The growing trend of 'house sharing'
Susan Kim, Stephanie Graham
Jean, Louise, and Karen are three baby boomers who merged their furniture, their wine glasses, their china and their book collections--by selling their old homes and buying a house together. They join 2 million other Americans over the age of 30 who have a housemate or roommate.
"It made amazing economic sense," Jean explains.
They are all are divorced, in their early 50's, and have professional full time jobs. They met at church and created what they call a 'cooperative household.' Each woman has her own bedroom and bathroom. They share the common areas of the house, chores, and expenses. Louise adds, "We are all really busy, we're hardly ever all here at the same time."
When the trio is home together, sometimes they throw parties, play games and dote on their shared house cat. Before they moved in, an attorney drew up a legal agreement addressing issues like:
-How long visitors can stay
-What if a housemate wants to sell or leave
-What happens if someone passes away?
They also made sure they clicked as people. As Karen explains, "On some level you have to share values in order to make things work."
There are now 125 of these special 'co-housing communities' across the country. Families buy regular homes which surround a main common house with a common kitchen--a space for the entire community to share.
Rebecca Lane is with the Co-housing Association of United States. She says, "Taking the stress off of parents in having to do everything for their kids, and not sharing the load is really to me the heart of the American dream."
Not so interested in a co-housing community, but simply a shared house? Experts say:
-Create an agreement on how to share expenses and chores
-Set boundaries outlining what you can and can't live with
-Check references of potential house mates
-Ask why someone wants to move
Annamarie Pluhar is a shared housing expert. She explains, "You need to know that people are solid about paying, that they're going to be a reasonable person to be around."
Experts say communication and compromise are key to solving problems. Karen, Jean and Louise love their arrangement.
"You can make something wonderful happen if you can find the right people to do it with," Louise beams.
If you're considering someone as a house mate, experts suggest running a credit or even criminal background check on the person.