Everywhere you look, the housing market is crumbling, foreclosures are increasing, gas prices and other expenses are rising, and people are looking for a way to live cheaper, without having to move into their cars.
There are a couple of creative things enterprising people are doing where they actually live for free, without paying rent or a high mortgage payment. At all. And I’m not talking squatting in some abandoned building. They’re living in beautiful homes. In many cases, homes they could never hope to afford.
What they’re doing is filling a need. Taking advantage of the slim silver lining in a very black cloud. Predatory? Maybe. But the way the situation is lately, it’s become survival of the fittest. And right now the fittest are living in luxury, without spending a dime.
There are a few catches. You have to be flexible. Very flexible. And willing to move if the situation in the house you’re in changes. Even though some people have stayed in homes 8 to 10 years and sometimes much longer, in many cases the stay can be just a few months. Which is why this is an alternative best left to the single and unencumbered.
So how do you ditch your landlord or mortgage company and live the free and easy life? Here are three ways:
1. Foreclosures Suck For the Owner and the Bank. Not For You.
Because the foreclosure rate is so high – and many homeowners chosen to cut and run rather than deal with the humiliation of legal proceedings – there are many houses that have been left unoccupied. What happens to a home that is left without anyone living in it? It deteriorates. Quickly.
Realtors and banks can’t sell a dilapidated house very easily, especially in this market. Bad for them. Good for you.
Start looking for homes that are in foreclosure and are unoccupied, then find out who owns them. Usually it is the bank holding the note. To find out who has control of the property (if it’s not listed on a sign outside), check with your local county clerk to find out who handles the foreclosed properties in that area, or check with the tax collector for the county the house is in. Contact the owner and offer to live in the house and provide upkeep until it is sold, in exchange for free rent and utilities. It costs them the same as leaving the house empty, and they are assured the house will remain in sellable condition. The downside is that the bank is looking to unload the property quickly, so don’t get too comfortable. Figure you’ve got a few months of free living at best.
2. Live Off the Rich.
They say the rich only get richer, and it seems to be true. With a reported 1% of the entire population holding most of the money in their greedy little hands, the rich also hold numerous houses – investment homes, second homes, vacation homes – that lay empty.
To keep their unoccupied homes and property safe, and make sure the full- and part-time staffs do their jobs, they pay someone to oversee all of this. And very often, the job includes staying in a room in the house, or in a smaller house on the property, in addition to a monthly salary, and in many cases, all other expenses including food, utilities, internet, phone, etc.
So, if you’re recently laid off and are looking for a place to live, this is for you. But finding this type of job requires work on your part. The best way is by word of mouth. Ask friends who know the wealthy, and network at parties and charity events that cater to this type of person. Post a listing on sites like craigslist, and list yourself with an employment service that specializes in these types of placements.
You will need references, and there will be an interview as well as a pretty thorough background check. But if hired, you can expect a long career of living free in the high-rent district.
3 – Housesit.
While housesitting is not as glamorous as being a property manager at a billionaire’s mansion, it’s still a great gig. You can usually find this type of job by word of mouth as well. You can also look at postings on bulletin boards both on- and off-line.
Your job is to keep the house clean and lived in so the owners feel their belongings are safe while they are on vacation. Or at their other house. Sometimes you are also required to watch their pets. (If that is the case, make sure to tack on some extra money for your time.)
While housesitting jobs typically lasting six months to a year, one person told me he has been doing this for the past 30 years. That’s a boatload of money saved, while someone else pays your living expense.
The long and the short of it is, if you’re reliable and honest, flexible and can move on a moment’s notice – and put in a little legwork and networking – you can survive the housing market collapse and live rent and mortgage free in a beautiful home. One someone else’s dime.