Opening your home to a long-term guest is a generous offer that can make a huge difference in that person’s life. Ensuring the experience is positive for everyone involved hinges on proper planning, reasonable expectations, and open communication. In this article, we’ll go over some of the common hurdles those who host long-term visitors face and how to do your best to avoid the potential pitfalls.
Benefits of Having Long-Stay Visitors
No doubt having a guest staying in your home for weeks or months can come with its challenges, but there are a ton of benefits that you can experience, too! Having a new person with fresh perspectives and life experiences can be an enriching adventure for everyone in your household — here are some of the great things you can look forward to.
- Developing understanding and empathy for an unfamiliar person.
- Expanding your family’s horizons by embracing a new culture and learning new routines, activities, food, and perspectives.
- Encouraging connection in your home. It can be easy for us to become accustomed to the people we see each day — bringing a new person in will encourage curiosity and foster new connections.
- Liven up your daily routine. There’s nothing like a fresh face to bring a new spark to your home.
- Enhance your communication skills. Having a long-term guest is all about open communication and honesty. This can be uncomfortable, so putting yourself in a situation that requires this is a great way to grow.
- Cultivate life-long friendships. Hosting an Au Pair or exchange student is a great way to meet someone you likely would have never crossed paths with otherwise, and you never know what friendships will bloom from that!
- Save money. Monetary gain shouldn’t be your goal from hosting a long-term visitor, but it can be a positive side benefit if your guest can contribute. Who couldn’t use a few months of shared expenses and a little less on your rent or mortgage payment?
Common Challenges & How To Deal
Rocky relationships with long-term guests often center around a lack of communication from one or both parties. While you might not need to be frank with weekend guests who have different lifestyles than you, it’s critical to have clear expectations and communication when you have a guest staying for months at a time. Here are some great ways to get started:
- Budget house expenses. Speak with your guests or guests about how you’ll handle expenses like groceries and shared items like toilet paper, paper towels, utilities, internet, etc. Using a shared expense tracking app like Splitwise can be helpful to maintain transparency and take away any gray areas around money.
- Create house rules. If your guest isn’t a minor, creating house rules might seem like a condescending exercise, but trust us, it’s still important. Breeze right by the potential awkwardness and discuss ground rules about noise, cleanliness, chores, parking, having guests over, etc.
- Set a specific timeline. Having an open-ended timeline is tricky. Even if you expect that there might be changes in the plan, it’s helpful to have an end date in mind. If nothing else, you’ll set yourself up for a conversation before anything gets awkward.
Before They Arrive
What kind of preparations you’ll do for your guest likely depends on what type of guest you’re planning for. If you have a relative coming to stay, what you do will likely differ from your plan for an Au Pair, volunteer, or guest you don’t know yet. Below are some things to keep in mind for different types of guests.
The basics – chances are that no matter what type of guest you’re hosting, you’ll want your house to be clean, storage ready, their bedroom to be made up, keys ready, fridge stocked, and linens out.
Introduce Yourselves Make and share a Group Video allowing the entire family to introduce themselves to your houseguest before they arrive. Include boyfriends, girlfriends, caregivers, grandparents – anyone who will be in the household on a regular basis. Getting to know a bit about the friendly faces they’ll see upon their arrival is sure to make them much more comfortable in the first few days.
Hosting a welcome party – If you know the person you’re hosting, it could be a great option to welcome them with a casual get-together with family and friends. For someone new, this could be overwhelming, depending on their personality. It’s better to get to know them first and have a quieter arrival.
Give them a house tour – go through what you need when staying in an unfamiliar place and make sure you have that prepared for your guest. Knowing things like the wifi password, available closet space, and where you keep the spare toilet paper goes a long way to making your new guest feel comfortable.
Make sure your family is all there – first meetings are important, so do your best to make sure all members of your household are present.
Becoming a Host Family
There are several ways to welcome a new person into your home. Here are some common ones that you can consider:
Host an Au Pair – an Au Pair is a helper from a foreign country that generally exchanges help with childcare, household chores, and errands for accommodation. Platforms like aupair.com can help you connect with people across the world.
International students – hosting an exchange student is a popular way to encourage travel, cultural exchange, and give an international student a chance to experience your culture.
Volunteers – many organizations rely on volunteers to thrive and grow, and this is a popular way for travelers to find accommodation while still traveling. Ensure you’re using a verified organization directly or a platform like Worldpackers to connect with legitimate volunteers and protect yourself from fraud.
How To Keep It Fun
Including your guest in fun activities is a great way to welcome them into your life (and can also ease any potential tension or awkwardness that might occur).
- Grill – everybody loves a good BBQ!
- Have a meal outdoors – this could be a picnic, day at the lake or brunch on a patio. Getting outside is always an excellent option.
- Play board games – this is a fabulous way to have some relaxed fun and laughs.
- Karaoke night – nothing breaks any bashfulness like karaoke!
- Cook together – putting your chef’s hats on together is the perfect way of learning about your new guest.
- Language exchange – if your guest speaks a different language than you, find a fun way of learning their native language. Maybe you write a new word on a chalkboard each day or have a meal in their language — the options are endless!
- Outdoor activities – lawn games, a friendly football or baseball game, or just going for a walk is a wonderful way to bond while getting some Vitamin D.
- Be a tourist in your own city – take your guest to all the classic spots. Bonus – we often don’t experience our own cities’ attractions, now you can, too!
Maximizing Your Space
Having a long-term houseguest stay with you is an excellent opportunity to spruce up your home and maybe get to some remodeling projects that have been lurking on the backburner. Here are some key things to think about when preparing for your visitor’s arrival.
Create a Space for Your Guests
Ensuring your guest has their own space and privacy is critical to a good relationship. Depending on what type of guest you’ll be hosting, you may want to consider various options. For example, if you’re playing host to a child, creating a fun bedroom and play area will help them feel at home. On the flip side, if you’re having an adult friend or relative stay and you know ahead of time, this might be the perfect time to finish your basement into that separate suite you’ve been planning.
To go a step further, you might want to take this chance to add on to your existing home. If you’re feeling a bit cramped already or are planning on growing your family, having a long-term guest might be a great time to plan for a larger home addition project.
Hire a Professional
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. You don’t want to feel resentful of a guest that hasn’t arrived yet! Take on what you can reasonably do on your own and hire a professional for the rest. This not only takes some tasks off of your plate but also avoids potentially costly DIY mistakes.
Preparing For The Goodbye
Even if you’re ready for your guest to leave, there will still be an adjustment period after they go. It’s normal to feel that things are a bit empty or overly quiet — whether you’re happy about it or not, give yourself and your family some time to adjust.
Having a going away party is a marvelous way to bookend your guest’s experience and give the people they’ve met while staying with you a chance to say goodbye, too.
If your long-term visitor is flying out, taking them to the airport is a lovely gesture that is always appreciated, especially if they have a lot of luggage going with them!
Awareness of the benefits and potential drawbacks of having a long-term guest in your home is your first step towards making it a positive experience for you, your family, and your guest. Plan for your visitor with the tips and advice above, and you’ll be heading in the right direction from the start!