for any reason) makes sense.

Seniors combine resources to purchase a home (co-owning)

The advantages of co-owning are that seniors can look for a home to buy that meets their criteria. For example, some older homes have stairs or are otherwise problematic layouts.

In purchasing a home, two or more people can search for a home with the features they want. But, co-ownership can be very complicated and is a legal arrangement. You may want to talk with a real estate attorney about the best setup for you and your friends. Some things to consider:

Tenancy in common

When you own a property as tenants in common, you each own a share of the property. Each independent owner may control an equal or different percentage of the total property, and their share goes to their estate upon death.

Joint tenancy

Joint tenancy refers to a legal arrangement in which two or more people own the property together, each with equal rights and obligations. If one owner dies, their interest in the property is directly passed on to the surviving party(s) without going through probate or the court system. 

Limited liability company (LLC)

Some people choose to set up an LLC so that the company owns the title to the home. This form of ownership provides liability protection to individual group members.

Regardless of the type of arrangement you choose in purchasing the home as a group, there are other decisions to make as well. It is probably in everyone’s best interest to establish rules in advance of a purchase. For example, how to handle maintenance, utilities, visitation, smoking, pets, and subletting. 

Intergenerational home-sharing

Some seniors prefer an intergenerational living situation. There are several ways to do this. Some seniors rent to students temporarily or to international students who come to the U.S. to study. The advantage of this arrangement is that it is usually time-limited, and the next person moves in. Doing background checks and getting references is critical.

What Seniors Normally Benefit From a Home-Sharing Arrangement?

Are you looking for adventure and community? Home-sharing might be for you. The caveat is that with home-sharing, should you need personal help in the future, it will be up to you to arrange that.

So seniors that normally benefit from home-sharing are flexible, in reasonably good physical and mental health, and aren’t afraid of change. They also have a backup plan if things don’t work out. 

Pros and Cons of Senior Home-Sharing

There are definitely pros and cons to home-sharing, and you probably won’t get everything you want, but know what you aren’t willing to compromise on. Expect surprises and roll with the punches if you can!

Pros

  • Socialization or community: Seniors are drawn to home-sharing because of the social environment it creates. Group meals are typical, and there is ample opportunity to engage in other activities with residents of the home. Sitting home alone is not good for mental or physical health.
  • Cost: Sharing in the cost of housing, utilities, and food keeps expenses down. Assisted living and even independent senior living can get very expensive. If you are the homeowner and rent rooms out to other seniors, you can offset homeownership costs.
  • Security: Living in a house with other seniors provides the security of knowing someone is always there. You can go on a trip and not worry about leaving your space behind. Living alone can be scary, but cohabitating with other people can provide a sense of comfort and reassurance that someone is always there.
  • Shaking up your routine: Living with other people and sharing in everyday chores will shake up your routine. You may be asked to prepare some meals each week or provide transportation for another resident. A community calls upon each person to get out of their comfort zone. Change can be a good thing.

Cons

  • Too much togetherness: If you aren’t a social person and covet your privacy and space, home-sharing might not be for you. Even though you have your separate bedroom, you will most likely be expected to share dining space and maybe even a bathroom.
  • Rules and expectations: Home-sharing comes with rules and legal arrangements. Restrictions on visitation, pets, and other requirements might not be to your liking.
  • Health concerns: If you have or develop health concerns, home-sharing might pose some problems. Stairs, lack of accessibility, and no hands-on care could be a problem. 
  • Resident incompatibility: With senior home-sharing, you may not get along with other residents. If you are renting from someone else, you don’t get to choose your housemates. Even if you own the home that doesn’t mean that the people you pick to live there will get along. Conflicts regarding finances, visitation, temperature, cleanliness, noise, and chores are just a few of the possible disagreements.

How Do Seniors Find Homeshares?

Senior home-share opportunities and companies are increasing, but you may not have access to those services if you live in a rural or smaller city. That doesn’t mean you are out of luck. It just might require a bit more work on your part to find a home-share situation that can work for you.

Consider a homeshare company

Homeshare companies like Senior Homeshares or Silvernest help you find a match for roommates. Silvernest is kind of like a dating service but for housing. For a fee, they will help you set up a profile and will do background checks as well. Senior Homeshares works in a similar way to Silvernest by pairing people with roommates or a room in a home.

Consider other home-sharing options

A company like Homestay.com is for the more adventurous senior in that the company is not for seniors only and has homestays across the world. If you are the type that enjoys travel but wants a home environment, this option might be for you. They do have long-term arrangements available.

As developers look at ways to accommodate seniors in more flexible arrangements, you can always consider a roommate in those situations. For example, an apartment complex that caters to seniors with amenities and access to retail and health centers is an opportunity for sharing. 

Advertise or look online

If home-share companies are not available in your area, don’t let that stop you. If you have a home you would like to share, advertise through social media to get the word out. You can always post on Craigslist, Facebook, and other options to find a potential housemate.

If you are looking for a room in a house, use the same method to get your information out. Just remember that any background or security checks will be up to you.

Get together with friends and make a plan

Chances are you aren’t the only one thinking about sharing space with others. Reaching consensus and deciding on a plan with your friends might be complicated, but people are doing it. Perhaps one person has a large house with room for others. Or you all decide to go in on a home together.

Senior Home-Sharing: An Opportunity for Change

It can be daunting to think about what you want your life to look like as you age. If you are energized by the thought of sharing a home with other seniors, start looking at the possibilities. You might be surprised at the opportunities that await you.

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