If you’re comfortable living with someone you’ve only met once or twice and are happy help out around the house, a homesharing scheme may be for you.
There are several UK homesharing schemes, including Support Match, Lightshare, Novus Homeshare and Share and Care, a member of Homeshare UK.
We reveal how these schemes work, what is expected from the sharer and the fees involved.
How do homesharing schemes work?
These schemes are pretty straightforward.
The householder offers free accommodation to the sharer in exchange for their companionship and help, which for the latter is generally at least 10 hours a week.
Anna Champ, digital marketing manager at AJ Bell, took part in one such scheme for almost a year, between March 2018 and May 2019.
She read about homesharing schemes in a BBC article, thought it was an amazing opportunity and decided to do some research into various schemes.
Initially, saving money was the biggest attraction of these schemes as London is notoriously expensive, although Champ says her experience was different than expected.
‘None of it felt forced’
“It was one of the best flat-sharing arrangements I have ever had,” commented Champ.
“I got more from it than I thought and got to know someone interesting.”
During the scheme, Champ paid £180 a month, which included the cost of any household bills.
Under the agreement, she committed to around 15 hours a week with householder Beth*.
Five hours were dedicated to companionship and 10 hours to helping around the house.
The latter would generally involve shopping, tidying up and cooking meals.
“The five hours of companionship generally centred around having dinner and watching TV [with Beth],” says Champ.
“Some weeks I did more than 10 hours of help, but other weeks, I might not need to do as much.
“None of it felt forced – it’s more about fulfilling their needs.”
What are the conditions of a house share?
There were some conditions under the house-sharing arrangement, which Champ was happy to oblige by – but may be more difficult for other people.
She slept in the house located in the Primrose Hill area for a minimum of six nights a week and was allowed one weekend off a month.
Of course, conditions can vary on a case by case basis, so Champ’s experience may not be the same as everyone else’s.
While Champ was happy to commit, she admits there were limitations in when she could travel and what she could do socially.
For those interested in the scheme, she recommends taking the commitment seriously as some homeowners may be vulnerable and you’ll be a vital part of their life.
“You should want to be part of someone’s life,” advises Champ.
“For me, it like being part of a family home, rather than a flatshare.”
While Champ no longer is part of the scheme, she does keep in contact and sometimes visits Beth.
What’s the application process like?
For Champ, the application process was very quick.
One of the most appealing aspects of the Share and Care scheme for the digital marketing manager was the ability to read about the potential opportunities on the website before applying.
Details include the location of the homeowner, what the person is like and whether they suffer from complex conditions such as dementia.
Initially, Champ applied to live with another homeowner, but they chose someone else – although she received a call about a prospective match shortly after.
It only took a week or so for Champ to meet Beth and her family, and she moved in within a month.
But this may not be the norm as someone was needed as soon as possible in Beth’s case.
Before the meeting was set up, Champ had a long interview lasting over an hour with Share and Care to make sure she was a good fit for Beth and understood the commitment involved.
Champ says the agreement was quite tightly defined although there was some flexibility on both sides.
How much can you expect to pay?
It’s important to note that not all homesharing schemes offer the same monthly price as Share and Care, which recently cut their monthly fee in London to £150 (£125 + VAT) to match what they charge outside of London in response to more competition.
This fee is the same regardless of the location of the householder.
Share and Care receives no grants so both parties – the householder and licensee (sharer) – pay fees to ensure the scheme benefits everyone.
Amanda Clarke, one of the owners of Share and Care Homeshare, says the scheme charges the least compared to its competitors as some homesharing schemes can charge up to £300 to sharers alone.
Clarke believes only charging sharers may make them feel less valued as both parties are contributing something positive.
For the householders, they are offering affordable accommodation while the sharer provides inexpensive help. There are also no upfront or hidden fees for either party to worry about.
For Share and Care, finding the right sharers to help out is vital.
“We’re looking for people who really want to do it and are perhaps natural volunteers,” comments Clarke, who says the average stay for a sharer is 14 months.
While there’s a desire for sharers to stay for a minimum of one year to avoid any disruption for the householder, Share and Care uses a monthly rolling licence agreement.#
How much can you save?
The amount you can save varies on where you end up staying and which scheme you use.
For Champ, the scheme was “incredibly helpful” in boosting her contributions to a Lifetime ISA for a house deposit.
If she chose to rent a one-bedroom flat in Primrose Hill, it would cost a whopping £2,147 a month on average, according to Zoopla data.
By choosing Share and Care, Champ was able to pay £180 a month – 90% less compared to the average rent in the area.
What other schemes are available?
There are over 20 different homeshare organisations across the UK, all of which are members of Homeshare UK, including:
- Support Match;
- Lightshare Homeshare Services;
- Novus Homeshare;
- Homeshare Living;
- Two Generations
Fees vary by provider so be sure you’re happy with any charges before you sign up.
Lightshare Homeshare Services looks for a homesharer to provide up to 10 hours of support every week.
Everyday tasks such as cooking, shopping, outings, light cleaning and laundry are among the support expected.
Unlike Share and Care, the householder doesn’t pay a monthly charge for Lightshare’s services.
The homesharer pays £170 a month (or £320 per month for couples), plus any contributions to bills.
All applicants have to pass the interview process and security checks, as well as commit to staying overnight at least five nights a week and commit to a minimum of six months.
Lightshare also asks for a deposit of £170 and a £30 fee to cover the costs of a DBS check.
Novus Homeshare has a scheme that works in a similar way, but charges £200 per month for sharers.
The company also charges a one-off placement fee of £100 and also a £200 deposit, which is refundable.
For some of these schemes, fees can easily rack up before you move in so be sure to do your research.
But if you do find your right match, you could make a significant difference in someone else’s life while also saving money.
*Name has been changed to protect identity