Long term house sharing as we age

Women standing together

When younger, a house share or flat share is often seen as a temporary living arrangement before ‘settling down’ with a partner or establishing your career. There is the prospect of home ownership ahead for many.

When older, this is less likely to be the case. It may be that you need time to adjust to the shock of being single or even a bereavement. You may not be sure what to do, so a house share is a good transition to something else. However, for most single people aged 50 and over who do not already own a property, then the prospect of earning more money and investing in a large mortgage to do so are much less likely.

More likely is that you accept your earnings, want to work a little bit less as retirement approaches, and to start to think about longer-term solutions for accommodation in later life. Something more sustainable and affordable.

Sharing a flat or a house with relative strangers, who may of course become your friends or a even become a bit like a family with time is good, but if you have not found them already then it’s time to consider the options.

At age 50 and 60, good health cannot be taken for granted, but assuming you are healthy and don’t have a great-aunt about to leave you a small fortune, then you need to start planning.

Planning for later life and retirement

We always envisaged two or three sorts of later life house sharing and we continue to be focused on helping people create these solutions, enabling them to find the right sort of people to share with – like-minded people. These are solutions for people who do not have a house to sell in order to fund their retirement living.

Start with a short term share

The first idea we had at Cohabitas was to help people to find other housemates, some with a house and a spare room, some without, to connect with each other. You don’t have to have the same personality or background, but you probably need some similarities in terms of being considerate and to be able to communicate together – what we call being ‘like-minded’.

Longer-term house sharing starts as a short-term arrangement. You need to find a new home and then start living somewhere to see how it goes. If it goes well enough to stay, and life doesn’t throw any curveballs, then you stay, and it becomes a longer term share.

For the homeowner it’s the same. You find you can’t afford to live in the home you own or rent without additional income, so you consider taking in a lodger, maybe as a sort-term solution (high utility bills etc), but you find you like it and/or like them.

So, helping people to start house sharing in their 50s and 60s is a good first step. It’s a step towards creating a sustainable and supportive long-term sharing arrangement in later life – let’s say over 70 years old. Without some experience of sharing when younger, its much less likely you’d consider this when older.

Deciding not to live alone

The second idea we had was to encourage people, many of who have already lived in conventional marriages or relationships and who find themselves alone, to consider sharing a home rather than living alone.

Some people like living alone, but many people do not. Just having someone else around is a good feeling, plus in today’s financial climate, the cost of running a home on your own is prohibitively expensive. If you do opt to live alone you may well have much less money to get out and do other things.

So Cohabitas is there to reassure people that house sharing is an alternative to living alone. By hearing from other people who have shared, it helps to normalise the arrangement, not just in London where rents are highest and rooms in shortest supply, but also in smaller villages and towns, where people have a spare room and might need a bit of company.

House sharing is a social arrangement as well as a financial one, although you could of course say that about a marriage or a civil partnership!

Find the right type of accommodation

When we started Cohabitas we envisaged that purpose-built mature co-living properties would be developed. A few multi-generational co-living developments have appeared, and others are planned, aiming to attract those people who love the vibrancy of the city and younger people. But to-date we know of only one co-living development that is specifically focused on the over 50s – that is Peach Living.

We expected more developments, especially so since co-living developments are popping up all over the place for the large post-university and transitory young professional population. It’s considered a new ‘investment class’, but no one has looked at the more affordable end of the market for the over 40’s yet. There are a lot of luxury over 55’s retirement developments, but you need to sell a large property to down-size into a flat in a very nice area. Nice if you can afford it, but most can’t.

Besides, these new co-living developments typically have small rooms and are expensive, so not suitable for longer-term sharing by more mature housemates.

The future of later life house sharing

Our view is that house sharing in your 40, 50s and 60’s is a great way to meet people and that it is a good route into longer-term house sharing in retirement and later life.

We particularly like the idea of ‘younger’ 50 and 60 year olds living with older housemates, maybe in their 70s and 80s. We appreciate that the older housemate is probably the homeowner. This arrangement should be very attractive to them, as it can provide them with a little more security, valued social contact, and some income, enabling them to ‘stay in place’ in their own home for longer.

But even these arrangements may not be that long-term, as the homeowner is most likely to die first or to have to move to a retirement home, leaving the younger housemate without a place to live.

If the younger housemate were able to have some additional benefits, such as a slightly reduced rent, then that would seem fair. We encourage this to be discussed, but it is a not replacement for professional home help or care. and for the home owner, possibly with children, there is no risk to tenure if a lodger agreement is in place. Lodgers have no additional right to reside beyond a resaonable period (usually a month or two) irrespective of the length of tenure.

Find the right people to share with first

The ideal situation is that housemates of a similar age and stage, ‘settle down’ together for the longer term. That means joining together to rent a house or flat, or for one party to buy into the other’s property to create more equality of tenure and commitment. This can probably only realistically be achieved when trust is established having already shared together for a period of time.

Meeting people in your 50s and 60s, hopefully through Cohabitas, who you feel you could live with in your 70s and 80s is definitely a good place to start. Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it certainly helps you to understand and adjust to sharing a home with other people.

We will be keeping an eye out for those progressive developers able to build more mature coliving housing, but like flat sharing when younger, that arrangement is probably still prone to shorter-term sharing, as it starts with the property not the people.

We believe longer-term house sharing is all about the people, so we adopt a people first approach. Then once you find like minded housemates you can find a home together. Have a look in the housemates section to see who is looking longer term. You might find someone just like you!

You might also find this useful. Tips for successful house sharing over 40

You can also read about us and why we started Cohabitas.


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