Should I gamble with love or the property market?
November 8, 2010 7:08 AM   Subscribe

I would like to buy a home. I am currently single, in my early 30s, and would like to meet someone special and have a family. Right now, I could buy something that would suit one person, a couple, and maybe a couple with a kid - but not really a "family" home. Should I buy or wait?

I know this is a sort of crazy question, because it is trying to weigh things in the future that may or may not happen.

I feel torn because I see friends who kept putting off property decisions until they met someone, who are now more like 40, and still do not own a home because they are still single.

On the other hand, I worry that if I spend the money now, any equity I had will be eaten up by costs of buying and selling a property in a relatively short period of time (say, less than five years) if I did meet someone to settle down with, as well as using up any first home buyer grants.

I am really tired of renting - really - I would rather pay the repair bills than have the agent on speed dial for weeks.

I have been good about saving money and have about 20% of what I would be prepared to spend on a property saved up and a steady job. In the areas I am interested in buying, I could get a two bedroom unit (for our US friends, I am not sure what your equivalent is called) - which I think could be stretched to accommodating a couple and a child, but would get crowded. I have recently realised that having a patch of dirt is important to me and so I want somewhere with even just a courtyard, if not a proper yard.

I live in a major city in Australia where property prices are continuing to rise, but there is also ongoing speculation that there is still a property bubble in Australia that is yet to burst. Had this been a few years ago when there was still a lot of upward movement in the market, I wouldn't have questioned buying something, given the size of the deposit I have. I think the market is starting to soften, but don't expect it to soften to the point where I could buy a more 'family' property.

Should I gamble with love or the property market?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think you should buy. Like you said, you don't have much ability to control or predict the future, so the best you can do is make the decision that is right for right now. You've already identified the folly of your older friends' decisions, there's no reason to replicate it.

As well, a person who seems to "have their shit together" is always a more attractive partner than one who is putting major life decisions on hold because of what could be perceived as relationship desperation.

Besides, i don't really see how you owning a home should really cause major problems down the road. There is a really good chance that the person you meet will also own their own home, so you could end up living in their place and renting out your own, or buying a place with them and renting out your own, or having them move into yours and it not be a problem for years till you have children who are beyond the 'baby' stage. The scenario where you meet someone and need to immediately sell your home in a money-losing market seems relatively unlikely and easy to avoid.
posted by Kololo at 7:32 AM on November 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

Don't live your life based on some possible hypothetical occurrence. Do what you want to do now. Anyway, you don't know what this potential future significant other is going to bring to the table, property-wise.
posted by amro at 7:33 AM on November 8, 2010 [4 favorites]

I bought a two bedroom flat about 3 years ago. The advantages of 2 bedrooms was that the second room could double up as a study and, with a sofa bed, a guest bedroom. If the economic crisis came and bit me on the backside, then I could always rent out the second bedroom and save myself a significant amount on the rent.

The other advantage of having two bedrooms was that if someone moved in then we wouldn't be rattling around in a one bedroom (or worse, a studio) flat getting under each others feet. Thanks to the study, I can go off and check my email and play a game whilst the GF is watching TV in the lounge.

I would recommend going this route. You'll have a place that is your own, you won't be throwing rental money at someone who is using it to fund their holiday and if you do meet someone, then they can move in and you'll still have plenty of space.

I wouldn't worry so much about moving out to have a baby. By the time that happens, you'll probably both want to move somewhere bigger/newer/more expensive irrespective of what you originally bought.
posted by mr_silver at 7:38 AM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Some people are just house people. You sound like one of them.

You can't predict the future. You don't know if you'll be married in two years and having your 2.5 kids. You can't predict whether the market will go up or down. What you can predict is that if you buy a house you can drill a hole in the floor or plant a garden without asking anybody's permission. That's the real reason house people buy houses.

If/when you do settle down with someone you probably won't have a child right away. A couple will be fine in a small home. If you're like most of us, you'll be a little tight in your first home and then some day you'll upgrade.

Don't wait for a future that might not come as soon as you want it to. Do what you can/should do now. Buy a house. It sounds like you want one.
posted by bondcliff at 7:40 AM on November 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

I know quite a few people who bought a place as a single person, and then met someone. It was never a problem. One friend of mine had his bride move in to his one bedroom-plus-a-study condo, they lived there for several years, then they sold it and bought a house. I'm single and I have a house. It's actually my second property — I had a condo before it. I'm planning on resolving the housing question once I actually meet someone I'd like to live with. He might have a better house than mine, which would mean I would sell my place and move in with him. He might have nothing, which would mean he would move in with me. He might want to move abroad, which might mean I would sell my place and go with him. There's really no way to know what will happen, so it's impossible to plan for it. I'll cross that bridge if and when I get to it. Meanwhile I'm doing what I think is best for my present and my future as it currently lies.

There are other considerations that you should take into account (i.e., the market in your area, how long you plan on remaining in your area/house, your budget), but it's really not a good idea to put your life on hold until you find someone, or to make major decisions based on hypothetical considerations.
posted by orange swan at 8:12 AM on November 8, 2010

Yes, buy! Even if you meet someone tomorrow, the chances that you two will be married and working on a Second kid within the next five years are pretty slim. This way you have a home you love, and that will hopefully suit you and your possible additions for at least the next five years.

I did something kind of similar, and thus far having the home has just made my day-to-day life better Now - which is way better than some possible future whatever.
posted by ldthomps at 8:13 AM on November 8, 2010

In your situation I would buy a small house or apartment. One that's got plenty of room for one person, works fine for two, and that a kid could be squeezed into if necessary.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:18 AM on November 8, 2010

Remember that infants take up almost no room if you don't get carried away with buying into the baby-industrial stuff complex. School-aged kids need a little more space, but don't think you have to have 500sqft per additional kid or something. One kid and two adults will be totally cozy for a long time in a two bedroom. Add another kid and you might need to think about moving before they're both in primary school, but even then that's 5-7 years out from the day the second is born. Buy now if that's what you want, because realistically unless you move very fast on meeting an SO and having kids, you've got 5-10 years until you absolutely need something bigger.
posted by slow graffiti at 8:41 AM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

I live with my partner in a 768 square foot cottage (with an attached garage that we use as a shop). We're about to build an outbuilding for a shop, mostly so that the dust from the garage doesn't get into the house, but a family with three kids grew up in this two bedroom house.

So one kid in a two bedroom home, as long as you compartmentalize your hobbies nicely, should be totally doable!
posted by straw at 8:49 AM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

I went through this same internal struggle, and when I finally gave in and bought myself a house, I let my future hopes color all my choices -- three bedroom house with room for the supposed future family, neighborhood chosen for family, even a family-sensible car. Now, a dozen years later, I have all of these things with no family to justify any of it... I ended up taking in various housemates (which I never wanted to do), just to avoid having so much wasted space.

YMMV, but I do not regret buying a house... I only regret overbuying based on maybes. Buying a small place is very inexpensive since there's less demand for those houses, and it's what I would do now if I could do it all over.
posted by Pufferish at 10:25 AM on November 8, 2010

Buy a home suitable to your lifestyle now - it's a good investment and as you say, you don't know what will happen in the next few years. Very few places are so small that a partner couldn't move in with you and if you're having kids within 5 years, you'll presumably be double-income and could probably buy a new home and hold onto your old one to rent it out and cover the extra mortgage that way.
posted by Kurichina at 10:34 AM on November 8, 2010

I went through this same thought process and wound up buying a place and I'm happy I did. Like everyone has said above, you can cross other bridges when you come to them.

One other thing that I don't think anyone else has mentioned: right now, you can pick the place that's exactly right for you and decorate it just to your taste. If you do meet someone, the next place you buy will be a compromise between what you want and what your partner wants. Take this opportunity to be a little selfish (in a good way!)
posted by whitelily at 7:27 PM on November 8, 2010

owning your own home is pretty darn satisfying - get a place that has a second small bedroom, and it should be enough for your needs for at least the next 5 years, even if you met your future mate tomorrow. The more comfortable you are with your own life, the easier it will be to have a happy relationship - so living happily in your own little home could help you to eventually realize the goal of living in a bigger place with your own family.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 7:35 PM on November 8, 2010

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