The Fun Part: Writing Up The Wish List
The first stage of buying a house with your boyfriend is the most fun! You have decided to purchase a home and are now spending hours on Zillow, drooling over what’s available. You have created a wishlist that includes must-haves such as a large kitchen, an updated master bath, and hardwood floors. You may be pinning away on Pinterest and have your favorite HGTV shows on repeat.
I’ve been there. While we both are very happy with our home, there are a few questions that I wish we discussed further in this stage before buying our home.
- Is this our forever home?
- How long are we realistically planning to live in this home?
- Will we have kids in this home?
- Is this the best location for us right now?
- Do we see ourselves at the same jobs five years from now?
- If we changed jobs at any time, would this location no longer be ideal?
If your answer to the first question is no, then cut your wish-list in half. Someday, I want to live in a beautiful neighborhood with mature trees, a nice view, and a good sized lot. There was no reason for us to pay a premium to buy a home that fits that description now – but we did.
Similarly, if you are only planning on living in the home for a few years, you might want to re-evaluate your location strategy. Perhaps you can buy a home in an up-and-coming area and flip the house or rent it out after a few years. We luckily picked a stable area in terms of home value but we didn’t pick a desirable area. If we sell our house in the next few years, we will need to work some major magic to make any profit on the sale after paying closing costs and commission.
If you aren’t planning on having kids in the next few years, maybe you don’t need that three bedroom. We have filled up all of our extra bedrooms with friends and family visiting, and we have roommates, but I do sometimes regret paying extra for bedrooms that we don’t really need.
Location is key. Although we saved money by buying a house in the ‘burbs, and probably save money daily by avoiding bars and restaurants, we end up spending money on other things (commuting, buying furniture to fill up the rooms, etc). Additionally, we had put entertaining space as a must-have on our list but now realize that we live too far out from our friends to entertain regularly.
Even if you are 100% committed to your jobs, you should play out where you would want to live if either of you changed jobs in the next few years. We work in two different cities so we chose a home somewhere near the middle of the two. Little did we consider the effect the commute would have on me, the job opportunities that would pop up in other locations for both of us, or the fact that I would remain super happy with my job while my significant other would grow less and less happy with his job.
The Important Part: How Much House Should You Buy
We were shocked by the amount for which we were pre-approved. We ended up buying a home for considerably less than that pre-approved amount, but we still should have bought for even less that we did.
We justified going with a move-in ready home since we thought we didn’t have the extra cash after the down payment for a renovation. This home was priced significantly higher than the other houses we viewed with our realtor since we didn’t really have a set budget. I recommend keeping all of the houses you view within a similar price range so you can realistically compare between them all and to avoid the psychological trap we fell into – of course the higher price home will look better!
We didn’t anticipate the costs of utilities, furniture, and home repairs. We also didn’t anticipate that I would find MrMoneyMustache and would want to become financially independent in the next decade. Some of the money we are paying towards the mortgage I would rather be throwing at our debt or into investments that could help our future. We are not in a bad situation because of the house (we could afford this price) but I can concretely say that we would be in a better financial situation if we had targeted a less expensive house.
Lastly, many experts argue that its fair for each party to pay their percentage towards household income toward the mortgage. We use this approach since we chose a house that we knew going in we could not split the mortgage 50/50. As the higher earner, I was aware that I would pay a much higher portion of the mortgage and that was fine. I wanted the nicer home that we could afford with my higher contribution. Although not married, we were committed to each other long term, had been living together for 2 years, and I knew that even if things didn’t work out, I wouldn’t regret the extra contribution.
I don’t think all non-married couples would be able to manage this approach everyday. Admittedly, even we have times where we feel weird about it. My recommendation for non-married couples is to buy a home where you both can afford to contribute 50/50, buy separately, or rent. Save the remaining money towards your future.
The Real Part: Surviving Post-Purchase
As I mentioned above, we never anticipated the utilities, the cost of furniture, and home repairs. We managed to put furniture in each room (with 0% interest credit cards) but barely have any decorations. (The Pinterest designs I had dreamed of just never came to life – way too expensive and not what we want to spend our money on right now).
We’ve had a few real adult issues (Carbon Monoxide false alarm, broken furnace, and a pipe leak) that made us freak out and taught us something new about home ownership and upkeep.
We have also made great memories in the home. We love to have our coffee in the morning looking out at the beautiful trees, we’ve invited friends and family to visit, and we’ve started cooking more regularly in our kitchen. Truly, we love living here. We love the location – and we are pretty happy in our jobs too. Except when sometimes we hate the location and we hate our jobs. 🙂 hehe
It’s hard to explain but important to know that purchases like a home come with much happiness and much regret. I think it’s hard to find one without the other. Non-married couples must consider all their choices carefully before making such a large purchase.