Offering Housing in Exchange for Childcare

Parent Q&A

Housing exchange for childcare and housekeeping Jun 10, 2018 (5 responses below)
  • We have a in law unit and are interested in "renting" it out to someone in exchange for some help with after school childcare and housekeeping duties.  We have not done this before and wonder what peoples' experience has been, what would be considered a standard exchange value and how you draw up an appropriate contract? Any guidance would be welcome.


    California has specific rules around live-in household help that apply here (including capping how much room/board value can be applied towards the cost of care; the rest must be paid hourly, and you must calculate it based on at least minimum wage) so I'd start by reviewing those regulations to determine if it makes sense for your family. If you usually rent the unit at market rate, know that the cap is quite a bit lower than East Bay rents, so the math may not work well. If it's a unit that would otherwise be vacant for family or friends to use, though, it might be a good fit. You might consider an au pair, too.

    Whatever you do, I encourage you to write up a contract and include a trial period after which time you will decide about the rest of the period, e.g., a 2-4 week trial and then a longer contract.  

    Once we gave free rent to an undergrad in exchange for housecleaning.  It did not work well.  So be sure that you have clauses included that allow you to change the situation along the way. 

    Good luck!  

    I would not do it.  Consider renting for fair market value and then using the rental income for babysitters.  It is difficult to value the rental cost and the childcare cost in this situation, and ultimately in months where you use childcare less you will feel like you are missing out and in months where you need more help, the tenant will feel like they are "paying" too much for the rental or ask for payment.  I've also heard of horror stories where the childcare offered was unreliable, or the caregiver and kids did not connect, or for whatever other reason the landlords wanted to fire the childcare provider but the childcare provider refused to move and refused to pay rent so they had to go through expensive eviction process during which time the tenant lived for free and did not provide childcare as per the agreement.  Especially if you are in Berkeley or another place with rules that are very pro-tenant, I would not do it.  If you do it then at least make sure that the contract includes the fair market rate for the rental that the tenant would have to pay if they don't "work" a certain number of hours that month and vice versa you will pay them $x/hr if they work more hours per month than in the contract.  Plus you might be capped at how much you can even "charge" them for the unit via childcare hours, so financially it is better idea to just rent it out for money as usual and then you can enter into a separate agreement for childcare if the fit is right.  Good luck. 

  • Hi

    any suggestions on how to find trustworthy live in help with 11 yr old? I’m looking for someone who’ll pay partial rent and help with preteen some of time. We’ve had one negative experience so would like to post carefully (not craigslist). Any ideas most welcome, thank you. 

    Try going to CalRentals (the website) in order to find a Cal student who could help.

    I have had great success with -- but check references carefully, and make sure your expectations are reasonable.  Also try the UC housing department. An older  student may be a good fit for you. Good luck.

    You might consider posting on any local college bulletin boards (probably online nowadays). Also, I’ve found that is a fairly good resource since only people in your town/neighbourhood will be able to see your post so a bit safer, imo. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Student (board/food) in exchange for watching kids

Aug 2013

I need some insights and advice on hosting a college student (bedroom, shared bathroom, food) in exchange for watching our school-aged children ages 7 and 9 (now). We are working parents with pretty time intensive, FT jobs and commutes.

So far we had aupairs and we are very happy with the program. However the hours of actually watching the kids are getting less and less and the kids become more independent, thus the aupair program is not the best for us anymore going forward (cost and utilization-wise). We are not a big fan of after-school care for a variety of reasons and are looking for alternatives.

We need help in the AM before school (breakfast, getting lunch and kids ready for school), pickup from school around 3 pm, homework supervision and ''shuttling'' kids to soccer/karate/dentist/etc.once or twice a week making dinner for the kids and possibly bringing them to bed. Coverage during non-school days when working parents do not have a day off. Occasional baby sitting on weekends/evenings.

Has anybody hosted a college student and watch your kids to a similar schedule as outlined above? Does the college schedule ''interfere'' with the kids school and afternoon scheduled? Did you pay them anything extra? How did you find a student/how did you interview them? Where did you advertise that you need a student?

Thanks in advance for any advice! Stefanie

Check the Cal housing site (Cal rentals) for up to date information on average Berkeley rents--they have a category for ''work exchange'' for students.
Berkeley UC co-dependent

I haven't used an arrangement like you describe. However, I do teach and work with college students and so have some insight into their lifestyle and motivations. My sense is that this would not be a very appealing position for a student. First, I suspect that most students would see it like living at home, only with a lot more chores. Regarding the living arrangement - a student is likely to want privacy and autonomy as opposed to a shared bathroom and shared meals and/or someone else making their food decisions. So the room and board option you are offering in exchange for childcare may not seem like much of an incentive to a student.

Second is the work hours. If you are asking for help, let's say, 6-8 a.m. and 3-8 p.m., that is close to full time, before you even get to the additional occasional babysitting. Also, every college has afternoon classes (sometimes even evening classes). It would be difficult to find a full-time student who is available M-F after 3 p.m. Most of my parent friends who have used students for after-school care use 2-3 different students per week, because each student only has a couple of afternoons free per week. And then the students get a new schedule in the new semester and it changes all over again. Last, full-time college is *supposed* to be a FT job. Of course, many students do work PT during the school year, but not usually as much as you would be asking for unless the student is only taking 1-2 classes. A full load of, say, 15 credit hours is supposed to mean 15 hours in the classroom plus another 45 hours studying/working outside of the classroom (60 hrs total). So yes, I think you would find that the college schedule would interfere with your childcare needs. I hire students PT in my lab, and they are often very hard workers, but when gets to be finals time or they have a big project due, they tend to drop everything and make that their first priority. That seems too risky in the case of your kids.

Given that you found that au pairs didn't work for you because they weren't available enough hours, I think you almost certainly need someone who is *more* available than an au pair, and has *fewer* outside obligations. A college student is not that! I would suggest a live-in nanny if you can swing it. An alternative might be look for multiple people to do this one job and not have them live with you. If you drop the request for morning care, you might be able to hire 2-3 students to each pick up your child from school 1-2 days a week and help take care of them until bedtime. The downside of that arrangment though is that it is unreliable. Students get sick (like nannies), and they are more likely than nannies to have other things come up in their life that they feel are more important (''I won't be able to work this week because my sister is visiting from out of town''). So you might not want to go this route unless your job would allow you to leave at 3 p.m. some days.

Good luck! professor & parent

Have you hosted a college student in exchange for childcare?

Jan 1999

Ah, one of my favorite topics! Not only have I had students living in my house and providing child care, we also advertise such positions to students in the UC Berkeley Community Living office (642-3644 and it's free to list).

The biggest issue for us is scheduling, particularly in the morning. We always need someone whose morning schedule will not conflict with my husband's and mine, since we both need to shower and so forth and be out the door early in the morning and we have only one bathroom. I have also discovered it's important to me to have my own space and private time for cooking most meals. Some of the students have loved to cook, and others not, and you can build that into the job description or not, as you prefer. You can also do the same with housekeeping and errand-running.

It's really good to have some house rules in writing if you are allowing this person to intermingle in your daily life. For example, hours during which music or TV can be played, kitchen privileges, times when showers or baths can be taken (to allow sufficient hot water for everyone else!). You may also want to outline the duties and have the person sign off on the job description.

General rules: Expect the student to perform 12 - 15 hours per week of child care for a straight room exchange, perhaps a few more hours if you are including food. Extra hours should be paid at whatever you would normally pay a baby sitter. Initially, you may want to set up the housing and the duties on a month-to-month basis until you are sure it will work out, then you could negotiate for a longer-term type lease.

In addition to all this, of course, you should ask the standard questions one should always ask of child care providers!

I wanted to share my experience with offering a TINY room in my house in exchange for childcare (10 - 15 hours/week--for me it's been after-school care for my daughter that I've needed). My family has had pretty good luck (and with our current person, FANTASTIC luck!) with offering a teeny-tiny spare room in our basically 2 bedroom, 1 bath house to a live-in person who looks after my daughter for a couple of hours each work day after she gets off the school bus. The room fits a single futon bed, build-in shelving, a desk and a chair--just barely. What I did last year was advertise this room plus board in exchange for the childcare.

We are very fortunate right now in that we have a Chinese scholar living with us who takes her classes up to mid-afternoon and then is home for my daughter. Best of all--she loves to cook, and we are having all sorts of wonderful Chinese food in the bargain! The thing you have to be careful about are house rules--for us it's really important that my husband and I pretty much get to monopolize the single bathroom in the early morning on weekdays so we can jet off to work on time!

I've had 3 different people this way (one had to leave after just a summer to go to Grad school, the other had a schedule the next semester that didn't work out with the duties) and they've worked out quite well. I realize this isn't for everyone, but it might be a workable solution for someone. You can advertise for a student through my office, Community Living (now called Cal Rentals), and tell the person taking the ad that you want to list a work exchange. Essentially 12 - 15 hours a week is expected for a straight exchange -- no rent. I throw in food, too, because the room we are offering is SO tiny and also I don't really have spare space in the kitchen for someone to carve out a niche for her own foodstuffs.