WHEN PY BATEMAN added a mother-in-law apartment to her Madison Valley home early last year, she was just trying to get a jump on her postretirement financial planning. She’s still more than a decade away from quitting her job as a technical writer, but by moonlighting as a landlord and renting out the fully furnished unit to visiting professors from nearby University of Washington for $800 a month, she hoped to keep a steady stream of cash rolling in after she shut down her laptop for good. Instead, once the economy fell off the cliff last fall, that investment in her future turned out to be an exceptionally prescient and fortuitous supplement to her current income. “It’s more beneficial now than I expected it to be,” Bateman says. “It certainly calms my fears.”

Scan the housing section of Craigslist on any given day lately and you’ll find hundreds of homeowners willing to rent their finished basements or second bedrooms to qualified tenants. Some include utilities in the rent, others go so far as to provide toiletries, but all of them are taking advantage of a universal domestic truth—everybody’s got to live somewhere—to bring in extra money in a tight economy.

Nate and Victoria Skelly weren’t in dire financial straits when they started renting out a room in their SeaTac home for $300 two years ago, but when they saw how easy it was to slash their mortgage payments, they turned their two-story property into a duplex last year and rented out three rooms at a time. And like Bateman, they had no idea at the time how financially forward-thinking that decision would prove to be. “I’m in construction, working for a developer,” Nate says, “and, of course, we’re having a hard time now.”

The idea of sharing your space with complete strangers may be intimidating, so if you’re not comfortable cruising Craigslist for renters, you have other options. Bateman went through UW’s Visiting Faculty Housing Service and let the school vet her tenants for her, and she’s been plenty satisfied with the results. “My first tenant was very outgoing,” she reports, “and my present tenant, I joke that I only have one sighting of him per month—when he pays the rent.”

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Crazy Quick Sales

With a glut of homes stuck in the supply pipeline, Seattle sure seems like a buyer’s market. But price your property right, stage it just so, and watch it sell. We found three houses sold recently where agents barely had time to plant a “For Sale” sign in the yard before the offers rolled in.

Asked $650,000 / Sold for $640,000
Details 1,670 square feet, 4 bedrooms, 2 baths
Days on Market 2
Insider Info Savvy staging and competitive pricing sealed the deal; the listing agent had to stage an open house because she’d already spent the money to advertise it.
Listed By Rebecca Carlson, Coldwell Banker Bain



Asked $349,900 / Sold for $349,900
Details 1,900 square feet, 3 bedrooms, 1 bath
Days on Market 5
Insider Info This bungalow was a fixer-upper, so the list price was low for Magnolia, but the sellers got what they asked for and didn’t have to make any concessions to the buyers.
Listed By Barb Andersen, John L. Scott

Image: Windermere

Asked $189,000 / Sold for $185,000
Details 620 square feet, 1 bedroom, 1 bath
Days on Market 5
Insider Info Not only did the sellers turn a considerable profit on this condo they bought in ’04, they then snatched up a West Seattle home even though they weren’t the highest bidders.
Listed By Jamee Rakus, Windermere