Taking a look at non-traditional housing situations

Non-Traditional Housing

by Debra L. Karplus, MS, OTR/L


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You work, you save, and you diligently follow a budget. You pride yourself in the frugal lifestyle that your family has adopted. But no matter how tightly you manage your finances, your single biggest expenditure is related to housing, including rent or mortgage, homeowner's insurance, real estate taxes, repairs and maintenance, and utilities such as heating and cooling, electricity, water, and sewer. But what if there was a way to reduce or eliminate the cost of renting or owning a home with non-traditional housing?

Transform your home into a source of income.

Depending on the size and layout of your home, and your family's desire for privacy, you may be able to rent out the spare bedroom or other unused parts of the house, such as a cozy attic or loft space or mother-in-law's apartment in the back. This may be more of a possibility after one or more of your children have moved out to begin their own independent life and have abandoned their old bedroom, leaving it empty and ready for a new temporary occupant. Think of this opportunity as your own mini bed-and-breakfast inn. Or, if performing household chores is part of the agreement, this makes your place more like a youth hostel.

If you live near a university or a state capitol, you have a high probability of finding a network of young people seeking interim housing, perhaps for a semester or academic school year. College students often need housing, as do government interns or foreign exchange students. What an exciting way for your children to learn about other cultures while your family receives a stipend, which can sometimes be quite generous!

You may need to include this income on your federal income taxes, but some household repairs and improvements may even be tax deductible if, as the Internal Revenue Service requires, they are "reasonable and necessary." Discuss with the family and crunch the numbers to determine if having this type of semi-permanent houseguest is right for you.

Adopt the ultimate minimalist lifestyle and allow your adventurous spirit to live the life of a nomad.

Though you'd rather not be thought of as "homeless," the life of a wanderer, a drifter, might suit you. This type of living situation may be more appropriate for retires or singles, but depending on your family, it can be a reasonable alternative to having one place to call home and the many stresses of home ownership.

Clergymen and women, college professors, and people in certain other professions often take a sabbatical every seven years, bringing their family to a different area, near or far, for a year for study and renewal. They don't want their home to be vacant and unmaintained. This is a great opportunity for your family to have very comfortable and spacious temporary housing. See if these opportunities exist where you live, or even where you want to live.

Some jobs often don't feel like jobs and may be your ticket to free housing. Becoming a professional house parent at a sorority or fraternity, dormitory, or other residential facility for young people can be a perfect living situation for singles and sometimes for couples and families. House parents typically are salaried in addition to having their own little apartment inside the house or facility, and they usually receive sumptuous meals, too. Responsibilities typically include looking out for the well-being and safety of the residents and managing the house, such as ordering food or hiring people to perform repairs. And if you need to be away, there is often a pool of substitutes who can fill in for you. You can become one of these substitutes as a dress rehearsal for this lifestyle.

Campgrounds and residential camps are also often looking to hire people to live on site and provide some management. Or, some people find enough jobs as a house sitter to give up their own permanent housing. These types of housing may be great for you and may not necessarily be just short term.

You may have seen some TV show featuring people who live in their recreational vehicle. If you've ever been inside one of these RVs, you'll be amazed that kitchen, bathroom, and living and sleeping space all fit together compactly inside this vehicle that cruises along the open road as it treks from place to place. Escape to the south in winter; head north in the summer. You'll never need to check into a motel again.

So maybe you and your family are not ready to be inviting others to live in your home, nor are you prepared to sell all but your bare essentials to live the nomadic live. At some point, you may find your possessions to be more of a burden than an asset and you might choose to make a small or drastic change to your lifestyle. Keep dreaming.


Debra is an occupational therapist, accountant, teacher and freelance writer. She is a writer for Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. She also writes for Grand Magazine, has some items (fiction and non fiction) selling on Amazon.com (kindle) and has written several articles for freelancewriting.com. Learn more about her at DebraKarplus.blogspot.com.

Take the Next Step:

  • For more on house sharing and other non-traditional housing, please visit The Dollar Stretcher Library .
  • If you haven't looked for a lower mortgage rate in the past year you could be wasting money each month. Use our simple tool that compares different lenders to see what your monthly mortgage payment could be. It's private, only takes a minute and could show you how to save thousands!

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