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11 Creative Housing Solutions

Gary Foreman

A staggering 1.9 million foreclosures were filed in 2011, according to Realtytrac. The statistics don't say how many families were involved, but clearly that's a lot of people losing their homes.

For most of us, housing is the single biggest item in our monthly expenses--making it especially hard to keep up with rent or mortgage payments. A financial problem could make losing your home a reality. So let's examine some creative housing solutions that can keep you from becoming homeless.

Rent out a spare bedroom. The "bonus room" was a big selling feature a few years ago. Today that empty bedroom makes it harder to keep up with the mortgage. Rent it out for some extra income each month.

Rent out part of your garage or basement. Self-storage complexes are going up everywhere. More and more people need extra space to store their stuff. Unused space in your garage, basement, or attic could be an answer for you and your overcrowded friend, not to mention stored items tend to be very quiet tenants.

Take up housesitting. Clergy, professors, and some other business people take sabbaticals or travel for extended periods. Some retirees split their time between two states. An unoccupied home is an invitation to burglars and a water leak away from a major home repair. Find the right housesitting job and you could live with little or no rent.

Become a dormitory houseparent. Anyone who's attended college or watched Animal House knows that college students need some adult supervision from time to time. Usually nothing more than common sense and a loud voice are needed. Often these jobs go to graduate students, but you might find an opening that's a perfect fit for you.

Find an on-site property management job. Have some do-it-yourself or home repair skills? You could be the perfect property manager for an apartment complex. Most are even agreeable to managers with kids. You'll need to be prepared to take late-night calls and deal with blocked toilets. But you'll have your own apartment and the great feeling of having the landlord knock on your door to give you a check.

Become an elderly caregiver. Medical advances increase longevity, meaning more of the elderly are staying in their homes longer. They often need help with routine daily tasks. In some cases, they're looking for a live-in caregiver. All you need is willing hands and a caring personality.

Become a live-in nanny. Many two-income families have sufficient income and don't want to put their kids in daycare. A live-in nanny is more to their liking. If you're good with small children, you can live with the wealthy...and get paid for the privilege.

Become a campground or small hotel manager. Some businesses require an around-the-clock manager on site to answer questions and make sales. Generally you'll just need to be trustworthy and have the ability to deal with the public.

Take on the life of a vagabond. History is full of nomadic tribes wandering the earth. Today in the United States some seniors live out of their RVs, roaming from campground to campground. If you're able to work from home and enjoy travel, you don't need to wait until you retire to join the modern day vagabonds.

Buy a "fixer upper." It's easy to find depressed properties in today's housing market--homes that could be worth much more with a little work. If you're handy with home repair, you can buy a place for cheap and live in it while you do the needed upgrades and repairs. Because you're living in the house, you'll avoid the risk of most "flippers." Besides your DIY chops, you'll need a down payment and the ability to get a mortgage.

Share a home. Singles have done it for years, and now single moms and even families are trying shared housing, some managing to cut their costs in half. There's nothing special required except someone you trust to share your home with.

The bottom line: If your rent or mortgage is pushing you toward homelessness, consider taking a creative approach to your housing. You might find an entirely new way of life.

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner who founded TheDollarStretcher.com website. The site features many frugal living and household topics, including more information on non-traditional housing.

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