The Real Golden Girls gang: Lanore, J., and Rhonda--Happy Roommates
The Real Golden Girls gang

If you’re a retiree concerned about reducing living expenses, you might consider sharing a home with others. Research shows that people live longer, healthier lives when they share their lives with others.  Sharing your home with others provides another pair of eyes on the security of the home,  your general health and well-being, as well as another pair of hands to help with household chores.  Clearly sharing a home not only saves money but also saves time and energy, freeing you to do more of the things you enjoy.

How to get started

Some community and online agencies offer a variety of services to facilitate home sharing such as providing background checks and shared housing agreements. However, you can also make use of resources in your own community to find a compatible housemate. 

Senior citizens clubs, churches, libraries, and senior health agencies available in most communities are great places to get leads to find other seniors seeking shared housing situations.

You can begin with a simple word-of-mouth effort in any of these venues.  Let your friends and acquaintances know you are considering sharing your home with the right candidate.  Don’t be shy about your preferences: if you cannot abide house pets, or a smoker, let it be known.  If you prefer a male or female housemate, share that information, as well.

Of course, it’s more comforting to get referrals from friends and family, but you can also take advantage of agency or community bulletin boards.  These can be physically located in churches, senior centers, for example. They can also be online boards. Take caution not to put out too much personal information. Use an email address to initiate contact and agree to meet in person only in a public place and take a friend  or family member along. 

You can set up an initial meeting where you placed your notice for a housemate, such as a church or the senior center; or you can meet at a local restaurant or library.  

Don’t be embarrassed to be prepared!

Your companion can help you take measure of the applicant.  Bring a notebook and pictures of the living space, but do not give out the address yet.  Be ready to share background information, such as your reasons looking for a housemate. Don’t be afraid to ask for the same information from the prospective applicant. 

Before the meeting, you should prepare a list of behaviors and attitudes that are important to you.  From this list, you will prepare interview questions.  For example, you may not want to live with someone with rigid political views and has political media blaring all day. Ask what kinds of radio and TV programs they listen to.  Bring up specific subjects if necessary to gauge their attitudes and volatility on subjects that may affect your compatibility.

If cleanliness is important to you, ask how many loads of laundry this person needs to do each week.  If they only wash once a month, you might want to pass on this person early on in the conversation.

Be sure to ask for lots of general information: are you single, widowed or divorced? Where have you lived in the last 5 years? Do you rent or own your home? Why are you looking for a housemate? Do you have children? Do your children plan on staying at your home when they visit? Do you belong to a local church, senior center, or club? Do you have personal references? Do you work? Do you have a car and do you drive? Get the license plate number if the person arrived in a car. Notice if  the car is clean and in good repair or not.  Are the tags current? Take notes on all the information you collect at this meeting as you will verify it later as part of your due diligence.

If the individual passes the compatibility test, now is a good time to share cell phone information.  Don’t share your landline information as that can be traced to your physical address. Home addresses are available publically by searching phone or tax records, but you needn’t divulge more than necessary.  By the end of the meeting, you should have gathered enough information and a general impression to know whether the applicant is someone you should seriously consider as a housemate or not. If they are still under consideration, let them know you will be in contact by text or email.

Next, do online searches of property and court records, as well as church and local phone directories to verify the information collected.  Call the references provided, check the previous addresses, and verify the work history. You may also choose to do a background check with the various services provided online.  If all the information checks out, you can arrange to have an in-person meeting at the home.  Again, you will want to have a companion with you for this meeting. Be prepared to discuss rent and deposit payments, how these will be paid, and various household responsibilities for both parties. Be sure to cover how you will end your arrangement should it become untenable for either of you. Include information for move-out notice, retention of deposits, and any other consideration you may have different opinions about.

If possible, before you finalize any agreement, meet the prospect once more for another social event or someplace you can just hang out together.  Spending time together is a good way to determine how well you will mesh as household companions.

If the prospect passes all the important criteria you have set out for a housemate, it is time to discuss move-in plans and sign a shared housing agreement similar to this one: Have your legal consultant look over the agreement to make sure your specifications are accurate in the document before signing.

Move-in Day

When the day arrives for your housemate to move in, make sure that all your things have been completely cleared out of the rented space and it is clean and ready for the new tenant. You want to start the arrangement in compliance with the terms you agreed to and keep those terms until you mutually agree to amend them.  

Like marriage, sharing a home with another is not a decision to be taken lightly. But also like marriage, it can produce wonderful results and provide contentment for years to come.  Like all good and lasting relationships, sharing a home happily with another takes patience and work.  But all the best things in life do.

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