Empty nest? What to do with extra rooms in the house

Don't let empty rooms in your house go to waste. If your children have moved out of your home, you can recoup the cost of unused rooms by moving, sealing off the room, or converting the room into a home office, Hamm says.

Nick Ut/AP
A single house is offered for sale in Santa Monica, Calif. on June 11, 2013. When your children move out of your home and you are left with empty rooms, one option you can take is to move out to a smaller home — something that could save you hundreds of dollars a month.

The children move out, leaving a few empty bedrooms behind.

You can’t sublease that extra room in your apartment, so it sits there empty.

You buy a big house intending to have children, but then you decide to wait.

Things like this happen to a lot of us, and they all wind up with the same problem: you have an extra room (or three) in your home.

Having a room just sitting there empty is expensive. You’re paying for the rent or the mortgage on it. If it’s in your home, you’re paying for the insurance and the property taxes on it. You’re paying to heat and cool the room as well.

The room might be empty, but so are your pockets.

Many people view their empty room as a “guest room” or something like it to justify the expense, but unless it’s almost constantly in use, you’re losing significant money on that room – money which, sometimes, you really can’t afford to be losing.

So, what are the options? Here are some tactics you can use to recoup the cost of that unused room.

 The first approach is to simply move to new, smaller living quarters.

Smaller living quarters have the distinct advantage of being not only cheaper to rent (or purchase), but also being cheaper to maintain. If you’re a homeowner, a home with smaller square footage will have lower insurance costs and lower heating and cooling costs, all other things being equal. If you’re a renter, a smaller apartment or rental home will almost always be cheaper.

This may seem like a drastic move, but if you’re holding onto an apartment or a house that’s draining $200 a month in rent or mortgages and another $50 a month in insurance, then you owe it to yourself to consider moving.

 If moving is not an option for some reason, another option is to seal off the room to the best of your ability.

The best step you can take is to block light from coming in the window during the summer months using either a reflective material or a light-blocking curtain. This keeps the room from getting overly hot during the day, which will allow heat to transfer into other parts of your home which you do want to keep cool. There are a lot of options here depending on the room, so do some research into the best option for blocking light.

You should also make sure that all heating and cooling to the room is turned off. The vents should be closed and any other heating and cooling units should be off. You may also want to consider blocking air flow under the door with a pillow or blanket.

You should also have all electric devices in the room turned fully off.

 Another option is to convert that extra room into a home office, which is the route we’ve taken.

If you do this, you provide yourself with space to launch a side business at home. You can isolate the materials related to that side business in a single place, making it easy to just shut the door and be in “business” mode (which is exactly what I do).

Even better, you can deduct the cost of space used for a home business on your income taxes.

If you’re interested in doing this, I highly recommend picking up a book on starting a home business, like this one.

Regardless of what avenue you choose, remember that an empty room sitting there unused is simply draining money out of your wallet. You owe it to your finances to do what you can to minimize those losses.

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