The national average rent cost is $1,405 as of 2019! That is a 2.9% increase from the previous year. No wonder people are relying on credit cards more and more. The cost of rent is sky-rocketing and since housing is a basic necessity, there is really nothing we can do but to pay up.
But don’t worry. This article is not to be the bearer of bad news. On the contrary, it brings very good news! We’ll talk about the 10 genius ways to live rent-free that’s legal too! Ironically more legal than living in your car in some places!
Can you imagine how amazing it is to live rent-free? The main point is: month after month of not paying anything on rent will be a major game-changer on anyone’s budget. If you can hack it right. During our mad savings phase, we were able to live completely mortgage-free and even make extra money on Airbnb as full-time hosts.
Was it considered extreme? You betcha! But we were able to hit new net worth goals every month and save more money than we could ever save from our regular day jobs!
If you are renting, instead of using the money to pay rent, you can set it aside for something else. You can use it to pay off your debts like high-interest credit card debts or student loans – much faster than cutting back on smaller budget items like groceries or entertainment.
If you don’t have debt then you can use it to save up for a down payment on a new house so you’ll never have to worry about keeping up with the upward pace of rent.
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Table of Contents
Have Others Pay Your Rent
Every person needs a suitable place to live and that’s why housing is a true necessity. You can get creative sharing your space and in return, they can pay your rent. That sounds a lot like swindling, yeah? But no. You are not swindling anyone. You could actually be helping other people out by providing them a necessity. As mentioned, these are perfectly legal methods to living without any rent or mortgage if you want to try it out.
1. Get Roommates
Did you know that more and more adults are sharing their living space? Pew Research released its findings in 2018 and said that 25 million adults who own or rent their household share it with another adult. Getting roommates is the most common way to live without paying rent. But to make this work, you need to get enough roommates to cover your rent.
Let’s assume you are renting a 3-bedroom unit for $1,500. Get 2 more roommates and have them pay $750 to rent one room each. That should completely cover your monthly rent! In fact, if you want some extra money, you can even add another roommate.
Of course, these figures will vary depending on where you live. Just make sure that you will charge fair rates – or else they will look for another place to live.
Just remember: it is also important to choose the right roommates. You will be living with these people. You want them to complement your personality so you can have a blast living at home. Be ready with rental agreements, house rules, etc. You have to make sure they can afford to pay rent. Don’t be afraid to ask for references and do background checks, better safe than sorry.
2. Rent To Sublet
Here’s another option for you to live rent-free. Split or create rentable space and sublet another unit or two. You can charge a higher rate to other tenants who need it by offering what traditional landlords don’t. I recommend looking for local college students or people who work nearby.
But won’t you get in trouble with the landlords? Well, that’s where you need to pay a little bit of attention. Make sure you look closely at the contract to make sure the landlord does not say anything specific about subletting. If there is none, then you are free to use it as you wish.
My mother rents and sublets out her San Francisco converted basement. She formed a good relationship and entered the sublet agreement with her landlord by being a consistent and good tenant for many years. So there it is: my mother the 67-year-old, low income, retired woman…living in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Her 2 bedroom converted basement with 1 bath, backyard, and full kitchen…get this...she only pays $300 a month for! The current monthly rental price for a place like her converted basement (remember this is San Francisco!) is $3,600! Isn’t that clever of her?
If you are lucky and clever, you might end up with a landlord that is practically hands-off when it comes to the property. That means as long as you pay the rent, they won’t really check or care.
Something I wanted to note: for half a decade, my mom has been an excellent tenant with on-time payments. She even developed a friendly relationship with the landlord (offering homecooked food occasionally and even emergency babysitting).
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3. Hosting a Vacation Rental
If the other two options don’t sit well with you, then here’s another one: vacation rentals! AKA Airbnb, VRBO, and Homeaway are the 3 major tech frontrunners for online short term rentals companies. I’ve personally hosted on all 3 platforms. They were all fairly similar experiences as far as hosting goes.
I just slightly preferred Airbnb’s website and app interface. You can list your property on all 3 websites to get the maximum booking, just make sure you keep your calendars up to date so no dates accidentally overlap.
If you happen to have an extra room in the unit you are renting, you can sublet it on Airbnb. If that place has its own separate entrance, that’s even better. (Not that that’s a necessity, our Airbnbs only had one entrance.)
So why not join the 150 million registered users of Airbnb! Data reveals that at least 2 million people are staying in various Airbnbs at all times. People like how affordable Airbnbs and short term rentals can be compared to pricey hotels. Guests can get all the freedom while they travel. No one is limited to a kitchenless hotel room in the heart of the overly busy, loud, or shady parts of town.
What is great about this option is the fact that you can charge a higher rate per night if you don’t mind minor cleaning in between hosting your guests. You can charge up anywhere from $50 to $100+ per night not including your cleaning fees. If the average stay is 3 nights, you can get $300 after one visit. If you can just arrange only one visit per week, you get $900 a month to cover rent. Most of the time, you will get a lot more than just one booking per week.
If you want to charge a higher rate, you can offer amenities like faster WiFi, basic breakfast, private parking, large fenced pet-friendly yard, excellent host reputation, 4.5+ star reviews, professional photography, weekly stay discounts, etc. That should help you earn some extra money. This will work really well if you live in a tourist hotspot but that’s not mandatory either.
Our Airbnbs were not in a tourist hotspot, we actually live close to the quiet suburbs of Seattle. What I found was many Airbnb guests liked the safety and quiet tranquillity of more suburban Airbnb rentals. They also get to see more of the city’s soul vs the city’s tourist front.
⭐ Got Some Space? – Rent out a spare room on Airbnb! This was my claim to fame. I made $71,000 on Airbnb last year while putting in just 12 hours a week. I’m not even joking when I say there are tons of hosts even more successful than I am.
4. Buy a House & Rent It Out
This no longer makes you a renter but it will give you a more secure mortgage. You will become an official homeowner and live mortgage-free. That’s even better than free rent because you get to keep the paid off house in the end!
Homes with mother in law units or multi-unit buildings could be a great approach to living rent-free. For our family, we are specifically looking for a mother in law style house because of the flexibility of MIL properties in a populated city. MIL units have been an on-going trend that has proven to be lucrative and popular for homeowners.
If you have a stellar credit rating, you can get a really low rate on a mortgage, especially these recent times, mortgage rates are at historical lows. To be specific, for first-time homeowners, you can look for FHA loans. If you don’t have a full 20% down payment saved up but you have a very stable income + income streams then consider other types of bank loans that you can use.
If you have enough funds, you can renovate the property so it looks like a duplex. That way, you can live privately in one part of the house and have the rest rented out.
Jobs That Lets You Live Rent Free
Having someone else pay for the rent seems easy but not everyone wants to share their space. The good thing is it’s not the only option that you have. You can also use work to get free rent, and there are tons of work out there the will provide you a bed if you can provide a good service.
There are work programs that will not pay a lot of cash – or maybe none at all. But these will allow you to live in the owner’s property completely free. This is great for those who do not mind living on a farm or local family business where you can live and work.
If you live on a farm, you might be tasked to clean stalls, help milk the cows or manage the crops. Most of it will be manual labor so be prepared to get a little bit physical. If it keeps you fit then it shouldn’t be so bad. The other option is living in a local family-owned hotel/bed and breakfasts for free in exchange for hotel cleaning services or being the hotel’s maintenance technician.
The major concern about a rent-for-work set up is, unfortunately, it’s not always a full-time job. Being a live-in farmhand might only be possible during harvest time. When there is nothing much to do, the owners might not need your services anymore. To avoid seasonal work, make sure you make a special arrangement with the owner/landlord, they might allow you to stay. At worst, just be prepared to move around after a couple of months. Adventurous people should find this quite appealing.
To find these jobs, create a professional profile and make sure you are clear and honest with your details. Websites like Indeed, NextDoor, and Craigslist are good starters. Just remember to be careful with the contact you get online.
6. Work as an Au Pair (Live-In Nanny)
How about working as an au pair? An au pair is a fancy word for a live-in nanny, they provide childcare in exchange for a free room. If you love kids, exploring other countries, then this should be very fun for you. You get to live rent-free, even earn a little spending money (the average seems to be around $400/month but the terms differ wildly by individual families), while joining an exciting new family. Nanny.org stated that the median hourly rate for a nanny is $18 in 2017.
You get to live rent-free in a nice, safe, family home. Au pairs are used all across the world by wealthier families. After all, only affluent families can afford to hire a live-in nanny. The terms each family sets are totally different. You can set your own terms too. For example, some au pairs do not offer cooking services unless it’s specifically for the children. Sometimes, employers will give benefits and freebies to live-in nannies so they can stay longer (especially if their children have bonded with you).
To become a nanny, you don’t always have to look for an agency, although it would give you quicker exposure. Another option is creating your own profile on Care.com or AuPair.com. They can connect you to families looking for reputable nannies. Make sure that you are clear that you are looking for a live-in situation. Keep your eyes on Craigslist as well. You might find someone there that you can work for.
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7. Become a Building Manager
What do you think about becoming an apartment building manager? If you want to live rent-free, this is another great option to consider. As the building manager, you are usually given one of the lower apartment units to live in for free.
An apartment building manager is responsible for taking care of the concerns of the tenants. This means there is a possibility that you will be getting phone calls during odd hours. It’s part of the job. Among your responsibilities include facilitating repairs, making sure the common areas are functional, clean, and safe, etc.
This live-in job will make traveling hard since you are essentially on-call 24/7. But what’s great about this is you can work another job while being an apartment building manager. Just make sure you can attend to the needs of the tenants even while you are working your other job.
To get started on this job, look for an apartment management company. All companies have different rules and requirements, so make sure your resume and credentials are impressive. Make sure you check your responsibilities carefully so it will fit in with how you want to live your life.
8. House or Pet Sit
Sometimes, homeowners want to go on a long vacation or need to travel a lot for work. Our family has hired a house + pet sitter combo before. We have a dog and every December we have to take a week off away to see family. Having someone house sit and pet sit for you is a huge lifesaver. Needless to say, it’s a job that comes with a high level of trust. We’re talking about a very expensive asset and a member of your family!
This job will allow you to live rent-free but it would also mean you will be going from one house to another so always have a back-up place to live in case an assignment falls through – like crashing with a close friend or family member (even staying short term at an Airbnb.)
There are long-term house sitting options like taking care of turnovers for Airbnbs/vacation homes. You can take care of the vacation home and host guests for them while the real homeowners are away. Essentially, house sitting and pet sitting jobs are quite flexible. You can even find owners looking for houseboat sitters.
Admittedly, this is not as common as the other work-related options on this list. But it is an option that you can keep an eye out for. When we stayed at an Airbnb in Portland, we met a young live-in Airbnb host who lived rent-free and her job was to clean up and manage the owner’s Airbnb properties.
Living With Family
If all else fails, we can always turn to our family. It’s normal for adult kids to move back and live with family, especially these days. Pew Research can attest to that: about 14% of shared households are between relatives. I didn’t fully move out myself until I was 24 (and some of my belongings are still at Ma’s house!)
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9. Move Back With Parents
This might seem embarrassing for some adults but if you want to live rent-free, this is one of your best options. This is actually great for those who just got out of college and are paying off their student loans. It will also help you save some money for your own place someday.
Of course, you don’t want to be a free hoarder. You can pay for something else – like the electric bill or the groceries bills. That way, nobody, especially your folks, will feel like you are taking advantage of them. Just make sure to clean up after yourself. And submit to the rules of the house – even if you are already an adult.
If your folks have a garage or a basement, you can ask to have it renovated so you have your privacy. There is no need to move back to your old room. Having your own place and entrance will help you feel like a responsible adult – while living rent-free in your parent’s home.
10. Stay With a Relative
Do you have an older relative who needs help around the house? You can volunteer. You can take care of them and they can let you live there rent-free. You can mow the lawn, tend to the house, etc. Sometimes, a relative may just want to live with someone they know. Maybe they don’t want to be alone. So offer yourself to help with that could be a great win-win. Remember that this is great as a temporary arrangement until you get into a stronger financial situation.
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Extra Tips to Living Rent-Free
As awesome as it is to live rent-free, you need to be very careful before you take the plunge. All of the options above are legal and will not land you in any real hot water. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be cautious, here are some other key points you should know about:
- Rental income is considered taxable income (unless you made under $600/year). Leave around 25% of that rental income for your taxes. Make sure you include it in the taxes you will file each year.
- Read the contracts carefully. A lot of the rent-free options above will involve a contract or two – whether it is a lease or a job. If there is something you do not understand, consult an attorney (you can get free legal advice on Reddit too). Although contracts are tedious and very boring, it’s practical and for your own safety.
- Make sure you are insured. Renter’s insurance will help cover the properties you get. Renter’s insurance isn’t very expensive and will ensure that an accident will not rob you of all the savings you will get from living rent-free.
- Don’t be too greedy in charging or subletting rent. This will ensure that the turn-over rate of your tenants will not be too high.
- Never take advantage of someone. This is especially true when you are going to live with someone – a relative or an employer. Be considerate of their private lives and know your place in the house.
- Google is going to be your best friend on your search for a rent-free arrangement. Be thorough with all of your research before you enter into a formal arrangement.
If all goes well, you should be able to save a lot of money by living rent-free. You can set yourself up to be a property investor. Just make sure that you do not waste the opportunity to put extra money aside while living rent-free. It will really help set you up for a more secure financial future!
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