House hacking comes in a variety of modalities, and anyone can make the most out of their living situation by taking on roommates to cover some or all of their monthly payments. With a little bit of ingenuity, you can optimize your living situation and offset one of your biggest recurring expenses and even create an income stream.
First, Decide Your Terms
What is the best way to approach house hacking? Well, it depends on your situation, but you can make the most of any home with a bit of planning and creativity.
Take a look at your current digs and the season you or your family is currently in. Then decide if and how many rooms you can rent out and how long of a commitment you want to take on. You can decide if you want to utilize an existing spare room. Or perhaps you can convert a basement, garage, or pool house into a rental space.
You should also give some thought to terms and expectations. Some options to consider:
- a daily rental with Airbnb
- short-term leases with traveling nurses or business travelers
- long term roommate for six months or more
There are trade-offs for each. For Airbnb and shorter terms, you’ll need to furnish the room and deal with turnover. But the hassle of turnover might reward with earning more income than a fixed lease provides. For longer-term leases, you may or may not need to provide linens and furniture, but it might be useful if you already have these things on hand. Additionally, you’ll have guaranteed income each month–but you may not love who you’re stuck with.
Next, Decide How To Cover Yourself
If you’re living in a condo or a home with a strict HOA, you may be limited in what you can do. While you can get roommates, Airbnb may be off the table entirely.
If you decide to rent out on your own without the use of a platform like Airbnb, you’ll want to ensure you have sufficient homeowner’s insurance.
Be aware–each state has unique laws for how tenants and landlords can interact and what actions are legally allowed should the agreement go awry. Signing a lease agreement with your tenant will help ensure your time together is clearly defined, and give you options for legal recourse if things go awry.
A lease should be written in clear, straightforward language, and include payment terms; when payment is due, how much it is, and how you can collect those funds. It should also include rules the tenant must follow while staying in your home, and details on what will happen if either party breaks the agreement. Think through what will happen if damages occur, payment is late, and eviction terms.
Bigger Pockets put together a great collection of tips on what to include in your lease agreement.
Finding Roommates For Your House Hack
There are tons of ways that you can fill your empty rooms with people for cash. Including the aforementioned Airbnb and VRBO. Additionally, there’s Craigslist and Facebook to list your place to the general public. Searching for travel nurse groups in your city on Facebook can yield 5+ local groups that connect potential landlords with nurses in need of a short-term lease for absolutely free and there are both national exchanges and local groups as well.
You’ll want to make sure you have excellent photos of your living spaces, and a boilerplate listing you can use again and again as you post in various places. There’s no shame in scouring other listings to see what language other landlords are using to ensure you’re attracting the right people to your listing–so save your listing and your photos in one place for easy dissemination.
There are also other sites that you need to pay to use–such as Roommates.com and RoomieMatch.com but depending on your situation, it may or may not yield the results you’re looking for. Paid services may seem like a good bet to get more qualified candidates, but in my experience in San Antonio, they weren’t very fruitful. I had better success in Facebook groups.
Vetting A Potential Roommate For Your House Hack
Since you’ll be sharing a space together, you’ll want to make sure that your partnership is a good match for whatever length of time you’ll be spending together. First, you’ll want to ask what brings them to the area and why they’re in need of a room, and find out a bit more about their lifestyle–what do they do for work? Are they familiar with the area or new to town?
Here are some additional questions to help you get to know if you’re a good match:
- Do you smoke, have pets or have any allergies/sensitivities?
- What do they enjoy doing socially? Are they out or in most of the time?
- How often do they tidy up, do laundry, and will they chip in for a maid or prefer to DIY?
- What is their work schedule? Do they travel a lot or stay in town the most?
- Are they a night owl or early bird?
- Do you like to have friends or significant others over often?
- What are your biggest pet peeves?
While you can handle this all over email, if you’re planning on finding a long-term tenant for six months to a year, this might be a good opportunity to Skype or use Facetime to get more of a personal feel for the applicant. Although I’ve worked with several tenants who stayed with me via Airbnb for 3-4 months each that I never met until they showed up, and not to jinx it, it’s worked out fine so far!
House hacking is a great way to reduce your monthly living expenses and even the cash flow of your primary residence if you’re able to swing it! With a bit of preparation and some interpersonal skills, you should be able to find a great situation to fit your needs and make your home a profitable one!