6 Ways to Make Housing More Affordable
Housing is one of the highest expenses we will ever face, whether you own or rent. There are valid arguments for both sides of the rent/buy debate, but no matter what you need to do, there are ways to reduce your expenses.
Offer to exchange services for reduced rent
My partner and I used to live in an apartment building, and the superintendent was an older lady. She had assistant supers who worked outside jobs, so when it snowed, there was not always someone who could shovel right away. (Don’t forget I am in Canada, and we can get whoppers of snow fall now and again!) My partner used to come home from work, and immediately grab a shovel to clear the walkways and exits. He did this without being asked, as he saw the superintendent struggling with it, or because it was easier to clean the walkway than to track in snow throughout the hallways and wait for it to be cleared. Our superintendent was not able to reduce our rent for this help, but come summer, we did not pay for air conditioning hydro charges AND she was going to give us a free window air conditioner. We did not do this for the benefits, but sometimes offering to help out can reduce your expenses.
I have also heard of agreements where the tenant is responsible for grass cutting, or snow removal, or painting units in exchange for rent reductions.
Note: Get your agreement in writing if it is a substantial amount of work being exchanged.
Pay Rent On Time For A Discount
Some property management companies and property owners will offer a discount if you pay your rent on time. It can range from 5-15% of the total rent, provided that each month, you pay on or by the due date. Ask your superintendent or landlord about getting a discount if you pay on time, every time.
Rent a Less Desirable Unit
I’m sure you’ve heard of penthouse suites as the most desirable units, and there’s always rumours about those nasty units that are like caves or crawl spaces. Some property owners have renovated basements into lovely apartments, with decent windows, a lot of natural light and they rent for less because they are a basement unit.
When looking for a new place to live, ask your property manager if there is a cheaper unit. Sometimes it’s a few square feet smaller, by an elevator, or partly in-ground… but they can be just as nice or nicer than the units that go for premium dollars.
Pay For Your Own Utilities
If your apartment has the option to be independently metered, or you are looking for a new place, try to find one that does have separate meters for utilities.
If you live in a building without separate meters, then you usually pay a share of the total bill. Problem with this is, your neighbor Jill knows she doesn’t pay for gas or water, so she runs hot water on everything, and as often as she can. You, on the other hand, wash laundry in off hours on cold water, have short showers and never waste hot water if you can help it. Why would you both pay the same amount towards utilities when it’s clear you are not the main user?
Even if the units are only metered for hydro or gas, it will help reduce your costs because you are in charge of the usage. If you are conscientious about turning off lights, using little hydro and being as energy efficient as possible, your hydro bills will be but a percentage compared to your neighbor.
Savings on your utility bills means more in your pocket!
RENTERS AND OWNERS
Rent Out A Room or Space
Renting out a room doesn’t always equal a full-time roommate. You could:
- Rent space in a basement or empty room for storage while people are moving
- Rent space for small businesses to store stock
- Rent to a shift worker who works during the week in a city but resides on weekends elsewhere
- Rent as a bed and breakfast or AirBnB
- Rent to an international student who needs a place during the school year
- Rent out a garage for winter storage (cars, motorcycles, summer tires, etc.)
- Rent out a garden shed or greenhouse to growers (of the legal kind)
- Rent out your garden to a neighbor who needs more growing space
- Rent your parking spot if you do not have a car
- Look into wind power or solar power – some companies will pay you to install their products on your property
- Rent out your basement kitchen to people who need more room for canning, freezing, meal preps, etc.
- And, of course, there is the traditional idea: rent to someone as a roommate or tenant
Note: if you are renting your space, be sure that you are not voiding your lease by having a sub-tenant or work-from-home business
Do An Energy Audit
There are people who will come in and inspect your home for energy loss. It might be drafts through windows or doors, or even electrical outlets, hot spots in the house, or more efficient ways to set up your home. Recommendations like adding more insulation or plastic wrapping windows could save you a lot of money, especially if you did not know that you were losing heat!
Certain things you can do regardless where you live, and do not need to have an auditor come through. Go to your home renovation centres and ask for the section for energy efficient items. You will find many items that you could install, even on a temporary basis if you are renting, that will help keep the house cooler in the summer, and warmer in the winter.
Note: If you think you can replicate the items for less cost, just be sure that you are not creating a fire hazard. Certain materials are fire retardant, and other materials may fail code.
I hope this list will get you started in saving a few dollars and helping you on your way to financial independence!
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