An unhappy albeit inevitable part of aging is that we lose friends and family; whether by divorce, death or simply a long planned move to warmer climes, seniors find that their circle of friends and family declines the longer they live. For many, this is just a fact of life even as the loneliness and isolation that follows erodes their health and quality of life. However, more than a few seniors are no longer willing to live their golden years like this. While there are a plethora of Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) that seem to spring up everywhere of late, this living arrangement might not appeal to everyone. This has given rise to the concept of home-sharing.
This concept was actually the brain child of Maggie Kuhn, a Gray Panthers activist who rented out rooms in her Philadelphia home to students for a reduced rent. In return, these students performed services for her such as food shopping, rides to doctors appointments, light housekeeping, and yard maintenance. Today, there are home-sharing agencies in more than 20 states that help seniors in myriad ways to explore this arrangement. Whether the idea of home-sharing means taking on a housemate or two or establishing a joint investment in a home that suits every owners' needs, the idea of home-sharing is definitely catching on. Here are some tips to make this arrangement a success.
- This arrangement is basically a barter system. Be sure that you adequately disclose the care and help you want and need. "The seeker enables the sharer to stay safely in their home while paying a more manageable amount of rent" says Margo Fochs, coordinator of Independent Living's Home Share program.
- Personal interviews are a absolutely must, as are background checks. Be sure to get at least 3 verifiable references.
- For the seeker, be sure to voice your expectations, not only of the space you will be renting but what constitutes 'shared' space and what is 'personal' space. A visit to the prospective home is an absolutely must.
- If this is your first foray into home-sharing, it is a good idea to use one of the professional agencies out there that have successfully navigated these arrangements for a multitude of other seniors. They have the means to match home seeker with home sharer; they are more likely to use unbiased surveys and questionnaires rather than let their intuition help them make a successful match.
- Written contracts following a trial period are important. As renter in your home, you will need to override your state's rental laws in these contracts or you could potentially find yourself in the very uncomfortable position of having to offer notice only then to have to wait until that notice period has elapsed before you can ask the seeker to vacate.
- Accept that while this option may be the only way you can remain in your own home, it is not for everyone – no matter how dire the consequences of not sharing your home may be to you now, another arrangement may be the better plan.
It seems inevitable that as baby boomers continue to retire, that new solutions to many of the problems of aging with manifest themselves. At an age when we tend to resist change, change may very well bring better and happier solutions than ever before. As with most things, this is likely not a DYI project since there are legal and tax consequences than must be identified and resolved for all the parties. An experienced estate planning attorney is the ideal professional to help establish the parameters of this type of arrangement. "We can help you with that".