More Homeowners Are Trying Co-Living by Renting Out Part of Their Space

It’s becoming more and more common to have a co-living space. Here’s what you should know about sharing your space with a tenant.

For Rent sign in front of home
Photo:

monkeybusinessimages / Getty Images | Design: Better Homes & Gardens

Sharing your space with someone who isn’t family is an experience most Americans can relate to at some point in their lives. Whether it’s the freshman year dormmate you met on Facebook or a grandparent moving into your home, co-living is a complex situation that requires a lot of planning and communication. Co-living among adults and homeowners is also a growing trend in today’s sharing economy, and it goes beyond renting out room in a house.

According to a 2021 survey from Realtor.com, recent homebuyers are overwhelmingly open to renting out their home “as a way to generate income and offset expenses.” People are getting more creative with what they’re sharing, as well, with everything from pools to parking spaces being split.

"As the next generation of homebuyers has embraced ride sharing and short-term rentals, it's a natural next step that they begin to think of their biggest asset—their home—as a potential income stream," said George Ratiu, manager of economic research at Realtor.com, in a statement accompanying the survey report.

The survey found that 69% of recent homeowners would rent out their home if it had a separate entrance, kitchen, and bathroom, and 32% have already rented out a room, space, or outdoor feature. Most commonly, those renting out their space take on a long-term roommate or rent a room for a short time through platforms like Airbnb. 

“It’s very expensive to be a homeowner,” Clare Trapasso, executive news editor at Realtor.com, tells BHG. “It can be hard to make ends meet right now, and renting out a portion of your home is a way that you can make some extra cash and potentially help pay off your mortgage. With inflation so high, I think people are looking for sort of easier streams of income.”

Home prices broke records in 2020 and 2021: Mortgage payments for a typical U.S. home rose from requiring 27% of median household income in January to 37% in October, surpassing the 30% threshold at which housing becomes a financial burden.

While rates are slowly stabilizing, the cost of buying a home has become a burden many can’t shoulder on their own or with one stream of income. As a more affordable living option, some adults have decided to live with their parents indefinitely, and older homeowners are renting out to students.

Mallory Micetich, a home care expert at Angi, began renting out her 2-bedroom home while living on Capitol Hill in 2014 as a way to put a little extra money toward traveling and spending. She was also just used to living with someone and wanted that sense of familiarity. As for today’s rise in sharing spaces, Micetich believes that people want that interaction and connection that comes with living with another person in response to the pandemic. 

“Inflation is real, and interest rates have risen a lot, so if you've gotten a home over like the last six months, you're paying a lot more for that mortgage than even a couple years ago,” she says. “I also think that there's something right now where, especially with the way our lives have changed—we're working from home more—there’s also probably a social dynamic where people are looking for a little bit more of a sense of connection that they might have gotten in work or other places [before the pandemic].”

Experts at Zillow are predicting that in 2023, more people aiming to own a home will consider buying with a friend to ease the burden of today’s unaffordable prices. A survey taken this spring found that among recent successful home buyers, 18% had purchased with a friend or relative who wasn’t their spouse or partner. Of prospective home buyers, 19% intended to buy with a friend or relative in the next 12 months. 

If you’re considering renting out your home (or if you’re looking to rent out a space in someone else’s), use these tips as a starting point of how to begin the process, what to look for in a roommate or tenant, and more.

Expert Advice on Renting Out Part of Your Home

The first time Micetich rented out a space in her home, she knew her roommate through family and didn’t feel the need to create an official lease—something she would never do now as a home expert and landlord.

“I didn’t do a lot of reference checks or background checks—I didn't really do anything formal to check for this particular tenant [and] roommate to check any of their past rental history,” she says. “However, I kind of learned from that first time, and then when I was a full-time landlord and actually looking for tenants, I [had] a real estate company help me with the lease.”

After going through the “right channels” to learn the legalities of renting, making an application form, and screening a tenant, she felt much more comfortable and financially secure with the whole process. Formalizing the process did involve more steps, work, and time, though—something to be aware of if you’re planning to take on a tenant while also living in the home yourself.

“You're not just looking for a tenant—you’re actually looking for a roommate,” Micetich points out. “Inviting someone to live in means it's not just them, but it's all their stuff that comes along with it. And especially if you've been living in your home for a while, you usually don't have extra storage or spaces that can clearly become your roommate’s or tenant’s space versus your space.”

It’s essential to discuss what kind of lifestyle you’re comfortable with: Is it OK if their significant other comes over multiple times a week? Do you both get ready for work at the same time in the morning? Do they like to stay out late? This applies if you’re looking to rent from someone else, too, whether it’s a stranger or best friend.

“If you're talking about a long-term renter, definitely get to know the people that you're going to be renting from to see if this is a situation you think could work,” Trapasso says. “If one person is very messy and another person is very tidy, that could be problematic.” 

Trapasso advises meeting your future roommate in person to get to know each other, see the space, and discuss expectations before approving or signing anything. It’s also a good opportunity to see if your communication styles are a good match. If you’re the renter, Micetich says to be wary if there aren’t any formal agreements involved, especially surrounding when and how payment will work and how long you’ll be living there. Figure out how the system for maintenance and utilities will work—what’s going to be taken care of by the owner, what will be split, etc.—and if anything is subject to change. 

Probably the most important step in renting out your home: Make sure you’re following all local and state laws (aka doing the essential paperwork, filing taxes, and buying the right kind of home insurance). 

“There are a lot of local ordinances, various parts of the country that have very particular rules about what you can list on a site like Airbnb,” Trapasso says. “It really depends on where you are, because some places are like ‘Nope, no short term rental.’ Some places are a free-for-all. So I would say look at your local zoning ordinances before you decide to put something up on a site like Airbnb.”

When she became a landlord, Micetich worked with a real estate and property management company to draft her documents so she could be sure her rentals were compliant with the law. She also suggests searching for local sample leases online. 

When it comes to figuring out how to price your unit, look at market rates and add a little extra for the additional maintenance that comes with someone else living in your home, Micetich says. And be aware that while it’ll definitely help your financial situation, having a tenant who’s also a roommate won’t cover your entire mortgage.

“It’s not necessarily about making a profit or using this as an investment vehicle like it is if you weren’t living there and had an investment property,” she explains. “You need to think very [carefully] about your space and how your space is going to work in a situation where you have like two lives being lived—somewhat together, somewhat separately—but in the same space.”

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