House-hacking: How some Central Florida millennials are affording the American Dream

Affordability comes with a sacrifice not all people are willing to make

ORLANDO, Fla. – At 24 years old, with a $48,000 salary, Aidan Groll achieved a keystone of the American Dream: homeownership.

“When I made that first offer on my property, I did not sleep for three days,” Groll told News 6. “It was the most nerve-wracking experience that I have ever gone through.”

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However, Groll’s dream was only possible if he rented out every spare bedroom in his home to cover the mortgage.

“For me, it made more sense, even though I was sacrificing some of that privacy, to be able to qualify for more of a home,” said Groll.

That concept is called house-hacking, and as home prices and mortgage rates rise, some people are turning to this hack to help pay the bills.

First, Groll took on a weekend side job, saving the extra income he earned producing wedding videos, to save for a down payment. That dual income helped him qualify for a larger home.

“I got it renovated, got it rented out, and now all of the sudden I had about $20,000 extra a year annually,” Groll said.

With all the spare bedrooms rented, Groll’s mortgage, taxes, insurance and utilities were covered. And the extra $20,000? “I was saving to be able to use for a down payment on my next property,” Groll told News 6.

Groll sacrificed his privacy, saved the money he would have spent on his mortgage and bills, but today, the now 26-year-old has five homes in his portfolio.

Plus, a literal bonus: Groll tells News 6 he quadrupled his income, thanks in part, to his renters.

Last year, US home prices rose 19%. S&P Global estimates another 6% rise this year, and are expected to rise another 6% this year.

In Florida, a recent report shows median home prices are now $410,000.

Simultaneously, a recent poll shows that 67% of millennials are open-minded to sharing their homes, more than any other generation.

“I don’t think it’s that they are more open-minded,” said Groll, a millennial. “I think they are being forced to. I think that home pricing is becoming so unaffordable that you must become creative in how you are able to qualify for a home.”

But the idea of house-hacking is not exclusive to millennials.

“I did not know it was called house-hacking when I was doing it. I called it survival,” said Leslie Harrington, who was living in her Orlando home, with her two teenage daughters, when she lost her teaching job in 2008.

“In a recession, your neighbor is out of a job. In a depression you are out of a job,” said Harrington. “Unemployment only goes so far. And I had to have a reality check with the budget.”

Faced with losing her home, Harrington moved her two daughters into one room and rented out the third bedroom.

“Just from my front porch, I can see four houses that went into foreclosure, and I was able to pay my mortgage. So that definitely kept us afloat,” Harrington said.

Harrington admits she would not have house-hacked if her financial situation had not called for it, but now that she has, she continues to rent rooms for extra cash.

Harrington has also passed the lessons onto her daughters. This year, one of Harrington’s daughters, a millennial, bought her first home with a group of friends.