Is it a good idea to live next door to a sibling?
April 24, 2014 10:49 AM   Subscribe

My brother and I have the opportunity to buy two houses next to each other. We like each other. Is this a great idea or a terrible one?

I was planning on demolishing my house and building a new one on the lot. My brother has moved back to town and was looking to buy a house. He has located two properties fairly close to where I presently live (about a 5 minute drive/half-hour walk away) and is wondering if I want to buy one of them and then build the new one there. There are actually really big upsides to buying these properties as objectively they would be better places to live. (Quieter street, much bigger lot, more privacy from neighbours, closer to schools)

We've got a pretty good handle on the practicalities of making this all happen but are concerned about the possibility that such proximity may cause us to hate each other over time. We have always gotten along with each other (which is why we are considering this in the first place) and don't want something like this to ruin our relationship. I could also see this improving our relationship as we've been in different cities for most of the last 15 years (we would still see each other every month or two).

My wife and I are working on our own pros and cons list but would like some experiences from people who have lived in similar situations, good or bad.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm to Human Relations (37 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I know 3 siblings that have this with 3 houses. They call it The Compound.

It's fun.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 10:55 AM on April 24, 2014 [19 favorites]

If you get along, I don't see why not. A lot of people in my neighborhood have family members who live next door, or within a stones-throw, of each other. They all seem like they have the types of families where that can work. I don't think it would work for my family.

The one thing I will warn you about, is based on something I've noticed. The property I bought was owned by the grandfather of the guy who lives next to me, whose parents owned his house previously. Because they were both in the same family they were very causal about the property lines, building things like sheds and fences a few feet over the line, because why not? It's not like they were gonna do it the right way.

So, even if your neighbor is your family, respect the property boundaries so whomever has the house after you won't have to worry that his driveway is partially on the neighbor's lot, and their shed his partially on his.
posted by bondcliff at 10:56 AM on April 24, 2014 [30 favorites]

Happy families are all mostly happy in the same ways. Unhappy families are unhappy in their own ways.

You're really the only one who can answer this question. Some siblings get along great, regardless of proximity. Some siblings only get along when they're around each other a lot. Some siblings only get along when they don't see each other very much. Some sibligns get along with certain of their siblings but not others, and in any given set of siblings which ones get along with which may not even overlap.* And some siblings just don't get along at all.

I've known people and their siblings from every one of those categories. Which of those best describes you isn't something anyone here is going to be able to tell.

*E.g., A gets along just fine with B but hates C, while B and C do just fine, and D just loves A but is barely tolerated by A, B, and C. Etc. Families are weird.
posted by valkyryn at 11:02 AM on April 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

As someone who has lived 1000 miles away from my once-arch-nemesis-now-best-friend for over a decade, this sounds great. I'd love to live next door to my brother.

Personally I would want to have some predetermined rules like specific hours it's OK to just drop in and such, because I'm a fairly antisocial person who likes to walk around my house without any pants on. And who gets stuck with the parents when they visit.
posted by phunniemee at 11:11 AM on April 24, 2014

Best answer: My mother and her sister had a great relationship and were next-door neighbors for about 10 years. My mother said she was really happy when her sister moved about 10 minutes away, so she would answer "No" to the question.
posted by Rob Rockets at 11:13 AM on April 24, 2014

I don't have particularly close relationships with my siblings, but I would probably do this. The factor that would tip the scale would be whether you and your brother have kids. Growing up with cousins next door would awesome.
posted by donajo at 11:14 AM on April 24, 2014 [15 favorites]

Best answer: I live across the street from my sister, next door to my nephew, and have two aunts and two cousins within two blocks, and two sets of my best friends within three blocks. It is so amazing I can't put it into words. It's like the best of being in college - always people around when you need them or want to grab pizza or need someone to borrow eggs from or move a box with or watch the kids for five minutes - but also your own space. It's great.
posted by dpx.mfx at 11:14 AM on April 24, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: (that said, I have four siblings, and would happily live next to three of them but not the fourth, so, as noted above, YMMV).
posted by dpx.mfx at 11:15 AM on April 24, 2014

I don't have any siblings, but I would choose to live next door to my brother in law and his wife in a split second. That would be awesome.

That said, only you can know if this will work with your sibling. Maybe the sit-com style life that might ensue will be too much to handle, maybe you'll fight over where the fence is located, I have no clue. If you like your sibling and get along well, I'd say go for it. Worse comes to worse you'll have very, very tense Thanksgiving dinners and, given all the objective positives of the new location, that sounds rather like a good trade anyway. You could have a falling out with your sibling whether you live next door to each other or you live on opposite sides of the country: enjoy it while you the going is good, I say.
posted by lydhre at 11:16 AM on April 24, 2014

My brother and I lived about a five minute walk from each other for a few years and it was great. We hung out a lot more when we lived near each other. Now that's he's almost 3,000km away, I'd love to have him live next door.
posted by futureisunwritten at 11:17 AM on April 24, 2014

My sister and I were roommates for several years in our 20s and we both loved that living arrangement. Everybody's different, but I'd be thrilled at the chance to live next door to either of my siblings.
posted by gerstle at 11:18 AM on April 24, 2014

Have a good talk about expectations of privacy. And if you've both got kids, make it clear if you're cool being a defacto babysitter or not.

Some people just need space, and their home is their "sanctuary". Other people thrive on the excitement/spontaneity. I've seen this play out in my mom's siblings. One sibling in particular likes to use their siblings as impromptu child care with little notice because they're just a block away. It's a tough situation, because they love their nephew, but resent not being given notice.
posted by fontophilic at 11:30 AM on April 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I lived in a duplex with my sister and it was great. I regret moving. I think as long as neither of you is passive aggressive about little annoyances (say he hates when your kids leave toys on the lawn, but never mentions it till he explodes), it will be fine.
posted by catatethebird at 11:33 AM on April 24, 2014

Best answer: The house across the street from my childhood home was owned by my uncle. His daughter, my cousin, is one of my closest friends today and we can't help but giggle like little kids when we talk about the old days. My mom and uncle got along very well. It was one of the best things about my early childhood.
posted by munchingzombie at 11:38 AM on April 24, 2014

Are you okay with people dropping in?
Can you both communicate to each other, without any bad feelings, that you want them to go away and leave you alone for awhile?
Can you both say 'no' to reasonable requests (like the childcare thing mentioned by fontophilic) without hard feelings?

Any "no"s should be turned to yeses before you move in.
posted by flimflam at 11:38 AM on April 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I agree that whether you have kids or not changes the equation. We lived across the street from my uncle for about three years, and it was great. My aunt and uncle had a baby at the time, and we did a lot of babysitting while they were at work/school, which we were happy to do because my baby cousin was a delight. I was in elementary school at the time, and I really cherished having all that time with him. Plus, my parents love babies, so they loved babysitting and never saw it as an imposition. If your sibling has kids and you're not into being the de facto childcare option, I can see how this would get annoying though.

Before that living situation, we lived on the same street as a couple of my aunts and uncles, but I was pretty young so all I can tell you is that as a kid, I loved running around the neighborhood with my cousins and I always felt really safe and looked after even though my parents worked a lot, because I was constantly at my aunt's house.

As far as I can recall, everyone got along just fine, but we're immigrants from a cultural background that's used to living close to extended family and relying a lot on extended family.
posted by yasaman at 11:43 AM on April 24, 2014

It seems covered upstream, but I'll repeat the sentiment. The saying is that good fences make good neighbors, but I think it's good boundaries. Can you live next to each other and still respect each other's limits and schedules?

If your family is one where you need to tell polite lies about how busy/committed you really are rather than declining invitations or refusing things? If so you shouldn't live where someone can look out their window and see that you're really getting ready to go clubbing and not really sick in bed. Or just choosing to watch tv rather than go to their theater opening.

If that's not an issue and you're not going to have drop-ins with each other then I think it would be wonderful to have close family next door. Own one lawnmower between the two of you! Have someone who can pick up your mail you're out of town. Etc. It would be wonderful... so long as he's not going to resent when you ask or you won't feel put upon when he does.
posted by phearlez at 11:55 AM on April 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: My family lived next door to my father's brother and his family for 15 years or so. Then my uncle and aunt building a house on the OTHER side of our house and living there for another 20 years nearly. It was just part of life that we would use their yard for badminton, walk over for Christmas dinner, watch each others' cats while on vacation, borrow yard equipment, transplant flowers from one yard to another, etc. So there were a lot of advantages for the kids involved anyway. There were times when my mom in particular felt a little cramped by the proximity; there were times when my aunt would drop by unexpectedly, and my brother and I did our fair share of trespassing uninvited in our uncle's yard. But in general both families were willing to accommodate the other, and it worked out well.
posted by daisystomper at 12:41 PM on April 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This is actually a really traditional thing to do where I grew up, in southern Louisiana. Usually if you're driving around out in the country and you see a little street called "Arcenaux Lane" or whatever, that means the Arcenaux family all lives down there. I felt really left out as a kid not growing up next door to my extended family.

That said, if it's not common in whatever culture you grew up in, there might be some pitfalls:

- Do you guys generally have good boundaries? One of my siblings is a total judgy meddler and we could never live next door to each other because I'd never hear the end of the fact that I'm pruning my hedges all wrong or whatever.

- What about shared expectations for family time? Will one of you assume that living next door means you're always welcome in each others' homes, spend holidays together, etc, while the other wants more privacy and a more traditional closed-off next door neighbor relationship?

- Probably not a big thing, but I know two people whose credit histories got intermingled because they have very similar names (same ubiquitous surname and first initial), some of their background info is superficially similar, and they lived at the same address for years. Could that happen to yall, and if it did, would it ruin any lives?
posted by Sara C. at 12:42 PM on April 24, 2014

Best answer: This would be a lovely gift to give any children you have or may have in the future.

My sister and I lived together in our 20s and had lots of fun, some fights. I would live next door to her and my brother in a heartbeat.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 12:43 PM on April 24, 2014

Best answer: It's fantastic. Especially once you have kids, and you get the true "it takes a village" feel, and your kids have even more "siblings" to support them.
posted by amaire at 12:46 PM on April 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Do it!!!! I grew up in a house next door to my aunt, uncle and 5 cousins and it was absolutely the best thing ever. I don't know if you have kids, but this was definitely the most amazing part of my childhood. I will tell you what I loved the most:

1. We shared a backyard - they had a pool and a basketball court and we had a swingset and big garage (used for bikes and as a clubhouse). There were always kids around to play with.

2. Most summer nights we had a big family dinner, all 7 of them plus my sister, mom, dad and me. It was great and meant that our parents weren't on the hook for cooking every night.

3. There was always someone around to watch the kids. If my mom had to run out to the store, she didn't have to bring us or leave us home alone. I honestly don't know if any of the 4 of our parents could have gotten through it on their own. When they needed a break, there were always 3 other adults around to pick up the slack.

4. If something broke at either house, like a washer, dryer, shower, or oven, it was super easy to walk next door and use theirs. This was great when we were getting our kitchen remodeled.

5. When we were cooking/baking and realized we were out of something like sugar or eggs, you could just run next door. They kept their old clothes in our attic since they didn't have one, and we just needed one snowblower, lawnmower, hedge trimmers, etc.

The only negative I can think of is that my aunt did not like answering the phone, so when she wouldn't pick up people would try our house and then we'd have to go next door to get her to call the person back. I'm sure texting and cellphones would solve this problem.

I loved how I grew up so much that now I live in an apartment above my mom and grandmother. My aunt and uncle moved to a new house and my mom's boyfriend bought the house next door.

Yay for family compounds - everyone should be doing it!!!
posted by elvissa at 12:49 PM on April 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's not specifically clear from your question, but it's implied that your brother is single.

My biggest concern would be for him and his dating life and his opportunity to get married in the future, because marrying into a family is a big deal, but marrying into the family and then practically moving in with all of them could be a huge deal-breaker for the future Mrs. Brother.

Other than that, if you guys like each other well enough I'd say "why not?" and just make sure you are all really clear on boundaries.

And talk now about your exit strategy while it's unemotional - what if you really are not getting along (or you and your brother are getting along great, but your wife isn't so into it, or what if your mom decides to move in with your brother, and that situation becomes a deal-breaker for you; etc etc etc) - you've got to be clear that you or he may very well decide to sell, and that has to be okay and agreed-upon that it will not cause further resentment and friction.

Huh, just writing that above, I really do think you should have a long talk about your expectations for caring for your parents as they age, because I can see that you might be able to get out of being a de facto babysitter for kids, but maybe not so much when you're talking about your parents.
posted by vignettist at 1:04 PM on April 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

My three siblings all live less than a mile from my parents; I am about 1300 miles away. They like being near each other, but not immediate neighbors. And I am very jealous not to be as close as they are.

We have relative out in Farm Country who live next to each other, but that's probably not comparable to your situation (e.g., they all still farm together).
posted by wenestvedt at 1:05 PM on April 24, 2014

My biggest concern would be for him and his dating life and his opportunity to get married in the future, because marrying into a family is a big deal, but marrying into the family and then practically moving in with all of them could be a huge deal-breaker for the future Mrs. Brother.

Exhibit A.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:07 PM on April 24, 2014

I'd do it in a heartbeat with my sister. Think of the ease of having someone to pet sit, kid sit, etc.

You could join your backyards and put in a putt-putt golf course, or a shared pool, a skate park, a playground, or any other cool think you can think of.

You're not living in the same house, you're not sharing anything. Plus, if you both use the same archetect, builder, contractor, you'll get a significant discount on the construction of both houses because of the economies of scale.

Do it, do it, do it!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:13 PM on April 24, 2014

Response by poster: My brother and I both have children and they all have pretty much 2 year gaps between them (0, 2, 4, 7 & 9). They have a great time when they are together.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:14 PM on April 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Also, our mother would be living with me. This is actually the reason we were demolishing our house to begin with, so that we could make the layout more sensible for our family situation.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:42 PM on April 24, 2014

With that set of children, and your mom living there too, I think it sounds like a fantastic idea! Caveat that only you know if you all get along well enough for it to work.
posted by Joh at 1:49 PM on April 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Not a house, but my brother moved into an apartment right across the hall from me in college. I was living with my then-boyfriend/now-husband and my brother was living with two roommates we had introduced him to. It was awesome, and all of us look back on that time as one of the happiest of our lives. It actually made me closer to my brother, and he and my husband are still close friends as a result of that time. My sister was kinda jealous, I think, and if it were practical for us to live next door again, I'd do it in a heartbeat.
posted by Diagonalize at 3:20 PM on April 24, 2014

I would definitely live next to my partner's brother (we had plans but they suddenly turned into living together which I vetoed because we have done that before and it sucked). I wish I'd campaigned harder to live next door/duplex rather than caving as soon as they pushed for house-sharing. I'd probably live next door to his mother too. I would not live in the same suburb/city as my own siblings or partners.
posted by geek anachronism at 4:09 PM on April 24, 2014

I have two younger brothers and I love them both very much. I don't see a problem with this.
posted by mortimore at 4:18 PM on April 24, 2014

Look at it this way: You already know everything about your brother. You know he's not going to play loud music at all hours; you know he won't keep a vicious dog in his yard that could threaten your kids; you know he's going to be a great neighbor as much as you ever can know about anyone. You're not hoping for the best - you already know you're not getting a nightmare neighbor! There are so many questions here about how to deal with difficult neighbors - people you get thrown together with by chance. I would gladly live next door to my brother or sister. You're lucky to have this opportunity. I say grab it.
posted by Kangaroo at 4:24 PM on April 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I think it sounds pretty great. A whole bunch of my extended family live within a few houses of each other (my aunt and uncle, both of their grown-up children with their spouses and kids, and until they died, my grandparents). They seem to think it's awesome. All except one of the spouses who is a total introvert and spends a lot of time shut in the bathroom because there is always a crowd of kids and aunts and random people in her kitchen and lounge. So I think you should consider how much "on" time you like, and whether you are up for enforcing boundaries.

But I think you would have mentioned it if you were a real introvert, and also if you already have your mother living with you, you have family around all the time already anyhow.

One other thing to consider is how okay your brother is with your mother living next door. You say that you and he get on great, but how does he get on with her? Every child's relationship with their parents is different from the other siblings. If he finds her even a little difficult, that could become a real issue.

The other thing to consider is, depending on your age difference and your childhood, whether you tend to fall into the habit of acting like a parent towards him, or vice versa. If you or he has protective or controlling urges towards the other at all, I can see that becoming a real problem. Like, what if living next door to him you start to think his parenting style is inappropriate? Or what if he realises you aren't being treated very well by your spouse (by his standards)? Or what if one of you is unimpressed at the other's tidiness?
posted by lollusc at 6:22 PM on April 24, 2014

While I, personally love my siblings I'd never do this, but that in no way makes me the norm, most people in the world live really close to their immediate family. There can be a lot of good reasons to do so, especially when there are kids involved. Set good boundaries and have at.
posted by edgeways at 6:54 PM on April 24, 2014

Best answer: I think this can work as long as you and your brother are reasonably good about boundaries and have your own lives. We have neighbors, a Catholic family with five kids, who at first lived in a small house across the street to our south; then bought the bigger brick house across the street to the west (kitty-korner) and rented out the little house; then bought another house to the east of the first house and eventually sold the brick house. At one point there were family members spread across all three houses, but with marriage and kids this generally ran its course. Now it's the mother (widowed), her son (on permanent disability), and a cousin in the third of these houses and the first one rented to strangers.

As far as I know the living arrangements never caused any real drama, and for the most part the folks involved had their own social circles and interests and weren't the type of family to have drop-down drag-out fights over inconsequential stuff.

I think going into this knowing there might be conflicts and having an adult commitment to hashing it out is the way to go.
posted by dhartung at 1:34 PM on April 25, 2014

Response by poster: In case anyone is wondering, the plan got killed because while it may have been doable, we would have been totally broke at the end of it and we don't want to add that kind of stress to our lives.

The answers were all helpful and made me realize that I was overthinking things and would have been happy with the arrangement. Don't know about my brother though :)
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 2:33 PM on May 12, 2014

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