How to find a housing companion

The number of Canadians wanting to live in a companion or shared home is growing exponentially. This means that as time goes, a growing number of groups and services will come into being to fill the needs of this large and diverse group.

Traditionally, people have relied on generic classifieds sites and listing boards to find housing companions. Fortunately, these many newer services and groups are now available across the country to help make the process safer and easier than ever before.

The key to success is to take your time to prepare and be thorough. The process of finding a suitable housing companion can be time-consuming and challenging at times. Still, it is more than worth it in the end.

Finding compatible housing companions is important to make the most out of your companion housing arrangement. By establishing clear criteria of what you are and are not looking for, this process becomes much easier. A common mistake is making assumptions or having a lack of care and attention in the selection process. Remember, you will not be compatible with everyone interested in sharing a home with you.

There are many places you can meet a prospective housing companion. The most common starting place is your existing social circles, such as a connection through a friend, family member, church, professional organization, or social group. This immediate network can sometimes produce suitable matches, usually for short to medium term. To expand your options, you will have to search through external networks to find people compatible with you. This most commonly includes public posts on the internet or inquiries through a program or service specifically for companion housing.

Where to start?

The first step in finding a housing companion is to understand your needs, as was covered in the previous topics. Once this has been completed and you have a good idea of what you need to be happy and successful in your living arrangement, it is time to find others who are compatible with you.

There are three categories to choose from to move forward:

  1. Host – You already have a home (own or rent) and are looking for a housing companion (or multiple) to move into your home with you.
  2. Guest – You do not have a home, and you want to move into someone else’s home for the short or long term.
  3. Co-living – You want to find other housing companions to rent or buy a home together for a long term.

Being a host

If you want to share your current home with housing companions, you will be taking on the host’s role. This means you will be establishing the basic household structure and expectations for your home. You will be looking to find housing companions that are compatible with you and your home.

To qualify as a host, you must own the home you reside in, or you must be a long-term tenant of the property with permission to sublet the spare bedrooms.

The duties of a host are different than those of a landlord. If you own the property, you will have to wear two hats, the landlord and the host. These two roles are often confused, which can lead to conflict in the home. The landlord is responsible for establishing the property rules, and these must be followed equally by the host and all housing companions. The landlord is NOT responsible for culture within the home or conflicts between housing companions.

As a host, your role is to act as the neutral moderator of the home to establish a harmonious home environment where everyone is respected and has an equal say. The host controls who moves in and establishes house rules and expectations for all housing companions to follow.

As a Host you are responsible for advertising your home so that prospective housing companions can find you and learn about your home and offering. You can do this yourself, or if there is a companion housing program in your community, they may be able to help you with this process.

Note: As a host, you do not need to accept anyone into your home who is not compatible with you. You can choose who you want for your reasons.

Companion housing versus Renting

When renting, you cannot restrict any individual from renting your space regardless of their age, gender, religious background, or other traits. On the other hand, Companion housing allows you to specify who you want to share your home with. For example, if you only want a female who is 50+ and of a specified religion, you are allowed to set those conditions. Keep in mind this does not permit you to discriminate against any group of people openly.

Suppose you are using classifieds to find housing companions, such as Facebook or a classifieds website. In that case, you will not be allowed to use any words in your post that may be considered discriminatory. For example, you cannot say “female only” or “students only.” However, you can describe your household structure and be selective of who you allow in your home.
If you are part of a companion housing program or using a companion housing service, you can set criteria and choose only the types of people you want to live with. Also, listings with companion housing services will typically include extra securities so that you will not receive random applications from people searching the internet.

Being a guest

If you are looking for a new place to call home, moving into a home with a host opens up many opportunities to find quality housing at affordable prices. The key to success is to plan and start your search long before you need to move. 

As a guest, you want to present yourself professionally and courteously. Hosts often receive multiple inquiries from people wanting to move into their homes. If your message and profile are not complete or professional, you are unlikely to be chosen or responded to.

To search for companion housing opportunities, you can try the same channels mentioned in the host section. Also, your local community or seniors’ society may be able to help you connect with your local companion housing program.

Common issues: The most common issues guests have while searching for a home are not planning far enough ahead (being in a rush) and having poor communication (incomplete messages or not being responsive).

Things to avoid:

  1. Messaging everyone that has a listing. Doing so shows that you are desperate and makes it challenging to manage all of your responses. Hosts may see this as not being genuine. Instead, apply only to your top choices and put all your effort into making great applications.
  2. Asking generic questions when inquiring. Avoid asking short questions like “Is this still available.” Putting some effort into your inquiry to tell the host why you are interested and a little information about yourself will significantly increase your chances of being selected for an interview.
  3. Not reading profiles or home details. Hosts often spend a great deal of time and attention finding compatible housing companions. Applying to homes and hosts which are not compatible with your needs or lifestyle is a waste of everyone’s time and energy.

How to find a housing companion?

Finding compatible housing companions is important to make the most out of your companion housing arrangement. By establishing clear criteria of what you are and are not looking for, this process becomes much easier. A common mistake is making assumptions or having a lack of care and attention in the selection process. Remember, you will not be compatible with everyone who is interested in sharing a home with you.

There are many places you can meet a prospective housing companion. The most common starting place is your existing social circles, such as a connection through a friend, family member, church, professional organization, or social group. This immediate network can sometimes produce suitable matches, usually for the short-medium terms. To expand your options you will have to search through external networks to find people compatible with you. This most commonly includes public posts on the internet, or inquiries through a program or service specifically for companion housing.

Co-living

Finding others to rent/buy together

This type of living arrangement is suitable for persons who already have experience with companion housing. Each person should have a clear idea of what they want and what personality traits and values are most important. This process starts with finding the right people, then finding a suitable home together.

Important: You will be committing to a multi-year engagement. Take your time and ensure you are 100% confident before agreeing to move in. If you need to find housing for yourself soon, you should consider looking for a host who already has a home which you can share.

Where to start?

The first step is to find like-minded people who are looking for something similar. You may find others through online communities such as Facebook groups or forums, local clubs and groups, classifieds websites, or your existing social circle. Or, you may already have a group of people you enjoy living with from another companion home. Once you have some reliable and compatible housing companions, you may choose to stick together and move into a new home or even to a new city as a group.

Resource to help – Home Together Canada has a new service that aims at making it easier to find like-minded housing companions to rent a home with. www.hometogether.ca

Common challenge – finding a home

The most common challenge next to finding the right housing companions is finding a suitable home for rent or sale at the right time. Once you have found your housing companions and have agreed upon all of your terms, you should be ready to move quickly when the right home comes available. Working with a professional real estate agent or property manager may help with this part of the process. Some companion housing programs may also be able to connect you with property owners or managers who have homes available that are suitable for sharing.

Looking for more resources? Senior Ladies Living Together is a Facebook group in Ontario Canada who helps senior women find other senior women to rent housing together.

Ways to find housing companions

Public internet posts – Posting on classifieds websites, forums, and social media allows you to reach a large network of people. However, the people you reach will not be curated or screened. Some people have had success through these channels. However, you should proceed with caution. When you post on these websites that you are searching for a housing companion, you release a lot of personal information. Responses received through these channels are usually disingenuous and are only interested in renting space, not forming a companion home.  As you cannot control who sees or accesses this information, it is not encouraged to use these platforms.

Bulletin board – You can often find these at coffee shops, churches, small shops, and recreation centers. This method has a small local reach but can be a great way to target a particular person. You may need permission from the building or store manager to post on the bulletin board. If you also have an online post, you can reference the link to provide more information about your ask.

Social media groups – There are many groups targeted to a specific geographic area or interest group that may help. Examples include groups specific to housing or other interests, such as gardening or dogs. Going through these channels will increase your chances of finding people with similar interests. Avoid sharing too much information publicly as you cannot control who will see your post.

An example is the Facebook group in Ontario, Canada, called Senior Ladies Living Together.

Community programs and service providers – Local groups or organizations that offer housing support or companion housing programs. These organizations may have bulletin boards or lists of people looking for housing companions.

If you live in a community with a formal companion housing program, a staff member or volunteer may help you with this process. Usually, this will involve a home visit by a program coordinator and an interview to get started. This is one of the safest options and is best for those who want extra security and assistance. A fee is typically charged for services but is often well worth it.

Note: These organizations may run companion housing workshops and support groups to help you. You can find participating societies on the Happipad website at https://happipad.com/partners

Companion housing service – These are service providers who offer a secure environment for you to find housing companions. You can register as a host or guest to find housing companions or a companion home. These services may also provide many services beyond finding people, such as conflict resolution, contract formation, rent collection, and more. 

  1. Happipad Portal is a full-service solution to help people of all ages with all aspects of companion housing. This is a secure platform to find housing companions based on compatibility profiles and provides a full suite of services to help with contracts, rent collection, conflict support, and more. It is free to register and create a listing. https://happipad.com

  2. Home Share International non-profit organization that supports a network of worldwide home-sharing programs and professionals. They aim to encourage learning, good practice, and growth of new programs. You can find many global organizations through their website.  https://homeshare.org

  3. Toronto Home Share is a program servicing the city of Toronto, run by the National Initiative for the Care of the Elderly (NICE) that matches older adults (55+) with a spare room in their home who would benefit from receiving additional income and/or help around the home with university and college students seeking affordable housing. https://www.canadahomeshare.com

Creating posts to find a housing companion

Your posting’s structure and language play an essential role in attracting the type of people you want. The key to success is avoiding generic descriptions and requests. You will end up getting what you ask for, so be specific and don’t be afraid to say no. Spending some extra time on this step will be worth the time invested.

Key point: Be specific with your details and expectations. Generic listings will receive generic inquiries that are likely to leave you frustrated.

For hosts who already have a home

Step 1: Take photos

Make sure your home is clean and organized before taking photos. Open all of your window coverings. The more natural light, the better! Avoid taking pictures with inside lights whenever possible. These make your rooms look smaller and dated in photos.

You should have at least five photos, including kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, living room, outside view of the home. Having high-quality images will make your home more appealing for companions to apply.

Tip: Most cell phones can take high-quality photos. Always hold your phone sideways (landscape mode) when taking pictures.

Step 2: Write the posting

The title

Avoid generic titles such as “room for rent in house.” Instead, create a captivating title that showcases what you’re offering. You want this to stand out from the hundreds of generic rental listings.

Example: “Companion housing opportunity – one spot available in an executive home.”

Price
What is the price per month and what does this price include, such as parking, furnishings, or utilities?

Date of availability
When is it available? Are you looking for a short or long-term housing companion?

Tell a bit about yourself

Briefly explain who you are and what you do.

Example: “I am a middle-aged working professional who loves classical music, cooking, reading, playing volleyball, and jogging. I like to keep my home clean, organized, and quiet as I work from home. I am quiet and reserved but like to have the occasional dinner party with friends. I am looking for someone who shares similar interests and would like to share my home with me for a long term.”

Home details and what’s included

What amenities and features does the home have? Is it located near a bus stop or grocery store? Do the home and room come fully furnished?

Example: “Home is in a great central location near Costco. The building complex is very quiet with lots of parking. Home and room are fully furnished, including a new queen-size pillow top mattress. It also includes in-suite laundry, WIFI internet, cable TV, and air-conditioning.

Important house details and rules

List anything people should know before applying that may disqualify them.

Example: “No parking provided, quiet time 10:00 pm-6:30am, no pets allowed, all-female home.”

Who you are looking for

You cannot discriminate in your text description. However, you should specify what type of person you are looking for. This will help attract people who have similar values. You do not want to attract everyone who reads the post, be specific about what you are looking for to attract only the type of person you want.

Example: “We are a group of older women looking for a like-minded vegetarian to join our home. We enjoy sharing meals, playing cribbage, and watching soap operas….”

Contact details

How should they contact you?

Tip: Avoid publishing your phone number and email address. Spammers often steal this information.

If you are using a companion housing service or website, such as Happipad, your contact details and address are hidden and secure to keep you safe. You can instead message each other securely through the website.

Step 3: Reviewing applications

You may start to receive many applications within a couple of days of creating your listing, or it may take a few weeks or months. The activity your post gets depends largely on the price, location, and amenities of your property. It is very important to respond to inquiries from prospective housing companions, ideally on the same day, even if it’s a NO. It is a very frustrating feeling when you never hear a response, be courteous, be responsive.

When you receive an application, it is advisable to send a message to confirm you have received it and are currently reviewing it. This is also an excellent opportunity to ask any quick questions to compare the quality of different applicants. Providing this immediate response will make guests much more interested in living with you, demonstrating punctuality and professionalism.

Common issue: Many people feel bad when declining someone’s application. The truth of the matter is you are doing them a benefit by telling them the truth. This way, they can sooner move on to find a suitable home.

Step 4: Interview process

How do you meet people and get to know who they are? More on this in the next section on interviewing housing companions.

Advice from experienced housing companions

If at any time you feel pressured by another, you need to ask yourself if you want to proceed. If they pressure you now, they may do so later. If they say they are in a hurry and desperate, then they are likely to be desperate for some reason later on. Life happens, and if they cannot find a way to take care of their own needs without putting that on you, then that is, in all likelihood, just the way they are. Do you want to live with such a person?

For guests – searching for established homes

Are you looking for an established home to move into? The first step is to search for existing hosts who have space available. You can do so by contacting your local community or seniors’ organization to see if they currently have any hosts with available space. You can also conduct your search through online channels, such as the Happipad Portal, social media groups, or classifieds websites.

Creating your profile: If you are using the Happipad Portal or a similar service, you will need to create a guest profile. This includes answering questions related to your personality traits, lifestyle, hobbies and interests, habits and routines, and details about what you are looking for. Spend some time to answer these questions as hosts accurately will be carefully evaluating these. Adding a profile picture is optional; however, a clear photo showing you smiling can significantly increase hosts’ response rate. 

Important note: DO NOT lie on your profile. Doing so will only hurt you in the long run. For instance, if you are not a quiet or organized person, that is just fine, be honest, and you will be more likely to find a home that suits you. Providing misleading information may result in negative reviews on your account or even suspension. 

Suppose you are using a conventional method to find housing. In that case, you will want to prepare a personal profile to describe yourself. Your profile will include personal information, which should only be shared with people whom you have met and trust. Review and answer the questions covered in this module to create a comprehensive profile, particularly your deal-breakers and needs.