The rent is really exorbitant. Or rather, home prices in the US have risen so fast that median income can’t keep up, making it unaffordable for most Americans to purchase a new home.
This is not an exaggeration. Literally, 10 out of 7 Americans cannot afford the average cost of a new home.
So what’s the average American to do?
Get creative; that’s it. Get someone else to pay your household bills for you. You can do this with a home hack — or you can hire a home provider.
Jobs That Provide Free Housing
In the first quarter of 2023, the average price in the US reached $436,800. It’s enough to join a circus or move to a research station in Antarctica.
I would follow that with “jk,” but I’m not kidding. At some point in my life, I have considered most of the jobs listed below. I’ve even used a few of them myself, at least indirectly through a spouse or boyfriend.
If you’re open to a career change, here are almost a dozen jobs that provide free or subsidized housing:
1. Park Ranger
A friend of mine described her sister’s life as a park ranger this way: “She walks for a living, but she also makes about $4 an hour.”
Both are exaggerations, sure, but they’re not far off the mark. Park rangers monitor their parks, offer guided tours, coordinate assistance to damaged trees, animals, or ecosystems, and prevent fires. Since their full-time job is to protect national or state parks, they are often provided with housing within those parks.
Just don’t expect luxury accommodations with jacuzzi tubs and home theater systems. Usually, the house is rustic and relatively remote—you live in a park. But it’s all part of the fun and adventure.
Don’t tell my wife, but I’ve always wanted to be a park ranger. If you’re interested and not subject to spousal restrictions, you can view job postings with the National Park Service. A quick Google search will reveal where to apply for individual state park services.
2. After-Hour Security Service
Like park rangers, after-hours rangers are paid to protect everything within their perimeter and are most effective when they live on-site.
But unlike park rangers, after-hours rangers often have fewer active duties. In many cases, their job is simply to be physically present on the property during certain hours, keeping an eye out for noise or intruders.
This makes it perfect for students, writers, freelancers, and even full-time workers with a day job. It’s also a flexible workbench for anyone who works remotely. This allows them (ethically) to generate income from two sources during the same working hours.
One example of businesses that often provide security guards with free housing is the rental of warehouses. If you don’t mind spending most nights in the home-sweet-barn household, start looking for local job openings.
3. Construction Manager/Superintendent
Construction managers or superintendents serve as on-site property managers. They collect rent, coordinate repairs, show vacant units, and sign leases. In general, they ensure the efficient functioning of the apartment or community.
They often get free rent in exchange for the headache of 2 o’clock phone calls. Depending on the size of the building, they can only reduce the rent, but in larger buildings or communities, they sometimes get paid in addition to free housing. You can earn anything from a small side gig income to a full-time job, depending on the requirements of the position. This is also one of the potential part-time job opportunities with free housing.
If you are interested, it helps if you have property management experience. But like everything in life, the terms are negotiable. So make a convincing case to the property owner as to why you’re the perfect fit. You may just find yourself with free rent.
4. International Educator
My wife, Soniya, is a school counselor at an American school in Brazil. I can tell you with my own eyes that the life of an international educator is pretty awesome. At her school, we are provided with a free, fully furnished apartment with a dedicated parking space. Oh, and doesn’t the park rangers buy that jacuzzi tub? We had one of those in our last apartment.
Becoming an international educator is one of the best ways to travel the world for free. Aside from the free home, other perks from Soniya’s job include full comprehensive health coverage and roundtrip flights home for all family members each year. She also enjoys generous school breaks: a two-month summer break, a one-month winter break, one-week breaks each spring and fall, and many three-day weekends sprinkled throughout the school year.
And these perks aren’t specific to her particular school. Quite a few international schools are looking for Western educators, including schools in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, South America, and even Europe. Before Brazil, we lived in Abu Dhabi and loved every minute of it.
However, not all international schools provide the same benefits. Especially in Europe, many schools do not offer free homes and free flights home every year. They don’t provide these perks because they don’t need to; international educators are willing to accept less to live here.
Although I intend to move home in two to three years, most of the international educators I know have no plans to move to the US, USA, or Canada. The benefits and lifestyle of an international education are very good compared to the salaries of educators “back home.”
5. International Civil Engineer
As a writer and entrepreneur, I was working in a co-working space in Abu Dhabi. I shared office space with a surprising number of civil engineers recruited from home countries such as the United States, the United States, and Canada. Like international educators, they often receive free housing and even free roundtrip flights home each year.
Places like Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Singapore have more demand and money for skilled workers like civil engineers. If you want to see the world for free while earning a handsome salary, and you have a background in civil engineering, try an international job-matching service like GoAbroad.
6. Seasonal Hotel or Resort Host Employee
Yes, hospitality workers tend not to be paid as much as engineers, but they don’t need the same level of education.
If you want to change careers right now while you figure out what you want to do with your life, one option is to work as a seasonal hospitality worker. Ski bums know the drill: You go and work at a ski resort for four to six months, and you don’t get paid much, but you get a laid-back lifestyle with perks like free lift tickets.
Since the job is relatively uncertain, you can actively search or study while doing this job. A friend of mine worked in a hotel for a few years while finishing her education, then started an unrelated career elsewhere.
Your business may be domestic or international, hot or cold. You can work at the front desk, in the kitchen, behind the bar, as a concierge, or give skiing or scuba diving lessons. The world of hospitality is wide and diverse, always looking for young people who are open to low pay and job responsibilities.
Go bash your boss, storm out of the office in a blaze of glory. Then check out sites like CoolWorks for spa jobs. It’s best to get a job first and then tell your boss.
7. Cruise Ship Casino Dealer
Cruise ships can be challenging environments for the average galley worker, waiter, or housekeeper. I know a woman who works in travel, and she mentioned that she slept an average of 4-6 hours every night because she was off work during that time.
Casino trading jobs on cruise liners are among the most sought after, as dealers can typically work at least 3 kilometers from the shore when the ship is in international waters. This means that when the ship is in port, casino dealers generally have free time to leave the ship and enjoy the cruising lifestyle.
While casino dealers can expect to be paid significantly less than their counterparts in Las Vegas, they also receive a free shared cabin on board, meals, health insurance, and often transportation to and from the ship. Plus, they get to travel all over the world.
8. Butler or Groundskeeper
Want to live in a mansion, or at least an estate, without a net worth of $30 million? Working as a butler or groundskeeper can often provide you with a free apartment in one of the most luxurious mansions on the planet. Accommodation can range from a room to an apartment or even a building, depending on the job.
In addition to a free home, butlers often receive meals, transportation, and paid vacations. Responsibilities include serving guests and staff, overseeing property maintenance and repairs, organizing events, and light housekeeping. However, the hours can be erratic, with one day requiring you to work until 3 a.m. and the next day off entirely.
Groundskeepers tend to have more regular work and less interaction with their employer or guests, but they may not receive the same meal and transportation benefits.
9. Personal Chef
Butlers, the culinary equivalent of personal chefs, often receive free room and board as part of the job.
Duties include planning, preparing, and serving food. Some clients will have high culinary expectations, so personal chefs must be flexible and proficient in accommodating special dietary restrictions upon request. Private chefs are usually responsible for purchasing all the groceries and ingredients (with their employer’s money, of course).
It may not be as glamorous as working in a Michelin-starred restaurant, but it comes with significantly less stress, plus the added benefit of a free house.
10. Live-in Caregiver
According to the US Census Bureau, one in five Americans will be of retirement age by 2030, and by 2035, the number of Americans over the age of 65 will surpass the number under the age of 18. More than 10,000 baby boomers reach the age of 65 every day, and more retirees are choosing to age in place. The aging of America is already well underway.
Live-in caregivers handle a range of responsibilities, from preparing meals to assisting with bathing and helping their clients get out of bed and into a wheelchair. The pay and prestige may be lower than that of a butler or personal chef, but the required training is considerably less.
In exchange for physically and often emotionally demanding work, caregivers are usually provided with free accommodation and meals.
11. Au Pair
At the other end of the age spectrum are small children who need just as much care: feeding, bathing, help getting dressed, etc.
Becoming an au pair is another way to travel the world on a budget. You can work anywhere in the world. Close friends of mine in the United States got a taste of Poland through international service. They provided room and board, plus a small salary. The three of them became quite close, and when his one-year contract was due to expire, they all agreed to renew it for a second year.
If you’re interested in becoming an au pair or live-in nanny, check out AuPairWorld or Go Au Pair for more information.
12. Mobile Nurse
Years before I met my husband, I encountered a mobile nurse. We traveled around the country for several years, spending three months here and four months there. The manager provided us with a free apartment throughout this time.
Although it’s often challenging to make the move after a year or two, many hospitals offer to renew nurses’ contracts multiple times because they struggle to fill positions with full-time employees. For example, my ex signed a 15-month contract in Baltimore.
It was a fun adventure and exposed me to some parts of the country that I would never have visited. By moving across the country several times and living in cities and towns in many regions, I have come to know the United States in a way that I never could have in my previous 10 years of adulthood.
Besides being a great way to travel and live for free, it can also help you find a permanent job in a place you love after trying out many cities.
Nurses earn a nice salary, but they need significant training and an RN degree. Most mobile medical facilities also require several years of experience. For more information on becoming a travel nurse, check out TravelNursing.org.
13. Oil and Gas Rig Engineer/Mechanic/Diver/Roustabout
Oil rigs provide a home, but in many cases, only while you are on the rig.
Here’s the bad news. The good news is that the typical schedule for an oil and gas pipeline worker is two weeks on, two weeks off, or 14 work days, instead of 28 for a traditional worker (20 work days). However, a two-week shift schedule can be challenging to maintain or reconcile with family life.
But for anyone who doesn’t mind the schedule, they can enjoy free room and board while on the rig, along with the high pay. Rigs require a wide skill set, from advanced scuba divers to engineers, skilled mechanics to management, and less skilled general roustabouts. There are enough positions available, especially in the UAE.
14. Military Service Member
Active-duty military members receive free room and board. On one side, it helps with structure and discipline. They also receive full health benefits, paid leave, and good military retirement benefits, but most importantly, they receive valuable training.
After completing their contract, military personnel can finish their training and enter the private sector, earning several times their military pay. Even those who work in government agencies related to military service often receive enviable salaries. My friend who serves as a sergeant in the Maryland National Guard makes a six-figure salary and will retire with 80% of his current salary.
Just be sure to weigh the risks and benefits of joining the military to decide if it’s right for you.
15. Diplomat/Foreign Service Officer
One of the alternatives to military service is a career in the foreign service. State Department foreign service employees typically receive free housing and travel around the world to interesting and exotic locales. Or unstable and poor locations — not everyone can afford a place in Paris or the Cayman Islands.
There is some uncertainty about where you are sent, as positions generally rotate every few years. If you have a passion for languages and foreign cultures, this can be a great way to travel the world, live for free, and serve your country at the same time.
16. Peace Corps Volunteer
Another way to see the world, make a difference, and receive free housing is to volunteer for the Peace Corps.
Don’t expect a luxury villa even though you receive a salary and a free house. Typically, your home is a dormitory in a host family’s residence. Although volunteers are paid more than the average salary in the poor local communities they serve, this doesn’t mean much.
It’s a 27-month commitment: three months of training, followed by two years of field service. That’s a long time if your only goal is to live for free while you figure out what you want to do with your life.
Volunteering for the Peace Corps is deeply satisfying, but only do it if you feel a genuine calling to help people. If you’re just in it for the free home, there are other options on this list that are more suitable. Before you decide whether or not to join the Peace Corps, do your homework and conduct some serious research. If you decide to join, you can register and apply to the Peace Corps online.
17. Department of Residency
Colleges and universities often like to have an on-campus faculty member as an instant resource for students. Facilities for free or low-cost on-campus housing provide advice, counseling, and other forms of assistance to students upon request. Often, these faculty members are asked to periodically report back to the administration with recommendations for improving services and student life on campus.
Of course, these faculty members still teach and perform all the required tasks. But overall, it seems like a very good thing.
18. Wrangler/Farm or Ranch Hand
Who says you can’t be raised to be a cowboy?
Farming and ranching jobs range from harvesting and planting to corralling and slaughtering, depending on your skill set and interest. Some provide free housing, although not all of them pay well or at all. For paid work, try Anywork Anywhere, and for free international home-swapping jobs, consider WWOOF.
Some priests, pastors, clerics, and rabbis receive a free house as part of their calling.
That doesn’t mean you should just sign up for a free home. Religious careers are as serious as they come and usually don’t pay well. It should be pursued for the right reasons.
But if you feel called to reach out and help people, then a spiritual career opens up many opportunities to have deep conversations with people from all walks of life.
20. Volunteer Doctor or Nurse
You don’t become a volunteer doctor or nurse for the money. If you’re in it for the gallbladder, stick with nose jobs and butt lifts.
But when you join an organization like Doctors Without Borders, you receive a wide range of benefits, including free housing while you’re in the field. You also get free travel, full health coverage, student loan forgiveness, and life insurance. Honestly, it provides more of a sense of fulfillment than the noise.
If you entered the field of medicine because you wanted to help the least fortunate people on this planet live better lives, it’s hard to imagine any purer path than serving as a doctor or nurse for an international nonprofit.
21. Circus and Other Touring Performances
People often run away to join the circus due to the existence of circuses. Workers can anticipate room and board, albeit not of particularly high quality. There are certainly no jacuzzi tubs here.
Additionally, you can travel, work with eccentric people and animals, and, best of all, tell people, “I ran away and joined the circus.” Talk about a winning conversation starter at cocktail parties.
If stopping cocktail party conversations isn’t your life’s ambition, there are plenty of other touring shows you can join, such as gangs and theater groups. You don’t have to be an entertainer yourself; touring shows require an extensive support staff, including lighting and sound technicians, caterers, managers, hair and makeup artists, and even accountants.
22. Antarctic Technician
For some reason, I could never get this Atlantic story out of my head about working a year in Antarctica. Perhaps Phil Broughton ended up there; after a particularly terrible day at the office, she gave up and decided to get as far away from her bad co-workers as possible.
Or maybe it’s the crazy stunts like joining the 300 Club and rushing outside to touch down at the ceremonial South Pole on a -100 degree day after 200 minutes in a 10-degree sauna. Whatever the reason, there’s something romantic, even believable, about the idea of living beyond what happens to people.
And, of course, in addition to all food and treatment, you are provided with housing for the staff. To what extent is treatment available, at least at the research station in Antarctica.
If there’s one thing on this list that has a better cocktail party answer than “I’m traveling with vinegar,” it’s “Just got back from a year in Antarctica.”
Paying rent or a mortgage is a drain on your monthly budget. So why not stop doing it?
Since I don’t have to pay for a house, I can afford to live a relatively luxurious lifestyle while working as a freelance writer and early-stage entrepreneur. I don’t have to put up with my old boss’s mood swings to pay for the lifestyle I reverted to when I had to pay the mortgage.
Also, imagine how much younger you could retire if you could suddenly put 25% to 50% of your salary into income-producing investments.
Life is short. Get rid of the waste of house payments while you live the adventure.