To Barter For Housing
By James Stout, Writer For BarterNews
We can barter for our
We can build our home by bartering. Whether we barter
directly (one-to-one) or use a club's units, it is
possible to pay for virtually every stage of design and
construction without spending money. Some of the most
active and available traders are in the construction
field as carpenters, plumbers, carpet-layers,
landscapers, etc. In our contract with these people, we
will need to specify whether we are bartering for both
parts and labor; the contractors might be willing to
trade their labor but not the expensive materials (e.g.,
lumber), particularly if they have to pay cash to their
supplier. Our options:
Pay cash for
supplies, and then barter only for the labor.
Find a supplier who
will provide the materials in exchange for
barter-club units or for our goods or services in a
We can furnish our home by bartering. We can trade for
the furniture, drapery, rugs, hot tub, and other
We can barter for domestic services. These services
include housecleaning, yard work, home repairs, etc.
We can barter for the use of features that we can't
afford for our home. For example, we might offer to
clean someone's pool periodically, in exchange for the
privilege of swimming there. When I was a child in
Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania, my neighbors had a clay tennis
court which needed to be "rolled" with a big metal
roller after every rainstorm; I would do the task, in
exchange for the privilege of playing on the court. We
might be able to barter for the use of a garage, boat
dock, parking space, storage building, or other
We can barter for housing in exchange for a service.
We can work for an
apartment complex. Apartment managers receive free
housing and utilities in exchange for tending the
property, and providing maintenance and policing.
Even if we cannot
obtain free housing as an apartment
manager, we might be able to reduce our
rent by working in other ways: painting the
apartment (or the entire building), doing some
repairs, or assisting in the maintenance. For
example, one barter club reduced its office rent by
$30 per month when the director offered to help in
the building's upkeep (sweeping the sidewalk,
emptying the litter can in the hallway, and doing
other small chores). If there is not enough work to
do at our apartment complex, we might ask whether
the landlord owns other properties where we could
perform additional work.
We can buy or rent
a house which is much bigger than the one we need,
and then rent out the extra rooms. When I lived in
San Jose, I spent a month with a friend who was
making mortgage payments on a large Victorian house
where four rooms were rented out to other people.
Those renters paid for most of the house mortgage,
and they also helped to clean the communal areas
(kitchen, living room, and yard). It was a barter
deal: in exchange for providing those rooms, my
friend got her own living area for almost no cost,
and she built up her equity, and she got free
housekeeping from the renters.
We can get a job in
which housing is often a fringe benefit; as such, it
is a non-cash barter-payment for "services
rendered." For example, soldiers have barracks; nuns
have convents; governors have a "governor's
mansion"; the U.S. President has the White House.
Many colleges, private companies, and other
organizations provide housing for their employees.
We can barter for a
vacation home-exchange. In this arrangement, we trade homes
only for the duration of our vacation -- for a few days or a
few weeks. For example, you would stay in my home in
Louisiana, and I would stay in your home in Norway.
Fewer expenses. We
won't have to pay for hotels (or tips), restaurants
(if we eat in the person's home), pet boarding (if
the person is willing to care for our pet in our
home), and car rental (if we use one another's car).
Use of the person's
other resources. Those resources might include club
memberships, maid, babysitter, boat, etc.
We won't have to
"live out of our suitcase." We have an entire house
in which to relax, with the conveniences and privacy
of our own abode.
With the money
which we save, we might be able to extend our
The details regarding location and timing. Obviously, we
must consider these details:
We need to find
someone who lives in a place which we want to visit.
The other family
must want to stay in our hometown.
Our two families
must be able to vacation at the same time.
Advertising for the offer. We might place an ad in the
newspaper of the city where we want to stay. A
classified ad in
The San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times,
or any other local newspaper might lead to a
rent-free vacation in another city. (Online a classified
ad in Craigslist.com or BarterNews.com.)
International home-trading clubs. These clubs can help
us to contact thousands of people who want to trade. The
clubs put a description of our home into their
directories, which are distributed to all of the
members. One directory had these intriguing listings
(among many others):
"A home in Ceylon.
Sun, sea, swimming, golf, wildlife, archaeology,
skin-diving, servant, surfing, curries, bargain
gems, car exchange."
"A residence in
France. Exceptionally attractive flat in modern
luxury building near beach, all appliances, tennis
court, swimming pool, car exchange possible."
The dangers of a vacation home-exchange. When the trip
ends, and we return to our home, are we going to find a
wasteland of vandalism and theft? Of course, that is a
possibility. However, the Vacation Exchange Club (a
home-exchange organization) says that it has received
only a few mild complaints after thousands of trades.
Generally, people have been honorable with one another's
property -- perhaps because we know that the home-owner
is staying in our home, and because we feel like
honored, personal guests, rather than impersonal
customers paying for a hotel room.
can get housing by house-sitting. House-sitting is a
temporary arrangement in which we live in someone's home
while he or she is gone (perhaps for a vacation or a
business trip). Our job is to maintain the home's security,
lawn, plants, pets, etc. House-sitting is not an on-going
way of life; we will probably not be able to coordinate our
schedule such that we could immediately move into another
available home when each home-owner returns from a trip and
we have to move out. However, house-sitting can be an
interesting adventure, because it might allow us to live in
homes which are (1) in exotic locations, or are (2) very
expensive and are thus our only opportunity to live in a
Finding a house that needs a sitter:
We can place a
classified ad in our newspaper.
We can register
with a house-sitting service. There are companies
which coordinate these arrangements between
home-owners and house-sitters who are bonded, and
have passed a security check.
We can contact a
real-estate broker. If the real-estate market is
slow, a house might be empty for months. During that
period, we could live in the house (although we will
have to agree to move out when the house is sold).
The absent owner benefits in various ways:
Our presence is
a deterrent to vandals, squatters, and burglars.
We can use our
home-improvement skills to increase the value of
the house. For example, we could repaint the
rooms, repair a fence, build a deck, etc.
We can barter our skills
in exchange for a room in someone's home. Those skills can
include housekeeping, cooking, errands, personal care
(perhaps for a child, or a person who is elderly or ill or
physically challenged), etc. Instead of domestic chores, we
might be helping with the family's business, e.g., farming.
The arrangement can be worthwhile for someone who has a
spare bedroom; our use of the room costs virtually nothing,
and the cost of our food is minimal -- but our services
(e.g., babysitting five days per week and some evenings) can
be very economical for the homeowner.
Finding a room. We can put an ad on bulletin boards, or
we might contact an employment office which is sponsored
by a college or the state government. In a newspaper, we
might find a classified ad in a category such as Help
Wanted, Rooms For Rent, or Apartments For Rent. Or we
can place our own ad in Situations Wanted. One
classified-ad section presented the following proposals:
A guest house (with
utilities paid) was offered to a massage therapist
who would work with an MS patient.
An unmarried woman
was sought, to move into a "nice 2-bedroom duplex"
to look after an elderly woman in exchange for room
and board. There was a "possible small income for
the right person."
$15/week plus own room in exchange for light
housekeeping, cooking, and driving man to do
man to work part-time at small nursery in exchange
for living quarters."
"Room and board
plus $100 per month for live-in sitter."
"Marsha L. has a
private room for a retired individual or couple who
will serve as substitute grandparents for her
For any housing
arrangement, we can create a written agreement. Some of the
following details can be considered, depending upon our
arrangement: permanent live-in, or temporary house-sitting,
or a vacation home exchange. (We can ask our attorney to
develop this legal document.)
Liability. The homeowner should be certain that the
insurance will cover any damage which is caused by a roomer
-- accidentally or intentionally.
Our background. We might be required to supply
"references" (i.e., a list of people for whom we have
previously provided this service).
Our special skills or training. We might need to offer
our services in cooking, nursing, gardening, tutoring
(for a child), home repair, etc.
Our personal characteristics. The homeowner might want
someone who is of a particular age, gender, or marital
Our responsibilities. We might need to do housework,
gardening, driving, babysitting, care for pets and
houseplants, and other chores.
Our schedule. How many hours per day will we be expected
to work for the family? Days only? Nights only? Weekends
only? Will we be on-call 24 hours per day? When will we
have some "time off?"
Our privileges. The privileges might include: having
guests, driving the family car, using all parts of the
home (including the garage and the family kitchen), and
using particular facilities (e.g., the swimming pool,
piano, boat, telephone, fireplace, clothes washer,
Restrictions. The restrictions might include: visitors,
noise level, etc.
Our payment. The agreement might be strictly barter --
our services for the homeowner's room. Or perhaps we
will receive a cash salary in addition to the room.
Contrarily, perhaps we will have to pay -- for
our use of utilities (electricity, water, etc.) and
other expenses which will be incurred by our use of the
home and facilities.
Our personal relationship with the family. We might be
viewed as merely a worker, or perhaps we will be
welcomed as a member of the family.
Length of stay. One month? Six months? Perhaps we will
start on a short-term trial basis.