Canada's Condominium Magazine

Buying a condo with friends: is it really a good idea?

Housing costs have been steadily climbing, often leaving home buyers without any affordable options that fit their needs. If they can afford it, it is too small or does not offer features they may need. If it is the right fit, then it is undoubtedly out of their price range. The same holds true for condos in many cases.

The search for the right home has been such a struggle that many buyers have opted to pool their resources and buy homes with friends or even strangers. If you are considering purchasing a home with your friends, then read on to discover some facts you should know, as well as tips that may be beneficial to everyone involved.

 

Buying a home with friends can work well if the friends discuss and plan every contingency in advance. The planning may result in some friends dropping out; it’s better now, than later.

 

Planning is the key to shared ownership

As with any major decision, planning is essential. Buying a home together is a huge change. It involves an entirely new lifestyle. You are no longer king or queen of your domain. You share it with someone else, or even multiple people. It is also not the same as sharing a dorm with your roommate in college.

You own the home together. It is a major commitment, and it will involve a great deal of compromise. With that in mind, it is a good idea to plan ahead so that there are no surprises for anyone.

 

Planning for every contingency makes the difference. What if someone wants out? What if someone gets married? What if someone passes away?

 

The number of bedrooms needed, how to divide space, how to work out finances, etc. should all be worked out prior to purchasing the home. The following topics should be discussed and planned so there are no surprises in store for anyone:

  • How many bedrooms does each person or family need?
  • How should the space be divided?
  • Is everyone on the same page with regards to pet ownership, future children, friends coming over, or any other important topic?
  • How will you work out finances?
  • What features or amenities does each person require? Everyone involved should be happy with the home.
  • How will chores and other responsibilities be handled?
  • Will one person handle the bookkeeping, or will it be a joint effort?
  • What happens if one or more of you want to move out?
  • Is there an option available for one day upgrading to a larger home if more people are added (bringing in another friend, having children, etc.)?

 

Do the lifestyles compliment? If half of the owners like to party, and the other half aren’t keen, it can lead to irreconcilable differences. And don’t forget to plan who cleans up afterwards.

 

Joint Account Keeps Finances Personal

A major concern when sharing a home is how to pay for everything while keeping your financial information private.

One of the best ways to do this is by opening a joint banking account for the household. Each person contributes their share of the household costs by transferring the funds to the household account, and then all bills and payments can be made using that account.

Everyone should have access to the account, and they should know where the money goes and why (in the event of new household costs). The following costs should be kept in mind as you plan your household and individual budgets:

  • Mortgage payment
  • Utilities
  • Landscaping (if you contract out the work)
  • Homeowners fees
  • Homeowners insurance
  • Any repairs or maintenance that need to be done over time.

 

Combined ownership can mean you collectively qualify for a larger mortgage. But what if someone wants out of the arrangement later? Plan ahead.

 

Mortgages and Credit

Adults in the household will all be on the lease, so their credit reports will all be tied to the lease. This means that if one of you has bad credit, it may be more difficult to find a home, obtain any necessary loans, or get an affordable interest rate. Everyone should be completely honest about their credit and discuss how to move forward with this in mind.

Future Changes

While the idea of sharing a home is perfect for your group now, it may not always be the case. One of you may get a job or promotion that requires you to move to another location.

A couple may have children and need more space. More friends may move in, or somebody may simply want to move out. Although it is a difficult thing to consider, it is also possible that someone may pass away during the time that you share your home. It is important to discuss all of these possibilities and any other situations that you can foresee so that everyone knows what to expect in the event that these things happen.

 

Fights happen. If you own a home together, it’s important to make sure you are compatible.

 

This will keep everything out in the open and ensure that there will be no quarrelling over the details in the future. The following are options for dealing with the condo if someone decides they need more space.

  • Children being born, career changes, tight spaces, etc. may result in one or more friends wanting to move out or needing more space. In these instances, the group could do one of the following:
    • Sell the condo and split the funds according to percentages originally paid. If they split the original costs evenly, then the money gained from the sale should also be split evenly. If a family or couple paid more because they required more space, they should receive the percentage equal to the percentage that they paid.
    • Sell the condo and use the money to purchase a larger home that provides adequate space for everyone so they can continue living together.
    • Buy the moving person, couple, or family out of their share and move someone else in. The group will need to unanimously approve this person, since they will be living with him or her.
  • If someone passes away, their next of kin would retain ownership of their share of the condo unless otherwise stated in their will. This next of kin would be able to move in or sell their share of the condo. Either the group can purchase it, or the owner can sell it to someone else. As with the above scenario, the group must approve this person, since they will be living with him or her.
  • If the group wants to move another person in, then things could get tricky. Here are some possible solutions:
    • Sell the condo and combine that person’s income with the current group’s in order to purchase a larger unit that fits everyone. Everyone, including this person (if they are an adult), goes on the new lease.
    • Add the person to the current lease and rework the finances to include this person and their contribution.
    • Whichever above solution is chosen, the new person should be included in all the discussions previously had by the group with regards to sharing and splitting the property, maintenance and utility costs, upgrades, finances, etc. He or she should also be added to the joint bank account so they can contribute their share of the mortgage, bills, etc.

 

Compatibility is critical for successful co-ownership.

 

Having monthly meetings to discuss any problems or details can be beneficial, as it allows everyone to discuss their needs and concerns while keeping updated on household expenses and issues. Discuss any repairs or maintenance ahead of time. That way, everyone is aware and able to plan accordingly. Also, if they have any contacts that provide those services, they may be able to get the work done at a fraction of the cost, saving everyone money.

Discuss any problems openly and resolve them calmly and rationally. Becoming defensive and placing blame never help anything. In cases where property and other assets are concerned, an inability to solve an issue often leads a person to consult a lawyer. If you cannot find a solution yourself, then you may be forced to take it to court. In the long run, this is much more expensive and damaging than simply compromising and working things out so that everyone is pleased with the outcome. As long as everyone in the group is honest with one another and equally valued within the group, then sharing a home can be a great way to join forces and purchase a home they otherwise would not be able to afford individually.

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