By Aaron Retherford
The idea of living with a stranger might not appeal to all, but Home Share Now in Barre is there to help those open to the idea, traverse the path to a home-sharing arrangement.
Since its start in 2003, Home Share Now has developed a fine-tuned process, so those interested in either providing a home or seeking a home, should feel confident at each step along the way.
“We start with a full interview, and after nearly twelve years, we know what sort of questions are important to ask and what red flags to look for,” Home Share Now Executive Director Christina Goodwin said. “We call personal, housing, and employment references and conduct background screenings to ensure people are being forthcoming on details that could impact a home share. A benefit to working with Home Share Now is the access we have to tools and resources that an individual homeowner might not be aware of or know how to access.”
Home Share Now staff provides support for the duration of the home share match, from facilitating the very first meeting to answering questions long after matches have been made. Home Share Now also helps matches create a written agreement that irons out the specific details of the relationship, like who will shower first in the morning or how the kitchen will be shared.
Through the first eight months of the current fiscal year, Home Share Now has paired more home providers and home seekers than it had during all of the previous year (82 people in 2014). The organization is on pace to pair over 100 people for the first time.
“To have a program that’s growing, that’s exciting, because that makes our job much easier. To make lots of great home-sharing matches, you need to have a really robust pool of home providers and home seekers,” Goodwin said.
While Home Share Now is pairing more people than ever, Goodwin said the organization could benefit from more home seekers who want to live in rural parts of the service area. Home Share Now serves Washington, Orange, and Lamoille counties as well as the surrounding towns of Craftsbury, Greensboro, Hardwick, White River Junction, Hartford, Norwich, Sharon, Royalton, and Bethel. Goodwin also said they could use more home providers in the urban centers of the service area because most people want to live closer to jobs and services.
There is a $50 enrollment fee, which is waived during different parts of the year. The fee will be waived in April. The enrollment fee covers the interview, all the background checks, introductions, and two-week trial periods. A second fee occurs when both parties finalize the matches. This fee is on a sliding scale based on income.
While all the matches are month-to-month, the program isn’t designed to be a short-term housing solution.
“People are thinking about it as a nine-month minimum,” Goodwin said.
There are also no disqualifiers based on age or income. Anyone who passes the background screening process can home share.
“All people are welcome and all different types of people are matched. I think it’s a common misperception that home sharing is only for a certain part of the population,” Goodwin said. “That’s not the case here in Central Vermont.”
However, with only 4% of income coming by way of participant fees, fundraising events are an important element to Home Share Now’s budget.
In early April, Home Share Now will hold its Mud Season Online Auction as a fundraiser, where all are welcome to bid on items up for auction.
Home Share Now is also one of five finalists out of 65 applicants, vying for one of two $10,000 donations by VSECU through its We Care 2 program. VSECU members can vote for the recipients of the We Care 2 donation funds on the annual Board of Directors election ballot.
Home Share Now staff is readily available to those who want to learn more about home sharing.
Home Share Now will hold an informational meeting from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Friday, March 20 at its office located at 105 North Main St., Suite 103. Walk-ins are welcome. Also, during Home Sharing Day at the Vermont Legislature on March 25, Home Share Now and its sister organization HomeShare Vermont will offer information and answer questions in the State House “Card Room”.