Would you consider shared housing later in life?

Renting in a share house is almost a rite of passage for many young Australians. You know the story — the property is a bit run-down, and it’s messy and unkempt but fantastic memories are made day after day.

As we start families, we tend to seek more privacy and a home of our own, whether that’s through renting or a mortgage.

Unexpected events can always occur though, and as a result some of us have to give up the independence and privacy of our own home to stay afloat.

“When there has been some sudden change — divorce, death of a partner, loss of a job — it can force people into [moving back into shared housing]. It can be a stressful time,” says Andrew Colagiuri, a real estate agent and founder of Bright Residential.

However, moving into a share house in our later years isn’t necessarily a tragedy for our independence, and it may well be the opposite for our financial wellbeing.

For some people, once the kids have grown up and moved out, moving out of the empty nest and living with others again can be an option.

“Shared housing isn’t a new concept for older Australians — they practically pioneered it in their youth — but many never thought they’d be back there looking for flatmates in their 60s,” says Colagiuri.

In fact, the popular flatmate-finder website Flatmates.com.au has recorded the 60 to 64-year-old age bracket as having a 43 per cent growth in usage, followed by the 50-54 and 65+ brackets.

Kathryn Daddo is a product of this growing trend, having moved into a shared housing situation with her sister later in life to try and live more comfortably. She wanted to move from full-time to casual employment and found that moving from her long-term rented home was the best way to do this.

“The rent was just ridiculous. By the time I’d finished paying it, I had only a small amount to live off and pay for incidentals … with the opportunity to move in with my sister, I can have a better lifestyle and I don’t have to work to live,” says Daddo.

There has been a gradual increase in the number of Australians in private rentals as outright home ownership falls. In 1992, there was a nearly 15 per cent disparity between the two, whereas the 2016 census found that these days, 30.9 per cent of Australians rent — almost equal with the 31 per cent who own outright.

“The number of Australian home owners has been falling for three decades now, with many destined to become ‘permanent renters’ which will have a domino effect leading to flatmates of all generations,” says Colagiuri.

As well as the financial benefits, moving back into shared housing can also have a positive impact from an emotional and mental health perspective. Living alone in your later years can be a difficult time if you don’t have regular social interaction.

“It’s very lonely living alone — you come home and talk to the walls … I’ve got other people my age who say, ‘I wish I had a sister like you do’ because it’s just an ideal situation for me,” says Daddo.

The most important thing for those considering moving back into the shared housing market is to find someone you’re compatible with in a living situation. Similar interests, activities and lifestyle will make the transition especially beneficial.

It’s also important to note that this trend isn’t just occurring in the swelling property markets of capital cities, but all across Australia.

Daddo’s rental situation was in the Hawkesbury region of New South Wales, for example. “It’s all about supply and demand in these areas … I have heard of many people in rural areas being priced out due to a local mine or development taking off, and forcing a rapid increase in house prices and rental prices,” explains Colagiuri.

For some of us, revisiting living with flatmates also means having to relearn a fundamental childhood lesson — how to share with others.

At the end of the day, whether this will suit you comes down to a balancing act between personal privacy and financial benefit — you’ll have to sacrifice one for the other. While she stresses it probably isn’t for everyone, Daddo says we shouldn’t underestimate the opportunities moving back into shared housing provides.

“It’s certainly something that’s worth having a go at, because having the company and just being able to do the things you what to do is really beneficial at this stage in life,” she says.

Do you have good memories of living with flatmates in your younger years? Would you consider doing it again?

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