Homeowners turn to old trend for help

Sarah Andrus cut back on her nursing schedule to spend more time with her daughter. While it worked for her family, financially it took a toll.

"Just me working less hours put more of a pinch on our finances," said Andrus.

Link: Lifetopia.com
Link: RoomYou.com
Link: MetroRoomates.com

So Sarah decided to rent out a room to cushion her savings.

"I thought we could give it a shot and see how it goes. Even just a couple hundred extra dollars a month can go a long way," say Andrus.

Or, how about an extra $550 a month? That's what Sarah's getting after finding a suitable stranger.

People are opening their homes in this tough economy through classifieds or specialized Web sites.

Bill Schneider is with Lifetopia, a web based roommate and housing service.

"Over a six month period in 2008, we noticed a 27 percent increase of landlords posting online, and over the last 30 days an additional 20 percent increase," said Schneider.

Dr. William Phillips, an economic history professor, says renting rooms was a common practice prior to World War II. We've gone through recessions since without seeing the trend, but he says now is unique.

"I think it's more related to the combination of a downturn in the economy but also this housing crisis, and many people with high mortgage payments," said Dr. Phillips.

Homeowners who open their homes need to remember, they're becoming a landlord and need to act like one.

"They should certainly check out the insurance implications of their policy. They should certainly check out any potential legal ramifications," said Dr. Phillips.

Experts also suggest checking a credit report and conducting a complete background check, and then spell out stipulations.

"Smoking, non-smoking, use of the yard, use of the amenities. Can they use the kitchen, do they only stay pretty much isolated in their particular room, which would become their domain?" explains Schneider.

And spell it all out in a contract, designed to protect both parties.

Renting out a room may not work for all homeowners. Experts tell us the trend is most successful in urban areas or places with a large college population. Homeowners in those settings have been able to land a tenant within a month.

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