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30 Great Alternatives to Renting an Apartment

A photo collage of renting an apartment alternatives.

You’d be surprised at how many ways there are to live rent-free. All it takes is a little creativity, a sense of adventure and this list which will guide you through dozens of alternatives to renting an apartment.

Some of these rent-free solutions may require an initial investment (such as already owning a vehicle or obtaining a college degree), but beyond that, when we say rent-free, we mean rent-free.

1. Look for work-trade rent exchanges

If you’re good with a toolbox and you can handle light handyman-level repairs around a house, you could work out a work-trade situation in exchange for free rent.

Craigslist’s housing board has a lot of landlords and property managers who are looking to give someone a free room in exchange for light repairs around the property.

2. Become a live-in nanny (or au pair)

If you like kids, don’t have a problem running errands and are OK with a little light housekeeping, consider becoming an in-home nanny. You’ll get paid while you live rent-free, and your living quarters will most likely be very nice considering you’ll be living with a family who can afford a live-in nanny.

It’s recommended you have strong references and ample patience if you take on this rent-free option. You can sign up for free at Sittercity, and offer your services or search for a nanny job there.

3. House sit

House sitters are in demand these days. People sell their homes and, in many cases, the properties are vacant – sometimes for months. To avoid thieves and squatters, sellers will often hire house sitters to live in their homes rent-free, possibly even with a paycheck.

All a house sitter has to do is occupy the home and make it look like the owner still lives there. Trusted Housesitters will get you a rent-free house-sitting job in no time.

4. Live out of your car

Although this should be considered a short-term solution, living out of your car is a possibility, especially if you own a van. That said, some people prefer living in their vehicle.

Daniel Norris, millionaire MLB pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, calls a 1978 Volkswagen Westfalia microbus his primary dwelling. If you can make it happen, all you have to pay for is gas and the occasional tune up.

5. Manage an apartment complex

Although you probably need a little experience in the field, apartment complexes always need an on-site property/community manager. The pros of this job are the steady salary and rent-free accommodations.

The cons are that you’ll be on-call close to 24 hours a day, especially if you’re in charge of a complex with a substantial number of units.

6. Lodge and resort jobs

Westin in Princeville Kauai resort

Westin in Princeville Kauai resort (our Spring Break 2018 vacation spot – fabulous place)

This could be the best of both worlds for people looking to live rent-free. Cool Works lists hundreds of jobs all over America that are based in vacation spots like mountain lodges and remote beach resorts.

These lodges and resorts are looking for ski instructors, white water rapids guides and scuba instructors in exchange for room and board, meals and a paycheck.

7. House hack

This is a tricky one because you have to have a house to make it work, but if you do, house hacking is simple. The idea is to rent extra bedrooms in your home and charge them enough that their rent covers your mortgage and utilities.

Let’s say you have a three-bedroom home and your mortgage is $1,200. If you rent each of your two extra bedrooms out for $650, give or take, then you’re living rent free. You can even charge them more (depending on the desirability of your zip code) and make a profit. Just remember your rental income is taxable.

8. Move back in with your parents

It’s not the most glamorous option on this list – in fact, it’s probably everyone’s last resort. But rent-free housing is rent-free housing.

If you’re lucky enough to have parents who allow you to move back without having to pay rent, you should really pitch in more than when you used to live with them. Doing chores like the cooking, cleaning the kitchen and some yard work will go a long way.

9. Live with a single elderly person

Services such as Home Care Assistance are in the business of putting qualified people in the homes of elderly people for 24-hour care. These jobs earn you a paycheck and rent-free accommodations – sometimes meals are included, too.

10. Couch surf with strangers

You could legitimately (and safely) live on someone’s couch for as long as you want. Couchsurfing allows you to find hosts who are willing to let you sleep on their couch for free, all you have to do is get there.

11. Cruise line job

Deck of an Alaskan Cruise Ship at dusk

If you’re single and have a huge sense of adventure, you can’t beat working on a cruise ship. Besides earning a pretty decent wage, you’ll also get to live rent-free.

If you’re a musician, Lime will find you a job playing your instrument in the cruise liner’s band. Not a musician? Cruise lines are always looking for cooks, housekeepers and other people in the service industry.

12. Become a teacher abroad

If you do enough Googling, you’ll see that just about every country has schools looking for people to teach English to their students.

If you have a BA and an ESL teaching qualification, you’ll have no problem finding a job that will pay your airfare, food and rent for the duration of your stay. English First is a good place to start looking for an opening.

13. Work at a hostel

Youth hostel bunk beds in a very nice looking hostel

Working at a hostel is a lot like working at an apartment complex or hotel. Guests are always coming and going at all hours of the night, so the property needs to be maintained.

Getting an on-site job will include a lot of hard work, but living rent free in a potentially exotic locale will make it worthwhile. Hostel Jobs is a good place to look for these opportunities.

14. Be a Resident Assistant on campus

If you have experience overseeing college-level residencies (or a job with similar duties), you can live rent-free in a plush dorm and get paid several thousand dollars a month.

Most colleges are looking for someone with a degree in student personnel or higher education, but the rent-free trade-off and big paycheck is undeniable. HigherEd does all the work by finding all these jobs for you.

15. Some jobs pay for housing

Depending on your field of expertise, you might be able to find a job that covers your housing. If you’re a drug counselor, there are plenty of rehabs that offer on-site rent-free living quarters.

Same with oil riggers and smaller storage facilities. If you’re a coder or programmer and you’re really wanted by a tech company, you might be able to bake living expenses into your salary.

14. Live with other relatives

If you’re not exactly comfortable going back and living with mom and dad but still want the safety of living with family, you can always hit up a relative. You’d have to make sure they know this would have to be a rent-free living situation, but you should offer to take on some household duties in return.

Offer to cook on certain days, clean the house or mow the lawn on the weekends. This should be a work-trade situation.

15. Find a free campsite

If you have a vehicle and a tent, why not camp rent-free? There are plenty of places that will let you set up camp for free as long as you’d like (within reason, but then you could just move to the next one.) If you’re feeling adventurous, go to Free Campsites and find a campground without fees.

16. Become a pet sitter

Find a cool in-house pet sitting job at Trusted Housesitters and earn a healthy paycheck while you live rent-free.

All you have to do is watch the pets of the house: feed them, play with them and keep them company.

17. Work for Uncle Sam

Yes, enrolling for service in the military comes with several benefits, including living rent-free for the length of your stay. Besides avoiding rent, serving your country also comes with a paycheck and three square meals every day. Signing up for the Army or Navy will put an end to coughing up rent every month.

18. Student work-exchange options

If you’re a student and you don’t have a full scholarship, avoid rent by going to your school’s housing department and ask about any rent-free boarding opportunities.

For example, USC students can work at The Gamble House in exchange for room and board. You’d be surprised how many housing options colleges offer.

19. Become a house mother or father

Back in the day, it was mostly sororities that employed an adult to keep an eye on the house. They were called house mothers (think Mrs. Garrett of The Facts of Life). Now some fraternities are looking for house fathers.

If you’ve graduated college, you can live rent-free and all you have to do is advise the frat brothers while making sure the house stays in order.

20. Lighthouse living

Portland Head Light

Portland Head Light – Fort Williams Park

Yes, you can live rent-free in a lighthouse if that’s the sort of thing that floats your boat. The National Park Service can lead you to the lighthouse. As long as you don’t mind long days and nights alone, this is probably one of the most unusual ways to live rent-free.

21. Work on a farm

Aerial view of farm at sunrise

Farm life is not easy, but if you don’t mind getting up at dawn and getting your hands dirty, you can live on a farm rent-free and learn a trade at the same time.

Check out the Ambassador Program at WWOOF. They have an incredible system that hooks you up with a host farm family where you live rent-free and learn everything about sustainable agriculture and organic farming.

22. Become a farm caretaker

Being a farm caretaker is similar to being a farming student (as mentioned above) in that you can live rent-free on a farm. But that’s where the similarities end.

Being a farm caretaker means you know your way around a farm and you can fix any problem. Working Couples will hook you up with farms that are looking for couples interested in free housing in exchange for becoming a farm’s primary ranch hands.

23. Work for a host family in a new country

When a family transplants itself from its home country to your country, chances are they have no idea how to navigate their new surroundings or learn the language. It’s not uncommon for these families to hire someone to help them acclimate to their new living situation. Lingoo is an ideal place to start looking for your host family.

24. Work at a summer camp

This is a seasonal solution, but if you can get a job at a summer camp, you can live rent-free for close to four months – sometimes longer – and of course, get paid for the effort. Go to the American Camp Association job board and register.

25. Teach students at sea

We’ve all heard of colleges that offer Semesters at Sea – studying abroad! Semester at Sea is always looking for faculty and staff positions to fill. You get a pretty nice paycheck, you get to live on the ocean and of course, it’s all rent-free with paid meals.

26. Become a cemetery caretaker

This rent-free option is really only for the brave. At first glance, being a cemetery caretaker is a dream job – you get to live in a nice little home, rent-free with all utilities paid for by doing light clerical work.

But remember, your office mates are corpses. You’d be surprised how many of these cemetery jobs are listed at Indeed.

27. Sober living house manager

If you do a search for sober living house managers in your area on Indeed, you’ll find a pretty long list that are looking for live-in managers to run the place.

Besides a nice salary, you’ll live rent-free with utilities and meals included, but you will need some experience in a drug and alcohol rehab facility. It’s not an easy job, but it’s a solid rent-free option.

28. Live at a convalescent home

If you’re experienced in caregiving to elderly people, there are many convalescent homes that will allow you to live rent-free on the premises and earn a paycheck.

You can filter Nursing Home Jobs listings board to find the homes that offer on-site living options. It’s not an easy job, but the rewards are sky high.

29. Try sabbatical homes

Sabbatical Homes is an established home placement service for students looking for house sitting and house sharing opportunities. If you’re in school, you can look for work-rent homes around your campus. You might even get the occasional free meal, too.

30. Become a workamper

Hidden Valley Campground in Joshua Tree National Park in California in the USA

Hidden Valley Campground in Joshua Tree National Park in California in the USA

If you have an RV, you can live rent-free as a “workamper”. In exchange for your labor, you can get an RV campsite space and free utilities like water, electricity and sewer hook-ups. You can hop around America like this, rent-free – Workamper will find you all the offers you’re looking for.