Full House: Should We Buy a House With Our Friends?
So we’ve schemed up a very unconventional idea for saving money on a top expense. We are considering buying a home with our friends. Two families, one big house, one mortgage. No, we’re not swingers or sister wives. And yes, I watched too much Full House as a child.
Just think about all the potential for savings. Right now we both pay separately for property taxes, home owner’s insurance, trash service, a sewer bill, and Internet. Plus service fees and minimum charges for water, electric, and gas, and I’m sure our usage would be less than double if we were under one roof. Think about all the trappings of owning a home. Why own two lawnmowers and maintain two lawns? Two snow-blowers for two driveways? Two sets of tools, ladders, air compressors, and all the other junk in our garage? Two full refrigerators, ranges, and other kitchen appliances? Two sets of toys and baby gear (we already pass kids’ clothes back and forth every season). We’d probably both like to have swingsets in the backyard, but what if we could split the cost (and labor)? What if one person did all the grocery shopping or cooking while the other watched the kids? The possibilities are nearly endless! We wouldn’t be able to cut everything in half but we could certainly get by with a lot less Stuff, Stuff Getting, and Stuff Maintenance than we currently do. Even if the savings were only 25% off our current living expenses, that would equal well over $20,000 per year between the two families. I can’t imagine this scenario not making us more financially flexible, assuming we arrange the financial details properly.
Who are these people?
We have plenty of history with the family we’re scheming and dreaming with. The husband has been Neil’s best friend since high school, and the wife and I became fast friends when Neil & I met, over 12 years ago. Living with your friends is considered a good way to not be friends anymore. However, we lived with this couple (and their baby) in their home for a year, before buying our house just 8 doors down from theirs. Before moving in with them, we also considered buying a duplex together. We would’ve outgrown it quickly and possibly had a hard time selling, so I’m glad we didn’t go that route. Five years after buying on their block, we’re still best friends, we have very similar life goals, our children are very close, and we see them just about every day.
Why live together?
With our homes so close already, why go to the trouble and risk of living together? The idea came up one day when our husbands were out of town together for a seminary class. I asked Diana what she was doing. “Going to the store and then making s’getti for dinner,” she said (this is what our kids call spaghetti). “Oh, we’re having s’getti, too,” I laughed. She probably invited us over for dinner; I don’t remember. But the inefficiency of running two separate households struck me at that moment. Running a home is a lot of work, and while running a bigger one wouldn’t be easy, I could see some efficiencies, savings opportunities, and other synergies:
- We could find a house big enough to suit our needs for less than our combined current mortgages.
- We could both become mortgage-free faster, thus increasing flexibility.
- Our property taxes, utility costs, and incidentals would be less than our combined current costs.
- We could share household tasks like shopping, cooking, cleaning, lawn care, home maintenance, babysitting, etc.
- We could pool resources. From possessions to talent and time, we could share more, sell excess stuff, and hopefully create a synergy of complementing each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
- We could host more people in the larger living rooms that big houses tend to have.
- We could host more frequently, creating an open house feel that we’ve both always wanted.
- We could stop cutting off our conversations and our kids’ play to go home.
- We could support one another more in our personal lives, raising children, and ministry endeavors. While many people wouldn’t want another couple closely involved in their marriage or parenting, we trust them and value their input. After all, we don’t claim to know what we’re doing in those areas. Regarding ministry, we are both serving in leadership roles in our church and spend a significant amount of time teaching Bible studies, leading home churches and small groups, discipling friends, getting training, and generally trying to help people. We think we could support one another with these pursuits more effectively if we all lived together.
- It would be fun!
To be honest, the priorities are probably approximately inverted from this list, but since this is a financial flexibility blog, those reasons took the lead. The idea re-surfaced recently when Neil noticed a crazy-big, not-expensive house on the market nearby. The place needs too much work and seems hard to re-sell, but it got us talking about the idea more seriously. We haven’t thought of a good enough reason not to look into it further. At this time, that just means looking at houses that might fit our needs & are in our price range. It’s definitely not about getting a nicer home, but with 2 families and a total of 9 people, we’d need a bigger place.
Our scheme also seems to make sense from a historical and global perspective. Often people live(d) with extended families, out of tradition but also for the financial stability and personal support it provides. Maybe we’ve found a modern-day approach to gaining similar advantages.
We’d love to hear your feedback. What would be your fears or concerns? Why don’t people do this? Why should we do it? Are we crazy?