Judy and Donna own a condo they have lived in for almost 20 years. Says Judy, “By buying together and moving in at the same time, it is all fair. No one has a foot over the other. We have mutual respect and a 50/50 arrangement.”
They were already housemates when they made the decision to buy together. It was a financial decision — owning is smarter than continuing to pay rent. Saving money is one of the major benefits of sharing housing. It also felt a bit risky. Each thought it likely that one of them would get married and that would end the relationship. They have a legal agreement that details how the sale or purchase of their condo would be handled if one wanted to opt out or died.
Says Judy, “It’s been a good investment. The value of the condo has doubled in the time we’ve had it and it will be paid off in two years. It just makes business sense. All expenses are cut in half — rent, condo fees, utilities, and internet.”
How They Met
They’ve been home-mates for many years. They met in college, where they both majored in medical technology. Their first experience of living near each other was a hospital internship that provided living quarters and meals. It was natural to be housemates after that. But they haven’t always lived together. Various relationships and relocations have intervened.
The condo has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a den on the second floor. On the first floor are a living room, dining room, kitchen, and a half bath that is used by guests. The garage is on the ground floor. The garage only holds one car. The other car is parked in the driveway. Whoever is going out first needs to be in the driveway, so there is a juggling that happens.
Ownership of Stuff
Each owns her own stuff. For instance, Judy owns the TV, washer and dryer while Donna owns the dining room table and chairs. They each own one couch. Recently, they decided to replace the couches and they had to agree on price, style, color, slipcovers, and such. After many trips to furniture stores, individually and together, they were ready to compromise on price. Once the price was agreed to, they found that agreements on color and style were easy.
“We don’t share food. We each have half the refrigerator and do our own shopping. We go out to eat quite a bit.”
Each does her own shopping. They have different priorities, one likes brand-name products, the other prefers to spend less money on generic products. By buying for themselves they avoid conflict. They do have an agreement and expectation that if one of them has run out of something she can help herself to the other’s food and then replace it.
Sometimes they have dinner at home together. In that case the person who is cooking buys the food. The other contributes wine and will always do the washing-up after dinner.
Asked how they manage cleaning, Judy says, “We’re not clean freaks. We each clean our own bathroom. Having company over is a prompt to clean and the person who is having the company initiates the cleaning. The other person will help. We do have a no-shoes policy because the carpeting is off white. That helps keep it clean.”
“Donna is much better at cleaning than me. She does a great job and has nudged me to make changes like interior painting, new carpets, and new windows. These have helped keep the place looking good and better for resale value.”
Judy retired a year before Donna and now they are both retired. No longer leaving home for work they’ve had to make some adjustments. For instance, Judy goes to the gym every day in the morning – it’s her “work.” Another change is that Donna goes to her cottage in Maine for the six warm months of the year. Judy will go and visit. In the winter, they have developed routines for the day that helps keep them from being on top of each other all the time.
Benefits — Social and Moral Support
Judy says, “We have social and moral support. We watch TV together, go on trips together – which we can afford to do because we are sharing housing. We contribute our different skills. She’s good at fixing things, I’m not. I’ve made her a wine snob. I do the flowers both inside and outside the condo and keep up with the bill paying. We go to the movies together. We share our families. We both appreciate that we have widened our circle of friends, too.
“We help each other out. There’s the ride to a colonoscopy, the extra car when you need it, someone to buy ginger ale for you when you feel sick, a movie buddy…” There are so many ways that they support one another.
After our interview, Judy wrote me to say, “We talked a lot about what makes it work for us…and for me the best part is that after all these years she is still my best friend! We both still hope to meet some grumpy old men that cook and clean sooner rather than later but if not we will probably survive.”
Asked what she would say to you, the reader, Judy says, “I think shared housing can work out well if you have the right person and a clear understanding of some basic rules regarding finances, cleaning, and lifestyle.”
I agree with Judy except that I don’t think you are looking for the right person but rather a right person. What makes a person “right” is having enough compatibility in how you live at home that you are comfortable. You should also like and respect each other.
Would you like to co-own a home with others? Have you ever talked about this with friends? What gets in the way? What pulls you to doing it?