After short selling my home last year, I faced a pretty big problem:
Where the crap am I gonna sleep?
While I avoided the house going to auction, I lost my place to stay. I was lucky enough to still have an office floor to sleep on, and a car that I stayed in a few times as well.
What about the people?
I keep reading about these billions of dollars getting written off by financial companies. What I don’t hear about so much is what’s happening to all the people involved in these loans gone bad. With thousands of family losing their homes…where are they ending up? (not to mention their pets?)
I had a heck of time finding a place to live after my two month “GAP” in housing. I was really quite frustrated with the process. So, here are a few lessons I learned about creative living situations and finding an apartment after a short sale or foreclosure.
Temporary Housing Solutions
1. Live at your office
If you work in a smaller office building that you have 24 hour access, you can get away with living there for some time. I lived, ate, cooked, for 2 months in an office building. It wasn’t easy, but it can be done.
- Join a gym close to the office. You need to be able to shower, shave, and wash up. Join a gym close to the office. It may cost $30 a month, but you must have a place to keep yourself clean. If you have a fear of public showers…well, now is the time to get over it.
- Wake up before anyone arrives at your office. Head to the gym, work out if you’re in the mood, or just shower and get ready for the day. Time this so that you arrive ready to work back at the office. To any outsider it just looks like you arrived after working out at the gym (which is the truth)
- Assuming you are storing your personal items in your car, be sure you have a small camping pad, and blankets or a sleeping bag that you can easily tote from your car to the office without arousing too much suspicion.
- If someone ever comes into the office after hours, make sure you have a computer up and running so that you have a cover story (ie, project deadline tomorrow, working overtime)
Here are some of my posts from when I was living in my office:
2. House Sitting
House Sitting is a great way to have a bed or couch to sleep on without mooching on a friend or family. Plus, you’ll even earn some extra cash while you have a place to stay. I did this for a week after my house sold, and it was a good transition to living simply, and then living in my office.
-Post fliers at local colleges, supermarkets, or online at craigslist.
-Have a single page resume with references prepared to send to any potential clients.
-Be a pet-friendly house sitter
This site is not meant for long-term stays, but you could easily go from place to place in a pinch. Just make sure and do the dishes! You’ll want to keep a positive rating to keep utilizing the kind souls here allowing you to crash for free.
4. Stay with friends or family
If you have family you can stay with, this is an obvious first choice. Just be careful about overstaying your welcome. The whole point of these tips is to get you to permanent housing eventually. If you’re staying with a friend or family member, you should be saving money and trying make a plan to deal with your housing situation.
-Have a defined move out date. This will motivate you and reassure the person you are staying with.
5. Live in your car
There were a few nights when I was just so beat from a full day that I ended up curling up in a sleeping bag in the backseat of my car. It isn’t the most comfortable solution, but in a pinch, or for a short term solution it works.
- When you stay overnight in your car, be sure to do it in different locations each night
- try quiet neighborhoods that are in nicer areas of town.
- make sure to move your car at least once a day so that suspicions aren’t raised.
Finding A Place
Save, Save, Save
While living in my office was a good move financially, after about the 6th week, I started getting a little stircrazy. You need to be saving money for a deposit and first/last on a place to live. A housing gap can be overlooked by a landlord, but you’re going to have to have a deposit plus first and last to counter that gap and your likely low credit score.
- If you haven’t sold stuff already, now is the time. You don’t have the money for storage, and if you can’t fit your possessions in your car, you need to simplify.
Once you have enough cash saved up, getting a place can still be incredibly challenging after you’ve lost a home. Why? Because your credit is now in the tank. If you’ve lost your home, or even short sold it, it’s likely, like me, your credit score tanked. One of the biggest items landlords look at is that credit score.
The foreclosure or short sale of your home isn’t exactly the best indicator to a landlord either.
With a crappy credit score, but a decent chunk of change, your best bet to find housing is craigslist. Look for individuals (not real estate companies) listing places to rent.
Craiglist also has loads of sub-let ads. If you just need a room to yourself, you can save hundreds of bucks each month by subletting a room in a house, or condo. Individuals on craigslist in the sub-let category are your best bet to avoid a credit check. If you’ve got a job, and cash for a deposit, you should have no problem getting a room.
Another option is looking for cheap condo’s that are up for rent. These are often going to be a private landlord, and with the glut of condos built in the last few years I’d bet you can find some with rents similar to traditional apartments.
- If a landlord wants a credit check, explain honestly that your credit is not good, but that you are trying to rebuild it and that you are trying to avoid hard pulls on your credit.
2. Your Church
Most churches have bulletin boards (offline and online ones) where people are always looking for roommates or posting homes/apartments for rent.
Closing The Deal
When you’re looking at places, make sure you’re dressed nicely and cleaned up. Be prepared to talk about your work. If the landlord doesn’t ask where you’ve lived the past month or weeks, don’t feel the need to bring it up. Avoid lying, but you don’t need to spill your life story, or how you’ve been living in your car the past month.
Good luck, I hope you find a place soon! Remember…a place to sleep is important. A bed is nice, but be thankful that you’re alive, and for the people in your life that care about you. Just because you screwed up in the past doesn’t mean you’re a screw-up, it just means your human.
Got a tip?
If you have a creative housing tip or suggestion, feel free to add it in the comments section. I mostly drew from my own experiences here, so I’m sure I missed some good resources.