Sydney dance teacher Sherylanne is one of a growing number of Australian renters paying discounted or zero rent in exchange for gardening, dog walking and other tasks.
Sydney mother Angela has been letting Sherylanne stay rent-free in her house in Rozelle, in exchange for around 15-18 hours of help per week.
Sherylanne does a variety of tasks, including laundry, dog walking, feeding the chickens and helping Angela’s son get organised for school in the morning.
The practice of offsetting rent in exchange for services like child care is not exactly new - discounted board for live-in nannies is already fairly commonplace.
However, Ludwina Dautovic - who has set up a new house-sharing platform called The Room Xchange - said other types of rent-offset arrangements were becoming more popular.
At the same time, homeowners facing higher mortgage repayments as interest rates rise are also looking for opportunities to make extra cash.
Dautovic said one way for people to make money was to rent out their unoccupied rooms.
“A spare bedroom is a wasted asset,” Dautovic said.
“You’re paying for every square metre in your house, whether you’re paying rent or a mortgage, your wasted space could be providing you with resources that can positively impact your life.”
She said homeowners could attract around $10,000-$12,000 a year in rent.
Dautovic said putting spare bedrooms on Airbnb or Stayz was already common. However, she said not everybody was prepared to do the hours of cleaning between stays.
“$50 a night for four hours of housework. No thank you,” she said.
That’s why she started The Room Xchange, a platform that matches renters with households, with the option to offset rent costs for services that go above and beyond normal housemate duties, such as child care and dog walking.
How it’s different from other house-sharing platforms
Several avenues already exist for connecting housemates with empty rooms, including groups on Facebook and specialist housemate-finding pages.
Dautovic said her platform was different because it offered the option to offset rent costs for services.
Unlike other channels for finding housemates, her platform also verifies all users’ identities.
The other point of difference is that the platform recommends matches based on personality, values and lifestyle.
The platform manages this by asking a series of ”non-invasive” questions such as “do you like hiking?” and “are you a morning person or evening person?”.
“These are the kinds of things that are not invasive questions to ask but tell you a lot about a person,” Dautovic said.
Avoiding exploitative work-for-board arrangements was also something the company was mindful of, she said, which was one reason it verified identities.
The platform also provides several resources to make sure people draft fair rental-offset agreements, including a calculator that recommends how much people should be discounted for hours of work.