It was a rude awakening to realize that my rent is now equivalent to my take-home salary, give or take a few Starbucks lattes. Single, boomer, broke—and working full-time. Welcome to Silicon Valley–an exciting place to live–especially if you’re in your twenties, with impeccable geek/nerd/ and/or MBA credentials, and earning the equivalent of my annual take-home salary every month.
It’s enough work being a mature single—the job, commute, searching for romance, attending to the medical needs of every part of the boomer body that cries for attention. It rocks me to realize that my full-time job won’t even keep body and soul together. (Forget what the housing crunch does to women without employment or jobs that pay even less—an unusually high proportion of Silicon Valley homeless are women).
People in Silicon Valley talk about rent and real estate in hushed voices like people in other places talk about natural disasters or terrorist attacks. Interns have been found at Apple and Google sleeping under their desks or in the parking lot. Employees with good salaries rent garages, storage sheds, tents, sleep in vans. Former couples stay in toxic relationships because they can’t find anywhere else to live. A friend went to check out a great-sounding rental room in Palo Alto. It turned out to be four bunk beds in a tiny bedroom and one over-burdened bathroom.
Rent has gone up an average of 50% over the last five years, according to Zillow. The average going rate for a two-bedroom apartment went from $1,775 in 2010 to $2,960 this past February, according to Rent Jungle –a 67 percent jump. The average one-bedroom saw a 77 percent increase from $1,330 to $2,362 in the same timeframe. Million Dollar Shack documents the rental horror stories, including one Yahoo employee who commutes 180 miles/day to keep her job.
“Airbnb, Airbnb,” friends chant at me, like a magic incantation. Forget holding onto my recently married daughters bedroom so she and my son-in-law can visit me. “Rent that room!”
Tossing and turning, I come up with what seemed a brilliant idea. Time and energy are short. Why not combine renting and dating– how abut renting for romance? Combine your sex life with lodging—become the Host/Hostess with Benefits. It gives a whole new meaning to the late Perle Mesta’s The Hostess with the Mostest.
Renting for romance could be a new category on Airbnb, where you list your relationship requirements, along with whether you provide shampoo or kitchen privileges–sort of like Tinder with guaranteed use of the bathroom. Or it could be a new app–the new hot website/personal service site, disrupting Uber and making venture capitalists salivate.
Could Renting for Romance become a Unicorn?
To my entrepreneurial dismay, an intrepid girl reporter at San Jose Inside discovered that there are propertied predators already doing their own version of Renting for Romance, although without a business plan, romantic intentions, or Power Point presentation. Craigslist now features “rent for sex” ads, mostly by men. Beautiful eighteen-year-old nymphomaniac women (also clean and honest) are preferred, but there is at least one landlord who will guarantee you the room if you pee on his face.
I found an old friend I briefly dated years ago to rent my daughter’s room. He loves the idea of Hostess with Benefits. We didn’t have a workable romantic relationship then and we don’t now, so my new business model has yet to be tested. I do let him leave the toilet seat up. A good renter is hard to find—even without the romance.