Senior Homesharing

Learn about senior homeshare match-up programs -- how they work, benefits to seniors, and how to find one.

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Senior homeshare match-up programs bring together older home providers with individuals seeking a place to live. In exchange for providing a private room in their home, seniors receive household assistance or rent from their housemate, or a combination of the two. Participating senior home providers can either own their own home or rent a home from someone else. Though the arrangement is not right for everyone, homesharing meets the needs of many seniors and their housemates.

Before you consider homesharing for yourself or an elderly parent, find out what homesharing offers participants, how match-up programs work, and how to improve your chances of finding a compatible housemate.

Benefits of Homesharing to Seniors

Homesharing can be a good choice for roommates of any age, but there are benefits for seniors that make the arrangement particularly attractive, including:

  • Independence. In many cases, having a housemate enables a senior to avoid or postpone the move to an assisted living facility. However, because potential housemates are not dedicated caregivers, senior home providers wishing to participate in these programs should be in relatively good health. (To learn about other options for seniors needing more care, read Nolo's article Is Home Health Care an Option?)
  • Rental income. An additional monthly income can help seniors on a fixed income make ends meet. Rent, if any, is negotiated between home provider and home seeker.
  • Household help. Home providers who need help with cooking, laundry, gardening, and other routine chores can choose to reduce the rent or provide housing free in exchange for a certain number of hours of assistance.
  • Transportation. Seniors who can no longer drive can request that the assistance their housemate provides includes transportation to medical appointments, the grocery store, and other places they need to go.
  • Safety. A housemate offers a measure of safety for an older person who might fall or might not react quickly in an emergency.
  • Companionship. For many seniors, someone to interact with on a daily basis is more valuable than the rental income or services they receive.
  • Peace of mind. A housemate can provide peace of mind to the senior and his or her family and friends, who may worry about their elderly loved one living alone. (To learn more about caring for an elder, read Nolo's article Caring for an Elderly Relative: Where to Begin.)

Benefits of Homesharing to Potential Housemates

Those looking for rooms to rent participate in homeshare programs for a variety of reasons. Many of them have free time but not a lot of money. This could be because they are students, work only part-time, have recently retired and now live on a fixed income, or any number of other reasons. Others live far from family and appreciate the companionship and security they get from homesharing.

The Match-up Process

The homeshare match-up process consists of a number of steps that take participants from application to move-in. These steps typically include:

  • Application. Both home provider and home seeker submit an application to the program.
  • Interview. Many programs have staff conduct in-person interviews with both the home provider and the home seeker. Getting to know the participants helps program staff make good matches.
  • Home visit. Before beginning the matching process, a program staff member will, typically, make a visit to the home.
  • Reference check. Home seeker references may be checked by program staff, or that may be left up to the home provider. Some programs have home seekers submit to a fingerprint check.
  • Match-up. Program staff will propose a match and the prospective housemates will meet at the home. If they feel that the match will work, the pair will proceed to draw up a homeshare agreement.
  • Negotiation of homeshare agreement. To learn more about what the homeshare agreement should include, see "The Homeshare Agreement," below.

While all homeshare programs bring together prospective home providers and home seekers, the extent of staff involvement in the process can vary from agency to agency. For example, some check references, while others leave it to the participants to do that. And some help negotiate the homeshare agreement, while others simply provide participants with guidelines and a form.

Some homeshare program coordinators make themselves available after the match is finalized, to mediate disputes that may arise between housemates. The homeshare match-up program you choose may request a nominal fee.

The Homeshare Agreement

The written homeshare agreement is very important. It spells out all obligations, such as rent amount and due date, and hours and types of services to be provided. It also lists any restrictions, such as what hours guests are welcome, and whether smoking or pets are allowed. Every agreement is different because every pair of housemates has different needs.

Every agreement should also spell out how much notice a participant should give before withdrawing from the program (30 days is typical). And it should spell out acceptable reasons for terminating the homeshare immediately -- nonpayment of rent or failure to perform services as agreed, for example.

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