4 Tips to Make Buying a Home Together Easier


Agreeing on a house can be tough, but today’s reality is that you’re more likely to buy with a co-buyer than without one.

According to a recent report by real estate company Opendoor, 77% of first-time homebuyers are buying their homes with someone else. That might be a spouse or partner (61%), their parents (16%), a friend (11%) or even a sibling (7%).

Buying a house these days can be hard, if not impossible, on your own – in many markets, it’s simply not an option. According to Zillow research, the amount of income you need to buy a home today is much higher than it was just five years ago. In 2020, Zillow analysts found that a household earning $59,000 could easily afford a typical U.S. mortgage, but today a household needs $106,500.

Even with COVID-era wage increases, it’s simply not enough. Earning $59,000 in 2020 was still below the median household income of $66,000; $106,500 is significantly above the median household income of $81,000 today.

The question today isn’t “Should I buy a home with someone else?” but “How can I do this without damaging our relationship?”

1. Begin at the End

Some people might argue that starting at the end of the property ownership spells doom for the whole process, but the truth is that most people never consider what they’re going to do with their shared property if one party decides they no longer want to own it – for any reason.

“If you’re buying something with another person, I would 100% of the time contact an attorney, have them draw up some sort of a document that lays out your rights,” says Melissa Rubenstein, realtor sales associate with Corcoran Infinity Properties in Alpine, New Jersey.

Rubenstein stresses the importance of considering the most common scenarios, especially if you’re not legally married. If you pass away, who would inherit your share of the property? Not every state will automatically pass a property to a spouse, and none will automatically pass a property to a non-spouse without existing paperwork in play. Death is hardly the only scenario to consider: divorce, simply parting ways, someone being relocated – these are all important scenarios to work through together.

2. Learn How to Talk About Money

Before you sit down to talk about what kind of house you’d like to buy with someone – or even where to buy that house – it’s vital that you are able to talk about money. Too often, people discover that they can’t talk to their co-buyer about money in a meaningful way when they’re trying to find a house, and it causes all kinds of issues that might make buying impossible.

Laurie Wilson, a licensed marriage and family therapist at Rize Counseling in Huntington Beach, California, said it was a challenge buying a home with her husband for this very reason. They had to better understand each other’s feelings about money before moving forward.

“He feels really calm and not very many other emotions about money because he views money as security,” says Wilson. “A lot of times, I’m living out of fear with money because of scarcity or because of not growing up with as much. I think it’s really important that we understand where that other person is coming from when it comes from money, because I think that’s where the conflict can arise.”

Wilson recommends budgeting together long before buying a house with someone. It isn’t nearly as much of a serious commitment and will allow you to both find each other’s sweet spot when it comes to feelings about money.

“If they have conflict during that, or they can’t communicate well about finances, that would make me a little nervous about how it would go with a home,” says Wilson.

3. Take a Break From House Hunting

It is almost inevitable that you and your co-buyer won’t see eye-to-eye on your future home. They may have a wildly different expectation of what home feels like versus what you do. Most real estate agents will recommend that you make lists of things you want and things you need in a home, and use that as a starting point for choosing the house of your dreams together, but sometimes you just come to an impasse.

What happens when you’re both dug in and there’s no solution in sight?

“If co-buyers can’t really come to an agreement, I always recommend pressing pause on the buying process, and possibly reassessing at a later date,” says Bryson Taggart, senior agent growth manager and licensed real estate agent at Opendoor in Phoenix. “It’s really important when you hit that pause button that you establish whether it’s going to be for a weekend or a few weeks or a month. But it’s also vital that you’re keeping your eye on homes entering the market, so you don’t miss an opportunity that might fit both your needs.”

Generally, Taggart says, taking a short cooling-off period where you and your co-buyer can talk and regroup is all it requires to get back on the same page. Like Wilson, Taggart agrees that communication – really good, solid communication – is the key to a successful real estate transaction with a co-buyer.

4. Reframe Your House Vision

Another common issue buyers run into is not really being familiar with different kinds of houses, says Rubenstein. This can make it hard to find what you’re looking for, since you don’t really know what’s available.

“You need to see your future home with a different eye and not think about it as your neighbor’s house,” she says. “Think about it potentially as the house that you’re going to be sharing together.”

She recommends seeing a variety of home styles in your price range, even if you don’t think you’ll like them. You may be pleasantly surprised, or at very least use the exercise to get more familiar with what is possible with a home you can afford. Rubenstein also says that, in the end, it rarely comes down to lists of “wants” and “needs.”

“Usually, no matter what things are on your lists, when it’s the right house both people walk out of it and say, ‘this is the one,’ ” Rubenstein says. “It’s a feeling, it’s not a list of things on a piece of paper. It’s just: ‘This is our home’.”


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