March 29, 2012 11:02 AM   Subscribe

My boyfriend wants to buy a house. I don't. How do we work through this?

My boyfriend is almost 31, I (female) am almost 29. We have been dating for four years and we love each other very much. When we met, he was living with his parents and I was living in my <500sqft one-bedroom. He moved in. We've lived here all four years and, as you can imagine, it's getting to be pretty cramped. We both excitedly talked about moving into a bigger place, which came to a screeching halt when I started looking at apartments and he started looking at houses.

He and I both make, each, about $30k/year. We live in Ohio where the cost of living is low. We both have good credit.

My biggest issue is money. I feel as if, with our salaries, or just his, we could only afford a place in a neighborhood I don't want to live in, or a place that needs a lot of work. I don't feel comfortable making that commitment right now.

He seems anxious to buy--within the next year--because of the market. I'm trying to reach solutions but we haven't agreed:

1. I've suggested moving into a larger apartment with slightly more rent so we can at least be more comfortable. (Our current rent is a bit over $500/month, $250 each, so I'm thinking something in the $600-700 range.) He says he wants something bigger for all of his stuff. I say we can't find a really bigger place without talking $800+, which is the most I'm willing to spend. He says adding $300+ to our current rent will wipe out his savings and he might as well spend that on a mortgage.

2. I've suggested that we live apart but he says it doesn't make sense for us to pay two housing bills and he's afraid we'd break up. I told him couples live apart all the time and I believe we could make it work.

I'm worried he's underestimating how much it costs to take care of a house, especially one that will more than likely need a lot of work. I've asked him to read books or attend homeowner's classes but he hasn't, yet. (To be fair, he does work 10-hour days).

I'm thinking the only solution is to commit to making our current home as nice and livable as possible, and then revisiting moving in the future. But this incident has knocked the wind out of our sails. I think we're worried we don't want the same things.

In case you're wondering, we have talked about marriage and kids, but neither one of us is in a rush to do either of those. The housing has been a much more pressing issue.

I really enjoy not having to worry about home ownership. Something breaks, it gets fixed in a matter of days, I don't have to worry about it. I love that right now. My social life is important to me and I love his part in it as well. I don't want to give that up because I'm worried about a house and paying for it. I realize that might be immature.

My boyfriend feels differently, that renting is a waste of money. He wants more space. He wants a place to call his own. Those are valid concerns.

How can we get our mutual concerns to mesh and compromise? We love each other and want to be together. Thank you for your advice.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (48 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Let him buy the house, and work out a rental arrangement that gives you the flexibility to leave if you need to. Houses are like babies, don't get one unless you really want to.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 11:04 AM on March 29, 2012 [20 favorites]

This is, what, a 30-year commitment? That would be, in fact, longer than you would be legally responsible for a child if you decided to have one right this moment. Definitely not something you should be getting into if you don't want to. If he wants to buy a house, he can buy a house and you can pay him rent.
posted by griphus at 11:08 AM on March 29, 2012 [9 favorites]

Since one of your considerations is moving seperately, I get the feeling you may not be as invested in the relationship as he is.

On preview, I agree with the other commenters that this is not something to just jump into if you don't really want to do it: a house is a long-term commitment. I like Saucy's idea of letting him buy the house and you paying rent. He needs to understand upfront that you are not taking responsibility for long-term mortgage responsibilities. You would also need to decide upfront about who pays for repairs...
posted by Eicats at 11:09 AM on March 29, 2012

A bigger apartment with an agreement between you to buy a place at the end of the apartment's lease?

A compromise, sure, but one that involves extra moves...
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:10 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think an issue here you might not have considered is that entering an arrangement like buying property together with someone is a big deal, especially if you are not married. My friend's sister bought a house with a boyfriend who everyone (including them) assumed were going to get married. They ended up breaking up instead and her boyfriend stopped paying the mortgage. She was initially working two jobs to try and pay it as well as her rent on her own but eventually had to let it go into foreclosure. Another friend bought a house with his boyfriend, they ended up breaking up and my friend had to live in that house for two years with his ex while they tried to sell the house. Not to be all doom and gloom, I have other friends who bought a house when they were dating and now they're married and expecting a baby.

My point is that buying a house is a big deal, and if you really don't want to do it you really shouldn't. As others have said while I was typing this out, if he really wants a house he should buy it and you could pay him rent if that's a reasonable compromise for you.
posted by Kimberly at 11:10 AM on March 29, 2012 [9 favorites]

2. I've suggested that we live apart but he says it doesn't make sense for us to pay two housing bills and he's afraid we'd break up. I told him couples live apart all the time and I believe we could make it work.

That's not a good sign on his part. You are right; people live apart all the time, and many flow in and out of living together for a variety of reasons. I would call him on this remark of his and ask him what it is he's worried about in regards to equating living apart with breaking up.

I personally think it would be a good idea to live apart from him for a while. It'd be a good litmus test to see what your relationship is like.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 11:11 AM on March 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

Homeownership is awesome, but it's a lot of work and a HUGE investment - financially, emotionally, time-wise...the list never ends.

I've been a homeowner for 2 years and it was a good experiences, but a stressful experience as well. I couldn't imagine going through it with someone who I was dating, only because there are SO many legal implications and factors involved. Where you're dating, it could mean double paperwork and other legal agreements, so I think that you're perfectly healthy and normal to be hesitant.

My advice is to not go through with it unless you're both completely on board and it sounds like you're not. I would tell the BF that it's not a reflection of your love for him or anything like that, but why not rent a bigger place for another year and use that year to do your research, find the right people and to save extra money for the downpayment and fix-it fund?
posted by floweredfish at 11:13 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

If he wants to buy a house, hey, he can. It's his money.

If you don't, hey, you don't have to. It's your money.

But understand that buying a house together is a huge commitment. Figuring out how that works in the absence of a legal recognition to your relationship, i.e., getting married, has the potential to be a hot mess. The legal system is quite adept at distributing marital property. It is much less adept at distributing property acquired in more informal relationships. Like Kimberly's story. Versions of that are depressingly common. And it sounds to me like the two of you aren't nearly committed enough to this relationship to make buying a house together remotely a good idea.
posted by valkyryn at 11:13 AM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Has he sat down and looked at the financials of owning a home? It doesn't take a class to figure out, "OK, a house I'd want costs X dollars. We'd need a downpayment of Y and closing cost of Z. Per month I'd owe X in mortgage, Y in PMI, and Z for insurance plus tax savings." There are a lot of rent vs. buy calculators out there. I relied on Michael Bluejay's guide when I was deciding on whether or not to buy a house.

The problem with buying a house vs. renting an apartment is that you don't usually find smaller-end houses. Most houses are going to be 3-bedroom or 2-bedroom and an office, and you'll be spending about the same or more per month as for a 2- or 3-bedroom apartment. This is mitigated by the condo market, but condos are generally more per square foot than houses, so you'll often be paying much, much more per month than renting.
posted by muddgirl at 11:16 AM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think you are being reasonable in your thinking that you don't want to make the financial and logistical commitment to buy a house. There's orders of magnitude more money involved with home ownership than most other things you would do with your money as a couple. So even if he is also reasonable about thinking that home ownership is a good idea, it's not something that you should let yourself be talked into by anyone else, even your SO. I think you should communicate that you're just not personally ready to buy a house, and that it doesn't have anything to do with him or your relationship.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:17 AM on March 29, 2012

What about a more affordable condo or townhouse in an area that you both like? That way you have the advantage of home ownership with the better neighborhood you like.

But if you don't want to buy, you don't want to buy. If he or you feels that it's a dealbreaker, then you have to address that and move on. What does either of you value more?
posted by inturnaround at 11:19 AM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

I mostly detest the argument that renters are throwing their money away because it is not going toward a long term investment. Not everyone needs or wants an investment as well as a roof over their head.

Moreover, owning a home costs much more than "the money renters are just 'throwing away,'" especially if it is a fixer upper. If it is not a fixer upper, there is still basic maintenance and utility bills that I never worried about as a renter since it was covered in my rent (I'm looking at you trash, water, gas and heat expenses!). Now, Mr. WWW and i have a savings account set up that gets a certain percentage of our money each month to pay for home improvement matters (attic insulation, a new screen door, a new boiler once our 90 year old one finally breaks down, a new roof, etc etc etc). The list of basic maintenance runs high and can be a real money pit. it can also be very rewarding depending on how much you enjoy DIY or living in a place all your own.

As everyone else has stated above, it is a big commitment, and one to not rush into.
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 11:22 AM on March 29, 2012 [6 favorites]

My boyfriend feels differently, that renting is a waste of money.

This is no longer necessarily a given. Just because he's been told that all his life, doesn't mean it's always true. You both really need to sit down and figure out how much it will ACTUALLY cost to own a house- own, not just buy- including costs like landscaping, emergency repairs, appliances, etc.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:23 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do NOT buy a house together without getting married first. Marriage is, at its heart, an economic union. The whole purpose of marriage at its core is for the property and legal trappings that come with love, not for love.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 11:25 AM on March 29, 2012 [14 favorites]

I might be way out of line here, but...an increase to $400 a month in rent would "wipe out" his savings? And he makes about 30K? What is he spending money on? Would that increase in rent require you to make a similar dent in your savings? If I were in this situation, I would want to have a major come-to-jesus discussion about how money is to be jointly spent and jointly saved before entering into a long-term financial arrangement (be it rental or ownership) with someone else.

I am also surprised that you aren't able to find something larger without making a jump to $800+ rent in Ohio. Granted, I don't know what the rental market is like in Ohio, but I'm pretty familiar with what's available here in Chicago, and I bet you could find a better apartment price point if you do a bit more research.

Same with him: he needs to do a bit (ok, a LOT) more research into the actual costs of home ownership before either of you make any big decisions.

My advice is to make it as clinical as possible (spreadsheets, hard number crunching) before getting into the more emotional aspects of what a potential move would mean for your relationship, just so you both know exactly what, financially, you're getting into.
posted by phunniemee at 11:39 AM on March 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

Owning his own home is important to him. It might be important to him for a really straightforward reason (i.e., he thinks that renting is a waste of money, he believes that now is a good time to buy), but I suspect there might be more complex underlying reasons as well, such as thinking of home ownership as something adults "should" do.

I suggest you have a conversation with him about his reasons for wanting to own a house at all, as well as his reasons for wanting to buy one now. I'm not saying that there needs to be some deep dark emotional reason he's pushing for this, but you'll want to know if there's some emotional component to his logical (from his perspective) argument about the market and timing.

I also think you should have a meeting with a financial advisor who can help you and your boyfriend plan a financial future together. There's value in getting on the same page about shared financial goals--not just about whether/when to buy a house, but how to plan for home repair costs, making sure you're both saving for retirement in a smart way, anticipating major financial decisions and needs that will be coming up in the next few years, etc.
posted by Meg_Murry at 11:50 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was giving this a little more thought.

So if you're in a 1 BD/1BA condo now, then you're probably just paying rent and electric and cable for utilities (and maybe phone if you have a landline and/or internet).

If you buy a house, does he realize other regular expenses:

- Condo fee
- Water/Sewer
- Yard maintenance (even if you live in the city, this will go to other beautification-type expenses; garbage cans, whatever)
- Snow removal
- Home insurance
- Taxes

I don't have a fixer upper and my washing machine blew a gasket the other day. It cost $300 and half an afternoon of waiting for some appliance guy to show up.

He says he wants something bigger for all of his stuff. I say we can't find a really bigger place without talking $800+, which is the most I'm willing to spend. He says adding $300+ to our current rent will wipe out his savings and he might as well spend that on a mortgage.

----------> He's totally not thinking about this. If $300 more a month will set him back, once that downpayment is paid, he's totally not understanding all of the other expenses he'll be shelling out. Houses are expensive. I have a seperate savings account set up for home stuff - and use it on a regular basis.

Here's another thought: Why not find a slightly bigger place and rent him a small storage unit?
posted by floweredfish at 11:51 AM on March 29, 2012 [9 favorites]

Yeah.. I would echo the sentient that at this stage you should think about weather or not you want to get married and/or be together for the long haul rather than "hey lets buy a house together".
posted by edgeways at 11:52 AM on March 29, 2012

What's the housing market like in your city? Once you've got some average prices and rental costs, you can check out this calculator to help see if the numbers make one of the options much better.

Then, you say you don't want to fix things - does he? Does he have an unscratched home handyman itch? What does he think about a condo?

What if you guys break up, can he carry the mortgage without you? (How does he have no savings when he makes $30k and has been paying only $3000 in rent for five years? If he hasn't been saving money with that, how can he afford the extra you're planning to spend? Maybe you should wait a year in your current place while putting aside the extra that you'd be spending on the higher rent/mortgage and then some).
posted by jacalata at 11:54 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

At 30K per year, your boyfriend canNOT afford to buy a house. How would he be able to come up with the 20% down payment?
Go with your instincts! Home ownership is ridiculously over-praised; I often long for apartment living again. Right on to all the posters above who say let him buy a house; you just go about your business. Maybe you'd like to move a slightly larger apartment; go ahead! When he asks "which closet is mine?" tell him "All the closets in your imaginary house, dear."
posted by BostonTerrier at 11:56 AM on March 29, 2012

I generally agree that this is a bad idea if you're not ready to get married and don't want the particular combination of burdens and benefits that home ownership comes with, but he MAY have a point on the economics of it. If you can afford to blow $700/month on housing, then if you set aside 10% of that for repairs, you'd have $630 left. That would cover principal, interest, property taxes and insurance on a house costing somewhere around $110K, which will buy a pretty nice place in many parts of Ohio right now (I just sold my house there a few days ago). But you'd have to have about $25k sitting in the bank to cover the down payment and closing costs, and this also assumes you're already paying all your utilities separate from rent.
posted by jon1270 at 11:57 AM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Say you get a mortgage for $100,000, and the interest rate is 4%. That means that every year, you will pay $4000 in interest alone (or $333/month) for the privilege of owning that mortgage. If the interest rate goes up to 6%, you will pay $6,000/year in interest, or $500/month, for that mortgage.

If your boyfriend will be 'wiped out' if you move to an $800/month place, ie $150/month each higher than you currently pay, then a mortgage is a bad idea.
posted by lulu68 at 12:04 PM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have a friend who just went through exactly the same thing as Kimberly's story above. It took a long time for them to extricate themselves from the situation, they lost a ton of money in the end just to be free of one another, and here she is, 50, and starting from scratch.

But more important to this discussion is the fact that just a few hundred dollars more a month would wipe out your bf's savings. It sounds like he is trying to make this decision based on emotions, rather than from a sound financial position. He really does need to crunch the numbers and get a reality check.

You have both stated your positions, and you are not married. So, he is a grown man, he can make his own decisions about his life. If he wants to buy a house, that's his business. If you don't want to buy a house, that's your business. Trust your instincts and your own feelings and do what you need to do to take care of yourself. Remember that couples most often fight and break up over money issues. DO NOT get wrapped into this uncomfortable financial position out of guilt or loyalty to your relationship or whatever. That happens to women a lot, and it's b.s. Guys don't do that to themselves.
posted by vignettist at 12:07 PM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

You don't have to be married to buy a house but you have to be committed partners. The biggest factor in deciding to invest in a house is the long term commitment in the house itself and the ability to be tied in to a location for that long. If your career path changes you could be stuck with an albatross.
posted by JJ86 at 12:13 PM on March 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

I don't necessarily disagree with others above who are encouraging you to not actually buy this house WITH your boyfriend if you're not comfortable with a 30-year commitment, but I guess I'm not seeing why it's such a problem if your boyfriend buys a house and you pay him $250 or $300 per month in rent (about what you pay now).

One thing that I think about a lot in my long-term (coming up on 9-year) relationship is the challenge of standing up for what I want or need while still letting my partner take on hobbies or challenges that I'm not crazy about. There's a part of me that is, frankly, totally annoyed that he's gone all morning nearly every Saturday morning this month for his long training runs for a spring marathon, and I hate that it means we can't go hiking or biking together on Saturday afternoons because he's too wiped out physically. However, I don't want to be in the sort of relationship where both of our worlds get smaller and smaller because we only pick up activities that the other person is equally interested in... so I suck it up and make other plans, and realize this is part of being a good partner to someone I love.

I see a little bit of that in your question, when you're concerned about not only what the costs of homeownership would mean to your financial security and social life (totally valid, but also mitigated by having him buy and you pay rent) but also about how homeownership would mean he'd have less money and less time to participate in your social life with you. While there's nothing wrong with having negative feelings about how homeownership might change his availability for you, I really encourage you to take the path of being as supportive as you can rather than trying to convince him not to do it for your own comfort. Let him know what your boundaries are (not willing to be on the mortgage, not willing to be on the deed, not willing to move in with him to certain unsafe neighborhoods) and let him be an adult and figure out whether he can make the financing work with your rent contribution. To do otherwise is to start being the sort of relationship where you're restricting the possibilities in each other's lives, rather than expanding them.
posted by iminurmefi at 12:21 PM on March 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

The one issue with the people who are saying "let him buy it and you pay rent" is that you've mentioned a concern about neighborhoods. Maybe going house shopping, seeing what you can buy, investigating neighborhoods, is a way to answer that question?

You don't say where in Ohio. My sister and her husband have a bunch of rental properties in bad neighborhoods in and around Toledo. There are a number of decent houses, though I've only been in those neighborhoods in the middle of the day for a few hours, that you could have at the price range you're talking about.

I think the ballpark right now is $600 per month per hundred thousand bucks of mortgage. So your $500 should get you in the $80k of mortgage range. You might be surprised by what you can find in decent neighborhoods, my parents recently ended up with a circa 5 year old house, 2200 square feet with a similarly sized unfinished basement on 5 acres and a pond, including a truck and plough to plough the driveway, outside of Toledo for in the $200k range. Maintenance on that is high because of the pond and the water treatment system (yay agricultural region living!), but there are some deals out there.

However... This last weekend and week involved me replacing the plumbing in my house when we made the decision that the galvanized steel pipe had really worn out. It involved a decent amount of handiness on my part, the help of a friend when I realized I was in over my head, and easy availability of two thousand bucks.

You are very wise to be concerned about the additional costs of unexpected repairs.

And, yes, everyone is spooked by the recent housing crash, and be careful what you buy, but it's not really a 30 year commitment, it's a risk of some money and a little less mobility.
posted by straw at 12:29 PM on March 29, 2012

(Doh: Addendum: If you are looking near Toledo, drop me a MeMail and I can get you in touch with my sister there. They're constantly turning houses, might have something you're interested in, might also be able to give you some information about their view of the market.)
posted by straw at 12:31 PM on March 29, 2012

If a small increase in monthly expenses (rent or otherwise) will wipe him out, a house seems like a bad idea, because all the people I know with houses always have something going wrong. The boiler goes out. The AC needs replacing. This needs fixing. That needs renovating. That's not to mention the normal fluctuations in expenses (I don't know about Ohio, but I do know where I live the utilities on my apartment may spike from $50 in winter to $150 in summer).

And that's not to mention the increased expenses just from having a larger place, as well as a place that you actually own and have to upkeep. I assume you're not cutting your own grass now, that's something you'll have to do and you'll have to buy the equipment for it. Same for shoveling snow in the winter. Same for, hell, everything. Granted, you can pay someone to do all that, but that's still an expense.

Furthermore, if he works 10 hour days, is he going to have the time and energy to contribute TO the upkeep? Or is he just one of those people going house-crazy that just have to have a house and refuse to think about it otherwise?
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 12:42 PM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Before I got married, I lived in my then boyfriend's house and paid rent to him. That gave us the closeness of being together, but me the freedom of not wanting to deal with the costs of owning a house and him the benefits of home ownership.

Perhaps without meaning to, your partner is activating the jaws theme song in your head, where you feel something is wrong. If so, the thing that strikes me is that he is trying to address three things at the same time: a financial decision (to begin investing), a person desire (more space for his stuff) and relationship concern (to stay together).

There are many wise financial decisions - but the fact is if he can't afford a home himself, then he can't afford a home. Renting is not wasting money when you can't afford the costs associated with home ownership. I like a tax break as much as the next person, but it didn't mean a hill of beans when the +$2000 bill came around to deal with the unexpected bursting of 85 year old pipes that all needed to be ripped up. It's just as wise to have the freedom of renting, and invest in the stock market. Just to say that the 'window of opportunity' thing isn't real, though it may feel real.

A personal desire for more space can be gained without buying. Also, he could get rid of some of his stuff.

But the concern of you being together because you might break up by living apart is a relationship concern. But if so, why would this be attractive to you, because the house isn't a home, it's more of a prison, where you would be locked in, because really, you are attached to a mortgage, even if you break up. Also, you are trapped, because if he can't afford to buy a home without you, he can't afford to keep a home without you.

My point is that these are different concerns, and there are different strategies to deal with them. But none of them involve you buying a home. It may feel like an obvious decision based on his desires and concerns - that home ownership is the most obvious and expedient choice - but it isn't.

Figure out the financial thing first. Let him figure out if he can afford the cost of a home by himself. That's a financial decision, not a relationship one. Don't go muddying them up. If he can't, then he can't. But if he really wants a home, he doesn't need you to make it happen. The point is you want to do different things with your money and time. Home ownership is part of his financial plan. You can be his partner, and even live with him paying rent, without going past what you are comfortable with in terms of your own autonomy and financial decisions.

Deal with the emotional part - that you'll split up - separately. Talk about that. That's kind of concerning. Why does he think you'll split up? Why not just live a few blocks from each other? For like, a year? You can each have your own space. Visit regularly? That sounds kind of lovely, really. Nothing - even rent - isn't a waste of money if it brings you comfort and promotes your well being.

So what if your choices were:
He buys, you rent from him. Living together.
You rent together.
You rent apart.
He buys, you rent, living apart.

Because you buying a house isn't a realistic option, based on your wants and needs, and it doesn't have to be. It also doesn't have to be a deal breaker. You can find ways to be fiscally responsible and save money in opportunities other than a house, and spend time with each other, not breaking up.

But you wanting not to be tied down to a house is just a valid as him wanting one. It's just that the answer is you each get what you want. He gets a house. You rent. You just don't buy a house together.
posted by anitanita at 12:42 PM on March 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

I just re-read this whole thread again and this part popped out at me: "I don't feel comfortable making that [kind of financial] commitment right now.".

This is really the best way (IMO) to phrase your thoughts on this the next time you and your BF discuss the possibility of buying a house. I'd cushion it by saying something like, "I don't feel comfortable making that kind of financial commitment right now. That does not mean my feelings towards you have changed; I am still in love with you and want to keep moving forward as a couple. Right now that kind of lifestyle change would not be good for me, but for you it seems this is really important. What other options can we explore that will help us both get what we need? Can we look at the figures together to see if this would really be feasible?"
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 12:43 PM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I moved out of a shared apartment with a partner and we are still together. This could work for your situation.
posted by 200burritos at 12:52 PM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am very recently on the other side of this question (I closed last week). In my case, I wanted to buy a house, but my boyfriend did not. He's a grad student who wants to teach so there's a very real possibility that he will need to relocate in the future. Rentals in my city are on the high side and, like your boyfriend, paying someone else's mortgage was starting to get old. So I bought a house on my own and he will pay me rent. I limited the houses I considered to those that I could pay for completely by myself without starving. This includes the mortgage, the utilities, and everything else while still leaving me a bit of a cushion. If your boyfriend decides to buy on his own, he should probably do that as well.
posted by eunoia at 1:12 PM on March 29, 2012

There is no significant down side to renting for another year in a bigger place. The prices of homes and the rates of mortgages will not rise significantly in the next year. The worst thing that can happen is that you end up not liking your apartment, and move again in a year.

If you buy a house and don't like it, you are stuck. With all of the fees and costs associated with selling a home, there is no way you will be able to walk away from a house after only a few years without a major financial burden.

Also, considering your current living situations, I would strongly suggest renting a house just so you get time used to living in a bigger place. It's amazing what things you start to notice after you've lived in a few different places. It helps you to better filter the houses you are looking at when you do end up buying a place. We lived in 4 different rented houses before we decided we really knew what we wanted and were ready to buy a place.

The main thing with house buying: If you are not both absolutely sure, than don't do it. If he insists and won't budge, than let him buy the house, and you can pay him rent. This is not something you want to commit to unless you are ready and fully understand the consequences.

Nowadays, saying that you are throwing your money away by renting is only true if you plan on living in your house for at least a decade. And at this point in your life, I don't think you should be looking for a "the rest of your life" house. You should be looking for a "let's live comfortably for a while until we're ready for the next step" house.
posted by markblasco at 1:25 PM on March 29, 2012

lulu68: Say you get a mortgage for $100,000, and the interest rate is 4%. That means that every year, you will pay $4000 in interest alone (or $333/month) for the privilege of owning that mortgage.

As opposed to the $6k+ they're spending on rent right now? This is not a good argument against home buying. After a year of payments on a $100k/30 year / 4% mortgage, you've got $2200 in equity if housing values stay the same. 4% gets you a fixed-rate mortgage right now, so the 6% scenario is not real.

It's still totally legitimate to not want to be a homeowner. If the value of the house appreciates at 2% a year, it'd probably take close to seven years to have gained enough equity to just break even if you sold the house. It's a long game, and a different lifestyle. If you're not ready to get dug into a particular place, it makes no sense.
posted by jon1270 at 1:36 PM on March 29, 2012

...plus, for homeowners, around $2k in property taxes, plus maybe another $1k in insurance. Plus you have to put a price on mobility vs. stability.
posted by muddgirl at 1:43 PM on March 29, 2012

Let him buy a house. If he can't buy it without you, let him know that you're not comfortable with making that kind of financial commitment right now. If there are conditions that, once met, would make you comfortable making that kind of commitment (such as being married, for instance) don't express them right now, because you don't want him making commitments he isn't ready for just to get a commitment from you.

If he is concerned about you living there rent-free while he pays the mortgage, discuss reasonable options, such as having you pay half of the mortgage interest as rent (assuming his purchase doesn't price you out of that.) If he turns it into a conversation about your lack of commitment to the relationship, then, well, that's the conversation you'll be having, and that's not about a house anyway.

Data point: I have owned a house for nearly ten years, and with the state of the market I desperately wish I could get rid of it, but I'm just underwater enough that I can't. When purchasing a house, the commitment is more than just financial, and when purchasing a house with someone else, you're subject to their financial woes as much as your own. If you plan to own that house until you die, then owning can be better, but if you're not, then it isn't (unless the market is going up-up-up, and then only if you get out in time.)
posted by davejay at 1:45 PM on March 29, 2012

You don't buy a house to have more room for your stuff. You buy a house to have somewhere to live for at bare minimum 5 years. He might be taking your hesitation as a sign you don't plan to be dating him 5 years from now, but if he's thinking that far ahead why wouldn't marriage be on the table (or common-law if weddings are not your flavour).

My brother pays in interest what I pay in rent, for comparable places, but he's married and expecting a baby and certainly doesn't plan on moving while I'm single and don't know where I'll be in the next few years. It would make no sense for me to buy a house, and it makes no sense for him to rent. (I'd like to point out that his maintenance costs make any profit from a future sale of the house non-existent. Turns out replacing roofs is very expensive, and sometimes water heaters just up and die. And the list keeps growing.)

If he's dead set on buying a house, don't go in on it with him. It's not what you want, it doesn't make sense for YOU, and if things end up not working out the damage and fall out of getting out of the house could potentially be years of headache. If he doesn't want to live in separate houses then talk to him about you paying the same rent you currently are towards the his mortgage.
posted by Dynex at 2:23 PM on March 29, 2012

Imagine you buy a house with him, but then you break up. You have no idea how awful the situation now is! He might not be able to refinance or buy you out, he might want to keep the house instead of selling, and he can drag his feet and snarl at people viewing the house if forced to sell, he can make you pay for repairs for somewhere you are no longer living to "keep it up" during selling. You are so totally screwed it isn't even funny. I know because after my divorce my ex could not refinance and wanted to keep the house. I was lucky that he remarried and his new wife had rich parents who helped him eventually refinance else I would probably still be stuck.

You really really don't want to buy a house unless you are 100% sure you want one, are buying it alone or with the right person (who is good with money or lets you manage it all), and have an acceptable plan on what to do if you split (like agree that the house is sold ASAP, even at a loss).
posted by meepmeow at 3:18 PM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I bought a house with my boyfriend of two years after living together in a way-too-small apartment. In the long run, it turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made, but there were some big considerations:

1. We made more than the two of you make. . . and this was fourteen years ago.
2. Because of what the housing and mortgage market were like, we were able to buy the house with 3% down. That is impossible now.
3. Taxes, insurance, and PMI were an additional $350 a month over the principal + interest costs.
4. The month after we bought the house, we went to get the roof replaced, and discovered that the $3000 seller credit we'd been given towards a new roof would not even cover 1/3 of the roofing cost.
5. And then two weeks after that the plumbing under the bathroom sink started leaking.
6. Having the house painted cost six grand, and even on our large combined salary we had to scramble to find that money.

If you don't want to own a house, do not buy a house. And if your boyfriend doesn't have a specifically actionable plan to deal with everything I listed above plus more that I probably don't know about, he should not buy a house either.
posted by KathrynT at 4:07 PM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Okay, it looks to me like you have two main concerns:

1: "My biggest issue is money. I feel as if, with our salaries, or just his, we could only afford a place in a neighborhood I don't want to live in, or a place that needs a lot of work. I don't feel comfortable making that commitment right now... I'm worried he's underestimating how much it costs to take care of a house, especially one that will more than likely need a lot of work... My social life is important to me and I love his part in it as well. I don't want to give that up because I'm worried about a house and paying for it."

2: "I really enjoy not having to worry about home ownership. Something breaks, it gets fixed in a matter of days, I don't have to worry about it. I love that right now. "

#1 would be fixed if you could somehow find a really awesome yet cheap place, right? But #2 is about owning a home, any home. How big of a deal is #2 to you? If you guys could find a place you want to live, a non-fixer-upper, that's not a huge financial burden, could you live with the hassles of home ownership? (If not, that's okay.)

If yes, then why not put the burden on him to find such a (likely nonexistent) place-- tell him "Look, I would want a house in a good neighborhood in good repair that doesn't cost us more than $X a month including all monthly costs like taxes and insurance and utilities, including setting $Y aside a month to save for repairs/maintenance. I really don't think we'll be able to find something like that in a good neighborhood, but hey, feel free to try to prove me wrong, do some house-hunting for things that would fall in this price range and I'll keep an open mind." (I'm guessing this will ultimately lead to him figuring out that it really doesn't make any financial sense to buy-- on the off-chance that you actually do find a place you want to buy together, then definitely make sure you plan in advance for what would happen if you break up. And strongly consider having him put the house in his name and you pay him rent.)
posted by EmilyClimbs at 4:31 PM on March 29, 2012

I don't make anywhere near 30k a year and I live in an apartment that is about 700 a month plus utilities. Splitting the rent, it comes down to about 400. I live in Ohio too.

It really doesn't make sense that he wouldn't be able to afford it and that it would eat into his savings.
posted by DeltaForce at 8:40 PM on March 29, 2012

I fell into this trap well before I was ready for home ownership. Luckily, I only bought a condo unit in a high rise but there is a lot of maintenance involved. If your boyfriend can't find time to read up on home ownership, how does he expect to do home maintenance? Does he have the patience to get home after a 10 hour day to a leaking toilet he must fix/replace right now lest it cause water damage to more parts of the house? It sounds like a simple task but it can be hell if you've had an awful day and now have to run around doing god knows what to keep your roof from caving in.

If you don't want to own, don't make yourself own. I find myself resenting my co-owner for putting me in this situation and the strain is more than financial - it's time consuming, sometimes stressful and can be really scary. I would much rather be paying a little more in rent than feeling swamped by all the repairs I should be doing but don't have a clue how to do.

(All that said, if you do find you want to own and are prepared for it - go right ahead. I'm just not the kind of person who enjoys tending gardens, patching walls and replacing plumbing after a full day of work.)
posted by buteo at 10:26 PM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

The problem is that your boyfriend has his heart set on ownership at the expense of the economic (and practical) realities of doing so. And, really, it is far more expensive in the short and long term to own your own home.

Socially, we are also far less geared towards home ownership than we've ever been before. He wants a place to call his own - does he still want to be there in 5, 10, 15 years? Does he know what he'll be doing then?

When we had jobs for life, home ownership made sense - but now - it's not even a situation of why would you want to limit where you live, you have no idea what will be going on in your life and you really need to be as flexible as possible.

If he works long hours now, he will have to hire someone when something breaks/needs doing/needs fixing - how is he going to afford that? Work longer hours?
posted by mleigh at 10:50 PM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I totally disagree with the people who say that he's more invested in the relationship than you are because he wants to buy a house and you don't. This doesn't have to do with your relationship, it has to do with lifestyles and what you prefer to spend your free time and money on. For some people, that's owning their own property. For others, it's traveling, socializing, going out to dinner, and not spending weekends doing home repairs. I am definitely on your side of the equation- I'd much rather rent than be saddled with the responsibilities of home ownership, and I think if you take that one without desiring it, you'll resent that decision.

Maybe you could compromise by renting a bigger place for a couple of years, and then revisit the issue? He could save up a bigger down payment in the meantime.
posted by emd3737 at 12:53 AM on March 30, 2012

I still don't think you should buy a house, but this is not true:

Because of what the housing and mortgage market were like, we were able to buy the house with 3% down. That is impossible now.

My husband and I are investigating our options in this area and we have found first time buyer programs that offer that or less for down payment. It's a really good buyer's market these days--your boyfriend is right about the interest rates etc. As others have said however, the costs of buying a house are definitely more than just a monthly mortgage payment, it just sounds like a bad idea all around for you to do this right now.
posted by Kimberly at 6:15 AM on March 30, 2012

Can't you just rent a house?

Also, Suze Orman says do not buy a house with less than 20% down, and you need to have your emergency fund set up properly (6-8 months of expenses). Houses are crazy expensive. Our house that we bought 5 years ago is about to need a new fence and a new AC unit. "They" typically say to budget $100 a month for maintenance.
posted by getawaysticks at 7:11 AM on March 30, 2012

He seems anxious to buy--within the next year--because of the market.

The housing market isn't going anywhere in the next year, in Ohio, except possibly down: there are still millions of foreclosures to "work through", nationwide (the banks have slowed down their processing due to recent scandals regarding paperwork), and tens of millions of people, nationwide, who are "underwater" (owe more on their mortgage than their house is worth, and therefore are future foreclosures if something unexpected - job loss, major medical expenses, etc. - happens).

Buying a house as an investment is foolhardy. You should buy a house when (a) you're sure you know where you want to live (city, at least; ideally, neighborhood) for at least five years [because it costs roughly 10% of the house value for closing costs to buy and then sell later]; (b) you have at least 20% down payment, which gets you the best interest rate on your mortgage and gives you peace of mind if the house value drops - which it could - and you have to sell; and (c) you have a good idea of how large a house you'll need for the next ten years (aka, the house is sized right for kids).

It sounds to me like you don't meet any of these three criteria. Rent. You won't regret it.
posted by WestCoaster at 8:11 AM on March 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Desiring home ownership is such an emotional thing, but moving from potential to actual home ownership comes down to behaving more like an accountant. What you can do together is say, "Sure, let's entertain all our options and not quash any hopes immediately. But let's also do the hard work of putting on our analytical hats for a minute and figure out what is best for us."

In the immediate future, what might help is if you decide to have a two-person "potential homeowners association meeting," where you both come to the table, literally, with research about what you think is feasible. A nuts and bolts conversation guided by facts that you've both looked into, rather than dreamy wishful thinking.

So maybe you decide that you'll set aside a Saturday afternoon two weeks from now to sit down and talk, and in the meantime, you both are assigned to do your homework. Both of you look into what additional one-time and continual costs to homeowning would include - maintenance, closing, taxes, yard care, etc.

And then assign additional homework for the each of you depending on what your personal interests are - for you, this means bringing listings of actual larger apartments in your area at different price points so you can show what you both could actually get with your money, and a breakdown of storage rental costs, or a list of neighborhoods that you are comfortable with. For him - what he can afford on his own and how much rent he'd need you to pay him, how much money he can put down, etc.

At your Saturday meeting: spread out at the dining room table with all your papers and websites. Look at each other's numbers and show your work. Have delicious snacks ready. Thoughtfully consider the data you're each seeing, and then talk about it. This is not a debate. This is a team "let's figure out what we're really working with here as we explore this option together."

If he really wants to buy a house, if it's really that important to him, he'll hopefully be motivated to have the chance to do the work necessary to figure these things out. If he doesn't prepare for this Saturday meeting, I think you can assume that he's going to be guided more by inertia than anything, and you're not really at the crossroads you think you're at.
posted by sestaaak at 8:17 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

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