Renting a house is not just for twentysomethings. Today more than 12 million Americans ages 45 to 65 do it. And why not?
"It's a much lower investment in terms of how much you're putting out there compared to buying houses," says Pawan Gaargi, director of products and marketing for Placeofmine.com, which crawls the web to find available apartments in big cities such as Chicago and Los Angeles and then rates them on transit and crime.
And renters can more easily take off and move to a new city for a better job. "It gives you a lot of freedom in terms of where you want to work," says Gaargi. Especially in bigger cities, short-term leases and sublets are common.
A 48-year-old divorced friend — who previously lived alone in a two-bedroom, two-bath condo - recently decided to take in a boarder to earn extra income ($1,200 a month!). She uses rotatingroom.com (a medical student-created "sublet website for students, by students"), which requires applicants to use their university email address and landlords to use their .edu alumni address. Luckily for her (and her renters), she lives close to the university and the grocery store.
Her tips for taking in a tenant:
Get a realtor friend to do credit checks. Better safe than sorry. Call past landlords, too. (My friend is upfront with potential tenants, telling them, "I will be checking.")
Agree to a "tenancy at will" lease. It gives either party the right to give 30 days' notice. "It keeps everybody on their best behavior," she says. "It's sort of like this Damocles sword."
Think about non-monetary benefits. "I didn't realize how alone I'd been," she says.
Set boundaries. Don't give free car rides - or cook communal meals. "It's too intimate," says my friend.
Divide space in the kitchen. My friend simply clears out a couple cabinets and a few shelves in the fridge. She prefers not to share any food, including spices.
Figure out how to handle utility bills. My friend simply charges half of what she pays for electricity, heat, air conditioning, and high-speed wireless internet.
Allow guests - one or two nights a week. Anything else is another roommate. "Whoever is staying with you has to fit in our room," she says.
Invest in furniture. You'll need a twin bed, a desk, and good lightening. The tiny bed is key since it acts as a deterrent to sleepover guests.
So are you thinking about renting a house - or renting out a room in the one you own?
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