30 Ways to Live Rent Free

We’ve shared lots of unique ideas for living rent free below, but not all are a walk in the park. Some of the ideas are reminders that jobs with free housing are still quite common. For example, you can live rent free as a nanny, a caretaker, a property manager, in exchange for a special skill set you have, as a home health worker, and quite a few other ways. Jobs with free housing can be part-time or full-time and usually also come with a salary or monthly stipend. Don’t want to work at all? Then look through our list for a better fit for that goal. If you don’t see anything that you like, maybe Jobs for Couples would have ideas more up your alley.

Von Says…

Your fitness level, age, and interests may limit your access to some of these ideas. Remember retirement or opting out of the workforce can begin very early for some people and this list is not intended as a one size fits all. Be creative in your approach, maybe combining a few ideas to buy an inexpensive piece of perked unrestricted land to put your RV or tiny house on, and rent some of the land to another tiny house.

How and where you live can be a huge part of your overall well-being. Don’t get into a situation that doesn’t seem legitimate, or otherwise gives you pause.

Living rent free can be long term, but very often requires a lot of short term hops to assignments or locations. To live rent free without a lot of responsibility may take a bit of capital and the willingness to consider lots of creative approaches. See if you think any of the ideas below are rent-free living without too much free work expected.

We’ve included some Google and/or craigslist search terms that may help you find a particular kind of rent free living when there is less likelihood that kind will be published on large, well-known sites. Upfront costs indicated for some types of free rent lodging refer to the purchase of a particular type of housing, or a fee to join a website to find listings, not costs related to taxes, travel, or other expenses.

Storage Facility Resident Manager

Many storage facilities have a small manager’s apartment included with the salary offered. Typically some weekends and holidays are required as well as regular facility hours. With the advent of automation these roles are diminishing but still commonly found at smaller and older facilities. Duties usually include collecting rent, showing options to new renters, cleaning vacated units, maintaining the appearance of the facility and lots of little administrative tasks and reporting.

be a storage manager
Image of manager’s apt. courtesy of SelfStorage blog
Typical Housing: Apartment attached to storage facility office
Upfront Cost: none
Salary Range: $25,000-$50,000
Actual Storage Manager Job Search Results from Indeed, WorkingCouples
Google or Craigslist Search Keywords: storage manager housing included, resident storage manager, or live on-site storage manager

Long-Term House Sitting

This is a bit different than regular house sitting since the owners are typically out of the country, or only use this residence as a secondary home on a seasonal or infrequent basis. Not as demanding as actual caretaking which might include more responsibilities, long term house sitting is usually to provide a presence and perhaps a bit of light maintenance. Sometimes there is an apartment or other accommodation for staff, but very often you are living in the same quarters as the owners. In either case there may be times when you need to vacate the property. House sitting duties vary greatly but the hours should be limited for doing things like gardening, cleaning, maintenance, security, caring for animals, and managing other staff.
Typical Housing: Over-garage apartment, in-law suite, or use of client’s home
Upfront Cost: $25-$75 registration fees on house sitting sites
Salary Range: from nothing at all, to a monthly stipend, this varies widely
Actual House Sitting Job Search Results from TrustedHouseSitters, HouseSittersAmerica, HouseSitter, LuxuryHouseSitting, MindMyHouse

Elder Care Support

Caring for a less independent or housebound senior can be rewarding and challenging. Running the gamut from being just being available for good company, to cleaning and meal prep, to medical and personal hygiene support, elder care assignments are as individual as the people needing assistance. Some positions are live-in and can be well worth the exchange of services for rent.
Typical Housing: Room and private bath in client’s home, servant quarters
Upfront Cost: $50-$150 registration fees on senior care sites
Salary Range: $25,000-$85,000
Actual Elder Care Job Search Results from  Care, Indeed
Consider a job in senior care carefully; once you sign up it is extremely disruptive for all involved if you quickly move on because things didn’t work out. Many of these jobs require training, but don’t give up, there are lots that don’t. Sometimes a family member or the client themselves is simply looking for a bit of camaraderie and help with day to day housekeeping, driving, and meal planning.

Recreational Vehicle

Owning an RV outright can be an easy way to rid yourself of a monthly rental or real estate loan payment for housing. Living in a motor home can be as stationary or mobile as you’d like it to be. Some people stay all year in one place, while others follow the weather. Finding free places to park long-term can be challenging but we personally know several who do it successfully. Often RVers use their flexible housing to follow seasonal jobs around the country, some of which offer free parking of their recreational vehicle as part of the package. Others want their spot to be totally free and free of most work and park their RV with friendly hosts across the country. Whether you choose a traditional park, a job that comes with parking, or “boondock” on free to access spots is up to you.

live free in an rv boondocking
Image of boondocking RV courtesy GoRVing
Typical Housing: Entire paid off recreational vehicle
Upfront Cost: $2,000 and up, rustic all the way to high-end luxury is possible, and maybe some application fees to free camping spot list services
Salary Range: none
RV Purchase Search Sites: craigslist, RVTrader, RVUSA, RVT,
RV Parking Search Sites: BoondockersWelcome, RV-Camping, Escapees

University Resident Adviser or Assistant

Being an RA can be a real pain, or an exciting fun opportunity to interact with young people. While less common, adult RA jobs are available across the country at summer schools, off campus student housing buildings, and private boarding schools. The resident advisor plays an important and varied role in the daily life of students. Acting as role model, voice of reason, emergency coordinator, and supervisor of household tasks are just a few of the requirements.
Typical Housing: Room and private bath in college resident’s hall or building
Upfront cost: none
Salary Range: $12,000-$35,000
Actual RA Job Search Results from Indeed, HigherEdJobs
Google Search Keywords: residence hall manager
Resident advisers are frequently required to offer academic counseling as well. This is a good gig for a graduate student or alumnus who already knows the ins and outs of a particular education setting.

Organic Farm Worker

Working on an organic farm in exchange for free rent is actual work, sometimes really hard work. If you like using your muscles all day outside, then an agricultural job might be a good fit. The organic farm helpers we’ve interviewed said they loved hanging out with other workers, and feeling like a job well done at the end of each day. Lots of farms need help with building things, planting and harvesting, animal care, and other hands on work.
Typical Housing: Cabin, small house, worker dormitory, or in some cases private room in owner’s home
Upfront Cost: none
Salary Range: from none, to $9 an hour an up
Actual Organic Farm Job Search Results from WWOOFUSA, WorkAway
Usually part time days in exchange for room and board, and farm experience are the norm. Some farms, by nature of actually employing people instead of doing a lodging or experience swap, also pay minimum wage or greater.

Houseboat and Floating Home Living

Houseboats are often much cheaper than houses if you know how to look for one, and are willing to buy used. Once you pay off your houseboat you are essentially rent free, and we include it here as a free rent option because it’s doable for most income levels. Many of the places you can anchor a houseboat charge lot rent;  which would go against the goal of being completely rent free but it’s usually so low compared to actual rent you might decide to opt for that solution. The upside to paying lot rent is that it typically includes some services and amenities you won’t have on your own. If you decide you want totally free living, it will be a lot more difficult, but start researching free places to dock your houseboat anyway, and go from there. Working part-time at a marina that has houseboat docking is a good place to start.

live on a houseboat for free
Image courtesy of 4SearchImages
Typical Housing: Entire paid off houseboat
Upfront Cost: $5,000 and up, sky’s the limit
Salary Range: none
Houseboat Purchase Search Sites: craigslist, BoatTrader, iBoatsBoatCrazy
Houseboat Boat Slip Search Sites: SnagaSlip
Google Search Keywords: houseboat dock rental, houseboat slip, houseboat marina

Boarding and Rooming Houses

You can usually live at a rooming or boarding house rent free if you agree to provide some access and supervision over day to day operations. Depending on the type of boarding house, it can be a quiet easy gig or one that includes lots of resident negotiations for peace and quiet and orderly conduct and cooking meals to boot. Boarding houses that cater to seniors are the easiest, but there just aren’t that many around anymore. The difference between boarding and rooming house is that the boarding house typically provides at least one meal per day to residents.
Typical Housing: Cabin, small house, worker dormitory, or in some cases private room in owner’s home
Upfront Cost: none
Salary Range: $24,000-$40,000
Find Boarding House Job Search Places: Google and city specific newspaper classified are your best shot
Google Search Keywords: rooming house manager, boarding house manager, co-housing manager

Au Pair or Nanny

Some nanny jobs provide housing even though only part-time. While full-time au pair and nanny positions abound, if you are primarily looking to cut your household expenses the sweet spot would be a position with housing included that was also part-time in nature. Taking care of children can require certifications in CPR, First Aid, and Childcare, but not all employers rank certifications as highly as they do warmth and character so don’t give up on this idea if you love kids and think you’d be a good fit. Some positions include specialized skills such as tutoring or cooking. Nights and weekends are typically required, but there are also daytime only positions while parents work off-site.
Typical Housing: Suite of rooms in client’s house, staff quarters, basement or garage apartment
Upfront Cost: $25-$50 to join nanny and childcare provider network job sites
Salary Range: none to $25,000-$75,000+
Actual Nanny Job Search Results from Indeed, CareHouseholdStaffingInternational, ZipRecruiter
Google or Craigslist Search Keywords: live in childcare job, nanny housing provided, live in au pair

Property Caretaker

Caretaking can be a lot of fun, but is a bit more demanding than house sitting. Like house sitting, travel is usually required to whatever destination someone needs a lodger to look after their property and or business interest. Most of the really long term assignments seem to be in Europe and South America. Gap time is something to have a plan for…jobs don’t always neatly overlap. The most desirable positions for our purposes would be long-term with private housing provided so there is no moving out when the owner visits. Caretakers are sometimes just a physical presence to keep a property looking lived in, but more frequently are doing lots of chores and tasks; taking care of pets, buildings, and grounds. Examine caretaking opportunities carefully and don’t sign up for something you know you won’t do well. Your reputation and success on the assignment is what will get you the next gig, or a nice long extension from an owner that likes having you around. Some caretaking opportunities expand into small house or RV parking access, especially when the owners have lots of land and a consistent need for support doing chores and improvements. Most caretaking jobs are found on websites exclusively for house sitting and caretaking opportunities.

live in caretaker needed immediately
Caretaker needed job posting courtesy of NewsTribune
Typical Housing: Over-garage apartment, in-law suite, use of client’s home, estate manager house
Upfront Cost: $25-$100 to join caretaking network job sites
Salary Range: none to $5,000-$75,000+
Actual Caretaker Job Search Results from CaretakerGazetteHouseCarersWorkingCouples, CaretakerJobs, ZipRecruiter, HouseholdStaffingInternational, EstateJobs, EstateStaffing
Google Search Keywords: live in property caretaker, caretaking job for couple, estate manager needed, live in position

Resort Hotel Manager or Hospitality Manager

Resorts with live-on-site management housing opportunities vary as greatly as the type of resort-goer they attract. From small mom and pop oceanfront motels, bed and breakfasts, and inns, to luxury large scale amenity rich resorts with hundreds of rooms there are all sizes and types of lodging places that provide housing for their managers. If you are looking for a fairly low key lifestyle, a small resort may be just enough work to keep you interested without being a true full time senior level management position.
Typical Housing: Full apartment-like suite at resort
Upfront Cost: none
Salary Range: $35,000-100,000+
Actual Resort Manager Job Search Results from Indeed, ZipRecruiter, CoolWorks, GeckoHospitality, Professional Association of Innkeepers, The B and B Team
Google or Craigslist Search Keywords: hospitality recruiting, resort manager housing included, hospitality manager, live in hotel manager
The resort managers we’ve interviewed, or known personally, say privacy is the number one thing lacking in their day to day life but the off season makes up for it with a much slower pace and lots more time for personal pursuits. Typically included in day to day operations are inspecting rooms and grounds, helping people check in and check out and resolving resident safety or maintenance concerns. There is paperwork with every job, so expect some of that as well. The more high-end your resort, the more pressing guest services will be, while more affordable properties frequently expect the manager to do more hands on maintenance and maybe even grounds keeping themselves or with a very small crew.

Disabled Person Caregiver

The disabled often need a little extra help around the house. Some need help with shopping and cleaning, others require trained medical support, and access to another person around the clock. Make sure you understand the full implications, both mentally and physically of providing care for someone who will depend on you. In the best cases these are long-term, relationship-building support roles, and change can be very disruptive for the disabled client. A caregiver friend says he really looks forward to daily games of chess and walks with the person he helps out, but would like a bit more room for his own things.
Typical Housing: Suite of rooms in client’s house, private bedroom and bath, staff quarters, basement or garage apartment
Upfront Cost: $25-$50 to join provider network job sites
Salary Range: $25,000-$55,000+
Find Disabled Caregiver Job Search Results: almost all of the companies that advertise live in care are regional and found via search
Google or Craigslist Search Keywords: live in care for disabled person, disabled adult care housing included, live in help for disabled needed
Long term assignments mean you need to be comfortable with the amount and quality of space you are given so that during down times your domestic surroundings meet your needs.

RV Park or Campground Manager

Park management can be really fun, give you lots of opportunities to make friends you can visit in their home towns, and be a rewarding physical experience as well. Typically you’ll be responsible for renting out spaces, keeping the common areas clean, hosting a few events, and making sure the park lives up to marketed expectations. You’ll have to make sure guests are behaving themselves as well, so be prepared for an occasional uncomfortable moment, but mostly parks are happy places. Park managers have lots of leeway on how to spend their day, jumping from task to task, or focusing on something of their own interest in off hours and when the season is slow. Many parks close for part of the year, and that’s when nice quiet days stretch out, broken by a few maintenance tasks in preparation for the park reopening. Don’t be fooled into thinking park management is easy; it all depends, and some parks are full time, year round all hands on deck hard work, so choose one that fits the amount and kind of work you’d like to do.

manage an rv park
RV Park Manager job courtesy of RipTide Resorts on GlassDoor
Typical Housing: Your own RV, or in some cases a small on-site house or an apartment attached to the park’s offices
Upfront Cost: none (if you own your own RV or housing provided)
Salary Range: $10,000-$40,000+
Actual RV Park Manager Job Search Results from Indeed, GlassDoor, LinkedIn, WorkingCouples, RVParkStore, ZipRecruiter
Google Search Keywords: couple need for RV park, RV park manager job, on-site campground manager

Cruise Ship Employee

Working on a cruise ship can be exciting but it’s demanding. Employees of large cruise lines get very little downtime to enjoy ports of call. Instead of getting the weekend off, or a day off you would instead have a shift or two together as your down time. The long break mid contract helps make up for this. People tend to stay in their jobs quite awhile which is a good indicator of employee happiness. While a large percentage of cruise staff are younger, it’s not a requirement and many cruise lines employ mature workers.
Typical Housing: Shared below deck room with 1-5 other cruise staff
Upfront Cost: none
Salary Range: $15,000-$50,000
Actual Cruise Ship Job Search Results from AllCruiseJobs, Indeed
Google Search Keywords: put in the names of major or minor cruise lines and then search their job postings
You’re in close quarters with other staff much of your off time, and there can be quite a bit of stress and lack of privacy. Jobs are available in myriad categories including waiter and kitchen staff, maintenance workers, medical support, custodial staff, administrative, entertainers, and recreation staff. Think of the cruise ship as a small village; almost any service a guest would need for day to day living can be provided by cruise line staff. Cruise ship employee enjoy lots of upside though with free meals, bonuses, really long contracts, long breaks mid contract, and a fairly good salary. If you want to cruise to enjoy the sights, you will definitely need to find a smaller operator or maybe help out on a yacht instead. There are river cruises, ocean going cruises, and lake cruisers, decide what fits you best before you start looking. Don’t want to be too far from land? A river cruise ship may be your best bet.

Camp Counselor

You can be a live in counselor for all kinds of camps. Most are outdoors focused, but there are also religious studies camp, educational or training camps, and other less obvious choices. Camp counselors usually provide recreational support, help organizing and managing campers, conflict resolution, and act as role models for the campers. There isn’t much down time at a live in camp especially if children are the visitors. Kids need checking on at night, and lots of other supervisory assistance. If that’s not your kind of thing, you might want to work at an adult education camp for corporate team building, education, relationship building, or religious instruction.
Typical Housing: Cabin with 1-5 other counselors, hotel room, or large staff dormitory
Upfront Cost: none
Salary Range: $9 an hour and up, senior staff $25,000+
Actual Camp Counselor Job Search Results from Indeed, CoolWorks
Google Search Keywords: live in camp counselor, away camp counselors needed, housing included camp jobs, corporate retreat job housing provided

Duplex or Apartment Building Ownership

This is for those who think they’d love small scale property management of their own assets in return for others paying their mortgage. You’ve heard the idea of renting a duplex and living in one half, of course, but take it up a notch and consider buying a small multi-family property. With more units there is more latitude for rates and more opportunity to cover the cost of an owners apartment. Property management when you own the building is extremely similar to being a property manager for someone else with one important difference; you get to decide almost everything. You’ll make your own rules, work your own hours, and reap all of the benefit but be aware that you are also on the hook for emergencies and repairs. Compliance with housing and accessibility laws become your responsibility as well. If you’re looking for a multi-family property keep in mind that just like homes, apartments communities are packaged to sell, and you have to be extremely diligent about doing research and working with someone who understands any and all repairs that will be needed.

buy an apartment building
Apartment building for sale in VA courtesy of Loopnet
Typical Housing: Half a duplex, or an apartment in a building you own
Upfront Cost: typically from $100K and up depending on what and where you buy
Salary Range: Net income after all expenses
Actual Multifamily Housing for Sale Search Results from Loopnet, or use craigslist and Zillow

Private Boarding School Staff

Boarding school jobs don’t have to include teaching. There are security, domestic, and administrative jobs as well. There are many boarding schools that require a small on site staff. Boarding schools are usually responsible for the education, care, and feeding of children, so that should sound good to you if you are interested in living at a school. Some schools are in idyllic country settings situated on beautiful green campuses, while others are based in large cities with lots of opportunity to get out and see the sights. Teaching at a boarding school is also possible of course, and many residential accommodations are reserved for the teaching staff.
Typical Housing: Staff dorm, or private dorm room with another staff member
Upfront Cost: none
Salary Range: $20,000-$75,000+
Actual Boarding School Job Search Results from BoardingSchools, LinkedIn
Google Search Keywords: boarding school staff housing provided, live in boarding school job, school provides housing for employees
Living and working at a private school is worth a lot of extra research if you are considering a boarding school a possible place to call home for a few years.

Resident Apartment Community Property Manager

Working in property management is very similar to being a resort manager with the distinction that the residents are usually much longer term. You’ll need good people and problem solving skills, and the ability to manage paperwork and staff. Smaller communities sometimes only need part time support and your off hours are your own. There are so many ways to be in property management you are going to have to do some research to figure out what would fit. There are senior communities, assisted living, small privately owned buildings and huge properties owned by real estate investment trusts.
Typical Housing: Studio-3Br apartment or townhome
Upfront Cost: none
Salary Range: $20,000-$120,000
Actual Resident Manager Job Search Results from Indeed, LinkedIn, GlassDoor, ZipRecruiter
Google or Craigslist Search Keywords: property manager needed, small apartment community needs manager, resident manager needed, property manger apartment included
Being the on-site manager can be really interesting and give you a great workout for mind and body as you work with budgets and patrol the grounds for things that need fixing or attention. For free rent with the lowest possible amount of work, choose a small owner operated property with a part time schedule and a neat little apartment as part of the compensation. Choose somewhere you want to live so that your downtime is enjoyable.

Hotel Guest Safety Employee

These are great gigs. Part-time work and a small hotel apartment for your efforts. These positions also usually pay a relatively good salary. You’ll make rounds, report after hours emergencies, handle noise complaints. Many night security jobs are really acting managers, for the hours that the normal staff is off site. You’ll also work most weekends but for those with a flexible schedule, it’s a great job. You’ll meet lots of people and have the basics of your day to day life expenses covered. If you’re not a night owl, you will have trouble with the typical hours, but we have found daytime live in security jobs available too, just be creative in expanding your search with keywords.

live in a hotel job
Live In Hotel Safety Officer job courtesy of Woodspring and Indeed
Typical Housing: Unit in hotel, resort, or other lodging facility
Upfront Cost: none
Salary Range: $10 per hour and up
Actual Hotel Guest Safety Job Search Results from Indeed
Google Search Keywords: live on site security guard, security guard housing included, on site hotel safety job

Airbnb or Other Short-Term Lodging Owner

If you have a bit of extra space, preferably with a private bath, and ideally with a separate entrance, you might be able to live rent free using a short term rental model. Short term rentals add up much more quickly than renting to roommates. Look at rentals in your area and see if others are charging a good rate by the day or week for a private room. Short term rentals are popular with academics, business professionals, and travelers. Location usually rules, but privacy is important too. You’ll make more per lodger if you can deliver both in a stylish setting. Even better if your rental space is in a separate building like an apartment over the garage.
Typical Housing: Your own home, with a private room reserved for guest rentals
Upfront Cost: rental site fees, updating and outfitting to accommodate short term paying guests
Salary Range: Pay yourself enough to cover your monthly housing cost
Room Rental Posting Sites: craigslist, Airbnb, TransplantHousing, SabbaticalHomes, AcademicHomes
You’ll pay fees and taxes, but on average less than 30%. There are many sites devoted to telling you exactly how to maximize your Airbnb, Sabbatical Homes, or other short term lodging listing, we’re just reminding you it’s a possibility even if you only have a spare room. If your modest but clean and well-kept house costs you about $1100 a month in mortgage and taxes, and you rent a room for $50 a night, your net profit can pay for your mortgage. You probably won’t have zero vacancy of course, and only you know your cost and rental rate potential, so do a bit of math and see what numbers work for you. Be prepared to give up some privacy, do some extra cleaning, and put some effort into marketing your space.

Association, Government, or Corporate Field Researcher

Researchers are often working away from home and staying in provided dorms or other lodging. These positions can be temporary or long-term and dependent on the renewal of funds for the project. Universities, corporations, national parks, and associations use researcher posts to fill in where there simply isn’t enough staff to meet the needs of the project. You’ll could be collecting samples, logging data, observing a migration, documenting changes in environments, or the effects of chemicals or air pollution.
Typical Housing: varies from shared dorms, to allowance for hotel, to yurts in the wild
Upfront Cost: none
Salary Range: none to $20,000
Actual Field Researcher Job Search Results from Indeed
Google Search Keywords: field researcher live on site, field researcher housing provided
The types of projects are simply not definable. You’ll have to do a lot of searching to work as a field researcher with housing provided, but you might find something really special that covers your expenses for at least part of the year.

Hostel Manager

Being a hostel manager is like running a very low key hotel. Lots of need for flexibility in the personal habits of others, but tons of opportunity for staying interesting places and meeting wildly diverse people. The hostel manager keeps the place clean, check people in and out, makes sure the basic rules are followed, so that super low cost lodging is still safe and comfortable. Hostels are better known in Europe but they’re in the US too, especially related to mountain biking trails, public parks, and other places where roughing it is the norm. When you’re searching keep in mind that some European countries use the term hostel to define a hotel as well, which would be a more traditional management job.

find hostel manager job
Hostel Manager job posting courtesy of Hostels International
Typical Housing: Sleeping dormitory plus one private area
Upfront Cost: none
Salary Range: $9 and up, some salaried position at larger hostels
Actual Hostel Manager Job Search Results from Indeed, HostelJobs, HostelsInternational
Google Search Keywords: hostel manager needed, live on site hostel manager

Pet Sitter

Pet sitting very often falls under the same umbrella of postings labeled as caretaker, or housing sitting positions. The difference is that there is specifically the care of animals as the primary reason someone needs help. We’ve talked to pet sitters who’ve done long term work with horses, dogs who’s owners are out of the country on extended work assignments, and people who have outdoor animals at their “second” home. It helps to be very interested in the care of animals and willing to do additional research to make your stay something the owner wants repeated.
Typical Housing: Private room in client’s home, or use of entire home during some periods
Upfront Cost: $25+ to register on pet sitter sites
Salary Range: none to $20+ per hour, or salaries for long term caregivers on farms and estates
Actual Pet Sitter Job Search Results from PetSitter, Indeed, TrustedHouseSitters, HouseSittersAmerica, Care, RanchJobs
Google Search Keywords: live in pet sitter, long term pet care needed, house sitter pets, farm caretaker
Pet sitters do all the tasks related to the care and feeding of someone’s pets. This can include extensive exercise, cleaning of stables or food troughs, shopping trips to buy supplies, doctor’s visits, and maybe even some training. If you apply for something other than a dog or cat sitting gig, you will be expected to have specific knowledge of the particular breed of animal you sign up for.

Work for Repairs

Fixer uppers need people to fix them up. Sometimes an owner is willing to rent in exchange for repairs over a period of time. Other scenarios involve being provided housing to do repairs on other properties someone owns like a farm, apartment building, campground, or commercial property. Being a live-on-site general handy man is also an option, which is a little different as you are simply the maintenance person in a more informal way, putting in a few hours a week when needed in exchange for rent.
Typical Housing: Portion of house or condo in need of major repairs or decorating work
Upfront Cost: none
Salary Range: none to $30,000+
Actual Work Exchange Job Search Results from Indeed, ZipRecruiter, WorkingCouples, SimplyHired, RanchJobs
Google Search Keywords: live in handyman, part time maintenance housing provided, work for rent, part time repairs live on site
A friend was the live-in maintenance for a small motel on the outer banks for several years until it was sold. Most of the time was spent fishing and enjoying the coast, but for 10 or so hours a week he did painting, cleaning, and helping out wherever needed for an owner that lived in the Midwest. Rentals were handled by a management company. More hours were worked in the summer than off season because people call with small maintenance issues and there was a pool to keep clean; but it was exactly the way he wanted to keep his mind and skills sharp while spending the winter on his astronomy and reading hobbies. There are so many ways to exchange handyman skills for lodging, be creative and you will find something fun, even if temporary.

Small or Inexpensive House or Movable Tiny House

Tiny houses are big, no ironic pun intended. It seems that everyone is trying to live with less and that’s a really great trend for those who want to live rent free. With popularity comes access; and there are now lots of ways and places to live in your tiny house, especially if it is mobile. For longer term options you will probably need to buy land. If you don’t spend that much and pay it off, you will very quickly move into the realm of free rent. Small houses and cabins (or sometimes mobile homes) can require more infrastructure than tiny houses on wheels, or other movable houses like yurts, vans, or motor homes. Look for free land listings, and tiny house communities. For built houses you’ll want to own the lot or land so there is no rent, only taxes going forward, and for movable houses you need to find someone willing to have you on their land. A family member of ours moves from the free summer parking area of a state park to the farm of a friend depending on the season. Be creative, and you’ll find a good place to park your little dream. This is a huge subject and we cover it a bit more on our alternative home ideas page but you’ll need to do a lot of your own research.

buy a tiny house on land
Tiny House for sale courtesy of TinyHomeBuilders

Seems strange but even Amazon is getting in on the tiny house dream. They have several models for sale as Build Your Own kits.

Typical Housing: Entirely paid off tiny house, cabin, or other inexpensive lodging
Upfront Cost: whatever your home costs, and for permanent housing you’ll need land
Salary Range: none
Actual Tiny Houses for Sale and Parking Search Results from BoonDockersWelcomeTinyHouseFinder, TinyHouseParking, TinyHouseListings, TinyHouseMarketPlaces, TinyHomeBuilders, check craigslist too
Google or Craigslist Search Keywords: tiny house for sale, tiny house builder, cabin for under $25K, house on wheels, free place to park a tiny house, free land

Roommates House Sharing & House Hacking

Sharing a home with roommates is not the easiest, most peaceful, or private way to live rent free but it can be very rewarding. Lots of people rent out rooms looking for friendship and a bit of help with the day to day maintenance of a home. Typically rent is divided equally among the number of people living there but all kinds of rate adjusting can be considered based on their willingness to participate in shopping, and cooking, the size of their room, sharing a bathroom or not, and use of amenities if you have them. Sometimes there is value in your location or asset that is beyond what you’ve invested and you are able to charge the full mortgage and expense costs or more for the other bedrooms and your rent will be free with profit to boot.
Typical Housing: You get one bedroom and rent out all others
Upfront Cost: listing fees on renter sites, $100 or so per renter for credit and background checks
Salary Range: you pay yourself the net income
Actual Roommates Finder Results from Roomster, Roommates, SpareRoom, try craigslist as well
In high rent cities it is very common for an owner to charge the lodgers the entire fee since they in essence have already paid down some of the mortgage with capital, locked in a rate for being a long time renter, or other advantage that still makes each lodger’s rent portion suitable for their market. If you have a four bedroom home you paid $200K for and only have a $1200 house and tax combined payment, you would simply charge $400 or more per month for each of the three rooms you rent out. Check rental rates first and make sure you are offering a competitive and fair rate for your per person fee. You will be expected to maintain your home in all the area not covered by your renter’s agreement to help out, and to provide a home like environment.

Shelter House Parent

Shelter homes house at risk youth, people re-entering society after a prison term, those seeking separation from an abusive relationship, alcohol and drug abuse survivors, and homeless young people. Working at as the resident house parent can be really tough, and equally as rewarding. Not to be taken lightly, this is typically a job for people with some sort of social services training at the very least.
Typical Housing: Private room and bath in shelter home
Upfront Cost: none
Salary Range: 20,000+
Actual Shelter Parent Job Search Results from Indeed,
Google or Craigslist Search Keywords: house parent needed, overnight manager for shelter, shelter manager job
Cleaning, caring, resolving differences, mentoring, helping residents find work, teaching day to day life skills, and more can be part of the many responsibilities. Shelters are moving away from in-residence managers and instead more and more work on an 8 hour shift basis rotation schedule. We include this job in our list because it is a the type of job that often goes unfilled, while people in need wait for just the right person to commit to spending a their time helping out.

Live Rough in a Portable Shelter

This is not for the faint of heart. If you are willing to be truly nomadic, live with very few possessions, and greet each new situation as an adventure, then you might be one of the fearless who decide to be homeless by choice. There is a lots of gear that will allow to do this comfortably, especially if you can couch surf a bit between outdoor living stints. Unless you want to be very uncomfortable, it’s recommended you choose a mild weather location or follow the weather by season. Lots of places will allow you to pitch a tent for free, and a little research into the subject will help get connected with others who live this way. You will need to consider access to restrooms, showers, food, and emergency medical services as well as personal safety while you consider locations. True homelessness is a devastating situation for many people and it is not our intention to suggest that you emulate or celebrate their sometime’s forced adherence to a live rough lifestyle but instead consider this a live outdoors intentionally opportunity for the most adventurous among us. Search the sites below, or consider the Bureau of Land Management, and the National Park Service which has some free or low cost camp sites as well.

live in a four season tent
Year Round Tent example courtesy of Amazon
Typical Housing: Your tent and a few belongings, no facilities or services
Upfront Cost: whatever your home costs, and for permanent housing you’ll need land
Salary Range: none
Actual Free Places to Camp Search Results from CouchSurfing, FreeCampsites, Campendium
Google Search Keywords: camp for free, free place to stay, couch surfing, boondocking


Volunteering for the NCCC means you are supporting a division of Americorps. The NCCC works on service projects large and small. You live in a campus while being trained, then work in the field for an assignment for weeks or months. Housing, meals, and uniforms are provided. If you’re over 24 you’d need to be a team leader, which requires an extra month of training.
Typical Housing: Campus room while training and off assignment, various housing while on location
Upfront Cost: none
Salary Range: none
All About NCCC Participation Join NCCC
Teams live and work together, sometimes in very difficult areas of the country. You’ll be expected to be fairly fit and able to plant, weed, paint, fill sand bags, improve infrastructure, and countless other tasks for at risk environments and populations.


VISTA is another volunteer opportunity managed by Americorps. The VISTA mission is to help eradicate poverty, homelessness, inequity, and lack of access to education by supporting the projects of organizations focused on that important task. Just like the NCCC you’d live and be trained on a campus then go where the need is most pressing. We are not prepared to discuss all the intricate details of this important volunteer opportunity, so please use the web reference below.
Typical Housing: Not provided but instead you are given a living allowance which could cover modest rent
Upfront Cost: none
Salary Range: none
All About VISTA Participation Join VISTA

Special Note About Free Rent as Part of a Payment for Services Rendered:
Be advised that in some cases the free portion of your rent can be defined as income by the IRS. But your travel and other expenses might be deductible. Only your accountant can answer correctly which types of free rent would need to be reported, and which expenses can count against it, for your particular situation. Best of luck to finding just the right idea. If you share your space with others, good insurance is also a must have so please consider the addition of an affordable but protective umbrella policy.

We have other resources related to Interesting Places to Live that are worth a browse.

Alternative Home Ideas
Alternative Housing Communities

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