21% of Americans Struggle With Housing Costs. Do These Things if You're One of Them

A couple negotiating with a lender at a table with paperwork.

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If you're having a hard time covering the cost of housing, here are some options.

Housing is often the typical American's single largest monthly expense. And with rent prices rising on a national level, a lot of people are struggling to keep up now more than ever.

In fact, 21% of respondents in a recent survey by the National Endowment for Financial Education said they're stressed about their rent or mortgage payments. If you're part of that group, here are some steps worth taking.

1. Negotiate your rent

If you're signing a new lease, there may not be much room for negotiation. But if you've lived in your home for many years and have always been a good tenant, you may be able to talk to your landlord about cutting you a break on your housing payments.

Why would your landlord agree to that? If you were to move out due to unaffordable rent costs, your landlord would need to replace you. And that could end up being a hassle.

If you move out, your landlord will need to run credit checks on new applicants and take the risk of renting to someone who isn't responsible or timely with payments. Or your landlord could end up with a noisy or inconsiderate tenant who disturbs others and causes problems. So a landlord might be willing to negotiate to keep you.

2. Refinance your mortgage

If you own a home and are having trouble keeping up with your mortgage payments, it pays to look at refinancing your home loan. This is an especially worthwhile option if you have a great credit score. If you do, you'll be more likely to qualify for a low refinance rate.

The goal of refinancing should be to make your mortgage more affordable. You can do so by swapping a mortgage with a higher interest rate for one with a lower interest rate, which should reduce your monthly payments. Or you can lengthen the term of your mortgage -- for example, switch from a 15-year loan to a 30-year loan so your payments go down.

3. Get a tenant or roommate

Sharing your living space may not be ideal. But if you're having a hard time keeping up with your costs, that may be a good solution.

If you rent a home with a spare bedroom, sharing that space may be fairly easy. If you're in a one-bedroom or studio, you may need to ask your landlord's position to construct a temporary wall to subdivide your space. In fact, if you're a renter, you'll generally need to ask for permission to get a roommate regardless of your home's setup.

If you own a home, you may have more leeway to get a tenant since you're the one who calls the shots. But you'll still need to make sure renting out part of your home is legal from a zoning standpoint -- and that the area you're looking to rent out qualifies as a viable space for a tenant.

For example, you might have a finished basement to rent out, but you'll need to make sure it meets the standards for living quarters where you reside. To get that information, you'll generally need to contact your town's building or zoning department.

Housing can be expensive no matter where you live. If your rent or mortgage payments are busting your budget, don't hesitate to take steps to make those costs more manageable.

Our Research Expert