Although the home provider plays the role of landlord, the idea behind the homeshare concept is that housemates are equal partners. As such, both should enter the program with an equally strong commitment to making the match work.
Here are some tips for improving your chances for a successful match:
Know what you want. A home seeker who doesn't want to share a bathroom shouldn't accept a match in a one-bathroom home. Likewise, if you're a home provider and you want some daytime companionship, a housemate who works full-time during the day won't be right for you. Before you complete your application, think about what you need and want.
Be honest. This is one time when there's no benefit in hiding your flaws: Candor is key when looking for a housemate. So, if you tend to be messy, or have some other less-than-attractive habit or trait, say so. Your housemate will find out eventually, and being upfront about any issues will help you avoid problems after the move-in.
Be flexible. Focus on what you are getting out of the homeshare arrangement -- rent, services, a low-cost place to live, companionship -- rather than minor inconveniences or annoyances. Whenever possible, try to accommodate the needs of your housemate.
Have realistic expectations. Though you may develop a close relationship with your housemate, don't assume from the start that he or she will become like a son or daughter or a parent to you. And don't expect the relationship to go smoothly all the time. Homeshare program coordinators say that even happy housemates sometimes have disputes.
Be patient. It can take weeks or even months to find a compatible match. A good match is worth the wait. Some programs encourage prospective housemates to live together for a week or so to see if they are compatible before finalizing the match.
There are many homeshare programs in the U.S., though not every state has one. When looking for a program or information, be sure to specify which type of homesharing you're interested in: match-up or group residence. (A group residence is where individuals live cooperatively in a large, shared home.)
Some programs are open to participants of any age while others require that at least one of the participants in the match qualify as a senior. (The definition of senior varies but is often considered to be someone 55 or older.)
Here are some resources to help you locate a homeshare program:
National Shared Housing Resource Center. Visit www.nationalsharedhousing.org. Click on the Directory button for a state-by-state listing of homeshare programs. If you need additional help finding a program in your area, the organization welcomes you to email any of the directors on its board.
Local office on aging. Many states, counties and cities offer services and information for seniors. These entities go by different names, but they typically contain the words "aging," "senior," or "elder." For example, Alabama has a Commission on Aging, Louisiana has an Office of Elderly Affairs, and Nebraskans would contact the Department of Health and Human Services-Division of Aging.
Regional housing agencies. Agencies and nonprofits that provide housing services -- rental assistance, housing counseling, landlord/tenant mediation, and so on -- often offer homeshare match-up services, information, or referrals. Names of these entities sometimes include "housing authority" or "housing coalition."
Nonprofit service organizations. Many homeshare programs are administered by nonprofit organizations. Catholic Charities operates programs in a number of states, as does Jewish Family Services. Look for other organizations under "independent living," "shared living," "homeshare," or "homesharing."
To learn about other types of arrangements for those seniors needing more care, get Long-Term Care: How to Plan & Pay for It, by Joseph L. Matthews (Nolo).
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