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I’ve written a little bit here about household stats: Why living in a D.C. group-house, taking up residence in your old basement playroom, kicking back on your sibling’s couch, and living with your 15 “family members” hurts the housing market.
Earlier this month, the Washington Post reported on a steep, recent decrease in the number of household formations. More specifically, between March 2007 and March 2008, the number of new households grew by less than half the rate of the previous year. So one can only imagine what kind of change March 2008 to March 2009 brought.
Now, the Boston Globe is reporting on another trend that will add to the drop: Middle-aged, newly-unemployed homeowners struggling to pay their mortgage and looking for roommates. The evidence provided is coming mostly from companies that help roommate-seekers.
“When employment is falling, people start doubling up,’’ said Mark Obrinsky, chief economist at the National Multi Housing Council in Washington, D.C., a trade group for the apartment industry. He said home ownership rates and apartment occupancy rates have fallen nationwide even though the general population has grown. That indicates more people are living with family, friends, and strangers, according to Obrinsky.
Roommate Express, a roommate matching service, said it is doing more business because of the sagging economy. The Arizona company, which charges a $100 nonrefundable fee to pair roommates, tracks requests by ZIP code and said Massachusetts inquiries are up over the past year, although specific numbers were not available.
Others in search of a roommate are increasingly turning to Craigslist and other listing websites, said Eric Boyer, who operates bostonapartments.com. The site, which offers a free roommate service, now has more people looking for roommates than housing, Boyer said.
Image by Joe Shlabotnik, Flickr Creative Commons