With interest rates higher than they’ve been in years, those who want to buy a home are looking for ways to make it more affordable. According to Zillow, younger generations are willing to get creative when it comes to home ownership.
One of the most common housing hacks among Millennials (ages 29-43) and Gen Z (ages 18-28) is earning income by renting out a room. The idea of a roommate may seem uncomfortable to those of us who are a little older, but more than half of home buyers among Millennials and Gen Zs ranked “the opportunity to rent out a portion of the home for rental income while living in the home” very highly.
These folks also valued the option to use their initial house as a rental someday after they moved out, presumably to a larger home.
Given the recent increase in remote work, especially after COVID, having a roommate could be great. I have a friend who lives in Sebastopol and works for a company based in Chicago. He spends three weeks a month here and one week there. If he could afford a second home in Chicago by renting out a room in that house, it could have great benefits for all involved.
His Chicago roommate would have the place to himself three-quarters of the time. Every month when my friend traveled to Chicago for business, my friend would have a home to stay in rather than a hotel room. He’d have a kitchen, a home office, as well as extra clothes and toiletries (making travel that much easier). If something went wrong such as a water leak or electrical fire, the roommate would know immediately and be there to address it.
Now, for those who would rent a room and stick around, you’d want to be sure you’re compatible with your prospective roommate. For people who remember the TV show the Odd Couple, you don’t want an Oscar-and-Felix situation. If you prefer a neat and clean environment where you can enjoy quiet solitude and a bedtime of 10 pm, you’ll want to avoid someone who likes to engage in constant conversation and who invites friends over for parties or lively discussions into the wee hours of the morning. On the flip side, if you are single and would love some companionship, it can be nice to have another human being in the home with you.
Even though you’d only be renting a room (as opposed to a whole house), I highly recommend putting all agreements in writing. Even under the best of circumstances, most of us can’t remember what we said six months ago. If things go sideways, you’ll want a legal document outlining precisely what you agreed to, from rent and utilities to pets and guests. Consider talking to former roommates of your prospective housemate and/or checking out their current living situation. If it were me, I’d do a criminal background check, income verification, and credit check, too.
Having a roommate is not the only house hack. I know a guy who owns a motor home and uses it so he can rent his house as an Airbnb from time to time. Whenever someone wants to rent his place, he packs up what he needs for a few days and heads to his motor home. The Airbnb guests have a great house to stay in and he gets a little extra income.
According to Zillow, these “hacks” reflect a pragmatic response to the financial challenges of homeownership, particularly among younger generations. The Zillow data indicate significant variations across racial and generational lines, so it’s clear that a one-size-fits-all approach to home ownership isn’t fair or advisable.
Zillow says, “As house hacking gains momentum, it becomes imperative for policymakers and real estate professionals to adapt to these shifting trends and provide support for diverse pathways to homeownership.”
I, for one, am all about helping people own their own home. Owning real estate is a great way to build wealth and create a comfortable space to call home.
If you have questions about property management or real estate, please contact me at email@example.com or call (707) 462-4000. If you have an idea for a future column, share it with me and if I use it, I’ll send you a $25 gift certificate to Schat’s Bakery.