WITH rental prices at an all-time high more and more people are turning to unconventional housing arrangements to save cash -homesharing is one of them.
Paul Woodland, 57, is saving £430 a month through this type of living situation, which involves providing live-in support to a homeowner.
The TEFL teacher has been living with Sandra Singleton, 65, at her bungalow in Bournemouth since September last year.
Sandra has MS and lives a busy, independent life – but needs occasional support around the house.
“My role is mostly cooking,” Paul says. “I make dinner every day, which is good for me as I love to cook.
"I also clear up, wash up and make sure everything is back in its place after the meal.”
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As well as cooking, Paul helps out with anything technical around the house and gives Sandra a weekly shopping list for her to pick up.
In exchange for his help, Paul doesn’t pay rent – meaning he has been able to save for a holiday and join a gym since moving in.
He also doesn't contribute to household bills like energy, saving more money on top too.
The pair were introduced by Supportmatch, a homesharing agency that links homeowners in need of help and with space to share, with people looking for affordable housing.
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Paul pays the agency £169 a month, saving him £431 on the average monthly rent of £600 for a room in Bournemouth.
Sandra also pays Supportmatch a monthly fee of £200.
“The financial benefits of homesharing are great, it’s enabled me to live a reasonable life without worrying too much about things like keeping my car on the road or going on holiday,” Paul explains.
“The alternative was paying half of my monthly wages on rent just for a little room, which is probably horrible and not somewhere I’d want to live.”
Supportmatch saw a huge surge in the number of applicants looking to homeshare last year, something managing director and co-counder of Supportmatch, Zaira De Novellias, believes is directly linked to the rising cost of living.
“People were contacting us with a lot more urgent needs. We had a lot of people who were really struggling to find somewhere to live and were at risk of being left with no accommodation,” Zaira explains.
In popular locations In prime locations where they previously would have had 10 applicants per placement, they are now getting around 40.
According to the Rightmove's rental price tracker, the average rent outside of London at the end of last year stood at £1,172 per month.
That's almost 10% higher than the same time in 2021.
“There’s a huge housing crisis at the moment and we’re just trying to help as much as possible,” Zaira explains.
“If you’re willing to help, if you’re willing to spend your time supporting someone in the house then it can be a really good way to save money and live in a safe home for a fraction of the cost.”
How does does a homeshare work?
Supportmatch has a vetting system, which involves interviewing everyone who applies and Zaira warns the arrangement is not for everybody.
“If you want to spend all of your time outside the house or you’re looking to go out all weekend partying and drinking, then homesharing is not going to be suitable for you,” she says.
Each homeshare platform will have its own set of rules, so it's important to check the terms and conditions carefully to ensure you know what you’re signing up for – from rules to fees.
Aside from the financial benefit, Paul says: “I cannot express how meaningful it is to be sharing the house with someone and understand the reality of living with a long-term disease.
"It’s been an incredible learning experience for me.”
He says the most important part of making a homesharing arrangement successful is ensuring you have a good rapport with the homeowner.
He adds: “You have to get on with the person you’re living with, if it doesn’t feel right then you shouldn’t do it.”
Paul is Sandra’s third homesharer in three years and Sandra says it is “working very well indeed”
She said: “Having Paul around is working really well as I’m quite independent and like to do things myself anyway, so it doesn’t matter that he works during the day.
“It’s nice to have someone around in the evenings and he cooks the evening meal which is always lovely, even if I am still getting used to vegetarian meals!” she laughs.
After going through the interview process with Supportmatch, Paul and Sandra were introduced to each other to see if they were happy with the match.
After accepting, Paul moved in on a one-month trial period, where either party had a two-week notice period if they wanted to cancel the arrangement.
After the first month, this became a rolling monthly contract with a one-month notice period.
“Your situation is slightly less secure than if you were renting with the one-month notice period,” Paul says.
“But it gives both parties the flexibility to end the arrangement if it stops working which is good.”
Homesharers might be asked to do a range of tasks such as cooking, like Paul does, cleaning and laundry, shopping, gardening, walking thedog.
But these should be agreed upon beforehand.
Zaira says flexibility is essential to making a homesharing arrangement work.
She adds: “There is a clear distinction between a carer and a homesharer. Homesharers are not professionally trained and won’t undertake any care duties.
The arrangement has to be flexible around the homesharer’s time and availability, it can’t feel like a job.
“That’s what the matching service is all about, we want to match the best, most suitable homesharers up with our homeowners.”
More ways to save on rent
Homesharing isn't the only arrangement that could help you save money on rent.
Be a property guardian
A property guardianship is when you live in a disused property like a school, office, or care home.
It means the property is looked after rather than lying empty and tenants get below market rent.
Essentially you're babysitting a property to deter squatters. It should be in a livable condition.
Rents can be as much as 60% less than a traditional rental in the area.
But check the terms and conditions carefully as you'll have fewer rights than a tenant normally does.
You can search online for property guardians using sites like Global Guardians, and Blue Door Property Guardians.
There are some websites like House Sitters UK where you can search for a property to live in for free over a specific period of time while the owner is away.
For instance we spoke to Alex Walker who lives rent-free in a five bedroom house in Surrey while its owners are away.
Although it's rent free, you'll usually need to pay a membership fee to the site where owners and sitters can connect.
House Sitters UK, for example, requires a £29 monthly fee.
You'll also need to create a profile page so that homeowners can browse through your information, and provide valid identification.
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According to our research, you could also earn roughly £20 a day from housesitting, but that depends on if you need to look after a pet in the property.
Other sites you can look on include Trusted Housesitters, MindMyHouse and Nomador.
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