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How to Find Housing for the Poly Family

This can often be a problem, finding housing in a society set up with the couple paradigm.  Zoning laws are often for single family homes, landlords can be reluctant to rent to multiple adult households, neighbors can be a pain.

We actually learned a lot about finding non-standard housing.

  1. It is easier to rent from an individual landlord than from an agency.

    You would think an impersonal agency cares less about the personal lives of their tenants. True enough, but their rules are more numerous and inflexible. We ran across one agency that would not rent to anyone for whom rent comprised more than 25% of the tenants' combined incomes. An individual landlord will often rent to people that he has a good feeling about in some way. Of course, this can bite you as well. The individual landlord may refuse to rent to someone who seems "too weird". We went out of our way to *look* as wholesome and normal as possible while househunting. We wasted a good bit of money applying to various homes rented through property management agencies before we found an individual who wished to rent to us.

  2. A poly family that is running a business together has an edge.

    People, being people, are often curious about WHY in the WORLD two families would want to live together. The large single-family home for no more than Mommy, Daddy and two children is a big status thing -- at least in our area. When we say we have a business (as indeed we do) and want to save money by not renting office space (which is also true) it will impress some landlords, who are themselves minor entrepreneurs.

  3. Be frank about how many people there are.

    Let them know BEFORE you go to look at the house. Make sure they know about any pets and make sure that they know how many children. We got burned on this one once and scared a prospective landlord. I feel certain we've become the talk of the real estate industry around here -- jumping as we did from agent to agent trying to find something.

  4. Make sure you know your credit history and owe nothing to your present landlord.

    Get copies of everyone's credit reports. Check with your landlord and make sure all your ducks are in a row. Make sure that everything on the credit report is accurate. My legal husband and I had an amusing moment when we got a look at our credit report and found his parent's mortgage on it. (He was named after his father). Get outdated information removed.

  5. If you can, buy. If not, don't let any agents try to pressure you.

    Buying or building a house would have been a lot easier in the long run. In many ways, property ownership confers a great deal of freedom.

    We're not in a position to buy a house at the moment (starting a business is not cheap). However, if you're going through real estate agents to find housing, you must accept the fact that you're going to get a lot of pressure to try to buy a house. Real estate agents don't make much money on this sort of thing, so make sure the whole family is on the same page BEFORE you go looking.

  6. Money makes everything easier.

    My family does not have heaping wads of available cash. We live almost paycheck to paycheck. I expect it will be a surprise to no-one that our first financial goal is to amass a few thou even before we invest in much business equipment. Liquid cash is good. You can make things happen without it, but it is very hard and nerve-wracking.

Here is what some other people had to say:

We had a poly commune, started in the 60's. In 1969, we bought a big house, & reworked the rooms: we had one huge *bed* room (12x25 bed) that most of us slept in. There were private rooms for sex, but it was ok to have sex in the *bed*room as well, as long as it wasn't too noisy. We had one room that was converted to a huge "closet", with racks in the middle, & shelves all the way 'round the walls. Another room was converted to the library-- stacks style. We all ate together in a large dining room, with a special sectional table 4'x12'. Cars were shared, as well as tools, records, finances, etc.

In 1975, with the proceeds from the first house and a *lot* of creative financing, we wound up buying two apartment buildings and a half-dozen houses, all within a 1 block radius. We lived in some units, rented others, used others for our businesses, others still for our charitable projects, including homeless shelter, foster care, experiments in international group living, etc. This went on for about 15 years; the flexibility was absolutely wonderful. The crux is that we bought more space than we needed; as our needs changed, we could trade off income for space, and vice-versa.

-- Earthfather

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