How-to Monday: Homesharing
Photo of homesharers courtesy of St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center
For 20 years now, St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center in Baltimore has run a matchmaking service. Think empty rooms, not lonely hearts.
The nonprofit helps Baltimore and Baltimore County homeowners with space to spare find people looking for a room to rent, and vice versa. The program, launched by employee Mark Benson, was conceived as a way to get elderly residents some extra income and companionship but has proved to be popular with younger homeowners, too.
"It's one of the most creative things we do," says Vincent Quayle, executive director of St. Ambrose, which is best known for its housing counseling and foreclosure prevention work.
St. Ambrose Homesharing has made 1,180 matches all told -- about 60 a year. Room rent is typically $400 to $450 in the city and about $500 in the county.
Sometimes personalities don't mesh. But things usually work out pretty well, St. Ambrose says.
"Knock on wood, we have not had any serious problems," says Annette L. Brennan, the program director. "We screen very carefully from the outset."
The homeowner and home seeker can each ask for a criminal background check on the other party -- it costs about $15 to run one. Beyond that, St. Ambrose wants references, assurances that participants have been drug-free and sober for at least a year and a doctor's report from anyone dealing with a chronic condition. The nonprofit conducts interviews, too -- on site with homeowners so it can check out the property and neighborhood. (For its efforts, it asks for a $5 fee from the home seeker and $15 from the homeowner.)
Homesharing can be a flexible arrangement. Sometimes home seekers barter services in exchange for rent. Sometimes homeowners are willing to take people with a lousy credit rating. Sometimes folks stay together for just a few months while the renter sells an out-of-state house, and sometimes they live together for years.
A few times, St. Ambrose has helped match renters with homeowners who needed extra money to avoid foreclosure.
"Most of it is the universe just happens to smile on us," says Brennan, noting that homeowners might have to wait for a while until they find the right match.
Eileen L. Lewis, a Catonsville homeowner who has taken in renters for years through St. Ambrose, said she likes the experience. The renters' payments -- $375 for one room, $400 for the other -- help her financially, and she's happy to think that she's helping them avoid the much pricier cost of an apartment.
Sometimes it hardly seems as if she's sharing her house, her renters are so quiet.
"Everybody respects the space," she says.
Want more information? Call St. Ambrose Homesharing at 410-366-6180 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Looking for other information on the topic? Click HERE for the National Shared Housing Resource Center.