Single family home too pricey? Consider sharing.

The typical one family per house living situation isn't for everyone, especially from a financial standpoint. Consider an unconventional setup, like sharing a home with another family or constructing a second home on a plot of land.

Paul Sakuma/AP/File
This Tuesday, August 2012 file photo shows an exterior view of house with a pending home sale sign in Palo Alto, Calif. Hamm suggests sharing a home with another family as a way to drive down costs.

In most American family homes, you’ll find one or two adults, sometimes paired with some number of children. Anything outside of that is often considered a bit unusual.

However, it’s outside of that typical situation where the best bargains in housing can be found. The more incomes there are to tap when it comes to dealing with the cost of a home, the easier it’s going to be for everyone involved, as everyone has a smaller share to deal with.

If you’re finding the cost of living or owning a home to just be too high for you, but you’d still like to enjoy the advantages of owning a home, consider an alternative to the typical “one family per home” strategy.

For starters, consider sharing a home with another family. This might be something as simple as having your parents live with you, having a sibling and his/her family live with you, or sharing a communal home with friends.

This sounds difficult on the surface, but it’s really not that difficult at all as long as everyone is clear on what’s expected and is willing to discuss problems when they arise instead of letting them fester and grow.

I lived in something of a communal situation for a while and it functioned best when we had regular communal meals, where everyone sat together and was free to raise anything at all that was bothering them. When these happened, everyone got along really well. It was a few months after we stopped making that effort that issues began to grow.

The benefits of this arrangement are tremendous. All of the bills become shared, and they don’t go up all that much at all. Many bills remain the same (like the mortgage) and others rise only a little (like the energy bill). It also allows everyone to take more advantage of bulk purchasing.

There’s another benefit, too: communal living environments can be enormously beneficial to single career-oriented folk. They provide natural collaboration and networking environments, particularly if the people are involved in similar careers.

If this seems difficult, another option is to construct a second home on your land. If you have a large piece of land, this can be quite feasible.

Having a second home on your land can drastically increase the value of the land (you can sell it as two parcels later) while simultaneously reducing the mortgage cost (depending on your arrangement with the tenants of the other home). It can also cut down on the cost of some utilities depending on how things are metered.

The key is to not lock yourself into certain “rules” when it comes to your living situation. When you don’t think about your assumptions on a huge expense like this, you can end up costing yourself a lot of money.

This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book “365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere.

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