Interview by Earll Murman
In 2017 when Amy and Eric started a farm in Jefferson County, they also wanted to do something else.
“We set out to create a socially engaged housing option for minimum wage workers, young families, and retirees on Social Security, that all can afford without subsidies. We wanted a rate of return on our investment that exceeds risk adjusted market average.”
Eric and Amy bought a large home on 5 acres not far from the airport. They and their young son occupy the master suite, while they rent out the other three bedrooms. Initially they listed one bedroom on Airbnb to provide a flexible space if needed for family visitors or guests. After a time, they realized a long term rental was preferable. Currently they rent to two singles and a family of three. The eight occupants share a weekly dinner and a cleaning night. Renters have access to the entire house (except bedrooms) and property. They share two bathrooms, the kitchen and living areas. Pets are allowed, but not if they disrupt the large chicken population on the farm.
Financially, Amy and Eric take in more than their monthly mortgage payment. The rooms rent from $650 to $950 per month. They get additional income from renting a shop greenhouse, and from a friend needing an address while living abroad. From time-to-time they rent temporary space for a live-in RV or yurt. With the current low interest rates, they are looking at refinancing the property and reducing the rent.
Renters are found through Craigslist, Next Door and word of mouth in the farming community. Renter tenure averages about 9 months, but one renter has been there 3-1/2 years. Not all renters have fit in. They have developed a process to initially rent for a short time before making a long term commitment. Beside rent, the occupants share utilities on a per head basis, cooking staples, and pay for the weekly dinner when it is their time to cook. They also make a damage deposit of one month’s rent.
Home sharing provides a neighborhood friendly, immediately deployable, and low capital source of affordable housing. And it is easy to reconfigure if family needs change. It also enables shared kid watching or inter generational connections.
Summing up, Eric and Amy’s home is like an extended family. They have found that shared bathrooms and kitchen are not a problem. Key enablers are a commitment to cleanliness and adequate storage. Although home sharing may not be for everyone, their long term renter is considering replicating the model. Eric and Amy hope to help him launch it. “The real win is to see home sharing work at scale and be attractive to third party investors.”