Dating as a homeowner
January 20, 2021 12:24 AM   Subscribe

I have enough income and funds to buy a small condo in a face-meltingtly expensive area. But I'm single. How does owning a recently-purchased home affect dating?

The original life plan, of course, was to buy a decently-sized place on two incomes as a married couple. But I cannot will it to be that way, I have no prospects right now, and it doesn't make much financial sense to keep renting on the off-chance I meet a theoretical partner when COVID-19 is eradicated.

So I think I will buy a very small condo on one income.

The financial incentives to buy are extremely strong, as rents and home values skyrocket above inflation every year, and the area's main industries are bomb-proof. Take it as given that rents will never fall.

Every year I wait increases the likelihood I will be shut out of home ownership there forever. And once I buy, I'm settling down -- I cannot promise a partner that I will drop everything or move to follow them to keep a relationship going, and I have to consider strange awkwardness like cohabitating and having to play landlord to a girlfriend.

What kind of experiences have you had, dating as a homeowner? Does it hurt your prospects at all?
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College to Human Relations (32 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'd try to buy something that you could then rent out if you end up falling for someone with their own home.
posted by slidell at 1:19 AM on January 20, 2021 [24 favorites]

I wouldn't think it's an issue. In most places, you can rent out a property and more or less break even on the mortgage.

I was single and living in my own home I bought, and when I met my wife she was also single and living in her own home she bought. Late 30s, that's why we already ended up buying our own homes. We rented out both our homes, which generated enough income to apply for a mortgage to build a new home for both of us to move into.

That's generally how property investors end up with 6-7 properties, they buy a home, rent it out, and use the rental income stream to apply for a new mortgage for a new home.
posted by xdvesper at 1:33 AM on January 20, 2021 [8 favorites]

My experience dating in the UK was that this was seen as a *major* positive - enough that I've thought about doing it for that reason alone despite thinking it would be a bad investment.
posted by wattle at 3:08 AM on January 20, 2021 [7 favorites]

If you're in a properly busy property market, you *will* be able to sell if you want/need to, on about the same time scale as getting out from under a year-long lease. Yes, there will be transaction costs, but again depending on the market these might not be as bad as you would think (often the default calculations assume much higher realtor fees than are currently common in places with hot property markets and higher mortgage origination fees than are currently common for people with excellent credit).

One thing you should consider, if you think you're likely to stay in your home less than say five years, is sort of trading off long-term costs (like a slightly higher interest rate) for a lower short-term cost (like lower mortgage origination fees). Like, I refinanced my mortgage back in the fall, and I had a lower-interest option with slightly higher fees, and a very slightly higher interest rate with no fees (actually a credit, I think). The lower-interest option would save me money compared to the higher-interest option starting in year six or seven, but there's a decent chance I won't stay in my house that long for various personal reasons, so I decided to take the immediate savings.

Finally make sure you learn as much about your local property market as you can. Some types of properties (often condos, especially) don't appreciate much and won't really help you accumulate equity/wealth (the exact type that falls into this category is very regional). Pay attention to how much of your monthly payment actually goes to equity vs. interest/condo fees/taxes/insurance. Trading in a $2000 rent payment for a $2200 condo payment, of which only ~$200 is going to equity for the first several years is a big risk for not much reward.

I would say probably half the people I know in the area where I suspect you live based on your past questions owned property while dating, and they all lived to tell the tale. Homeownership always involves risk but it often has benefits (psychological and financial) as well.
posted by mskyle at 3:38 AM on January 20, 2021 [8 favorites]

I bought a house in exactly your situation. Then I moved interstate for work and rented it out. Then I was dating the man who became my husband. He owned his own home, which he was also renting out. We eventually sold both places and bought the house we live in now together.

Owning property is rarely a bad thing. It generally goes up in value, given enough time, and if circumstances change you can always sell it. And yes, as wattle says, it’s a major positive with dating - enough that I’ve heard men in my very overpriced real estate city complain that potential partners aren’t interested in dating anyone who doesn’t own their own home!
posted by Jubey at 3:39 AM on January 20, 2021 [6 favorites]

I know several people who dated as homeowners; it doesn’t seem to have made much difference. One of them even moved out of state after the woman he was dating got her Ph.D. (They eventually got married.) It’s something that complicates potential relationships, but not so much that it should dissuade you from doing it if it otherwise makes sense for you.

A couple of the comments suggested renting your place out if you move in with a partner. Not bad advice, but make sure the HOA allows it before you buy. Not all HOAs do. The worst outcome would be if you go in planning to do this, only to find out after your tenant has signed a lease that the HOA isn’t on board. Same if you Airbnb it. HOAs are kind of famous for onerous restrictions, so if you go the condo route, make sure you can actually do what you’re planning.
posted by kevinbelt at 4:25 AM on January 20, 2021 [6 favorites]

It's always better to do things for ourselves now rather than putting the things we want to do off because of some imagined stranger in our future. There are all kinds of things that happen to us that make dating harder. Home ownership may make dating slightly more complicated, but it's never going to be a deal breaker to the majority of people that you date. At best, it's positive because it telegraphs stability; at worst, it will be a bit of a nuisance to figure out how to deal with it when you are ready to cohabitate. Remember also that relationships have whatever rules we make for them, and if you decide to live with someone in the future you do not necessarily have to be their landlord even if you own the home you are both living in.
posted by k8lin at 5:11 AM on January 20, 2021 [40 favorites]

Look out for people who will see your ownership as a possible ticket to living rent-free. I say this after reading "Am I the Asshole" assiduously throughout the pandemic.
posted by zadcat at 5:42 AM on January 20, 2021 [26 favorites]

Owning your home makes you a more desirable partner. It signals financial stability, which is a positive quality.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 5:45 AM on January 20, 2021 [8 favorites]

The more I live my life for myself and who I am right more, rather than who I hope to be, the more my life supports my happiness and ability to live a fulfilling life. Trust that you and the right person will find a good way through this together (and if it becomes a source of conflict, that’s a sign that they’re not the right partner for you, not that you made a bad choice now.)
posted by spindrifter at 6:17 AM on January 20, 2021 [12 favorites]

I was in the same boat 6 years ago, living in a city where rents were going to go up (I couldn't afford to rent in my neighborhood now). I bought in a pretty bulletproof neighborhood (protecting my investment by choosing smartly was important to me) and I've been really happy. People are generally impressed that I can afford to live here for whatever that's worth, and I've had no trouble dating. It really cemented that I was living my life for me, that I wasn't waiting, and it gave me a place to really, really call my own and live my life. 10/10 would do again. I'm in a serious relationship now and we're probably going to buy together in a year to 18 months, but I will never regret having bought this place, and I will make some money when I sell.

If your area is as you say, and your investment will be sound, then invest in yourself and make a home for yourself. I don't think you will regret it.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:27 AM on January 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

I think the reaction of your potential partners depends on your gender, but overall you're going to increase your dateability, not decrease it. Especially if you're in a city with a hot real estate market.

If you're a cis man dating cis women you might find a number of ladies will only date men with their own place that they own. its gross, and I don't condone it, but I know women who think this way. I also dated recently enough to know that a fair number of dudes put "I own my own home" front and centre on their dating profiles... Admittedly I'm in my country's biggest city and real estate is extremely insane.
posted by dazedandconfused at 6:36 AM on January 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

I owned a condo when I met my now-wife, who lived across the country from me. She owned her own house. It ended up being a positive on both ends, because I moved in with her on a trial basis and put my condo up on AirBnB for a couple months, and she didn't need to charge me rent, and when we decided to make it a permanent thing, I rented my condo long-term and signed a lease with her. When we moved, I sold the condo and we bought this place together. (I got lucky with market timing all the way around, to be perfectly honest, but it sounds like you won't need to.)
posted by restless_nomad at 7:00 AM on January 20, 2021

Joining the chorus of "this isn't going to be a problem." If anything, one of the more annoying parts of dating in a high rent, high purchase price environment is that everyone has to move every damn year, so you start off dating someone who lives a delightful 4 blocks away, and then next year they're living two buses and a walk from you.

Neither thing is a dealbreaker if you really like each other, of course, but there's a pleasant certainty in knowing that at least one of you is going to more or less stay put.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 7:01 AM on January 20, 2021 [5 favorites]

Owning a condo isn't like having a child from a a previous relationship, in terms of either the logistics or the emotional gravity (or frankly, stigma in the world of dating). If you need to move with a partner for some reason, you can rent the condo out. Assuming you are willing to be flexible in the future, and your imagined future doesn't have a lot of "shoulds" or "musts" in it. If you want to build a future with someone you really love, you may have to adapt the vision of an ideal future that you have right now, as a single person, for your ideal future, in order to include this hypothetical person. It could mean it takes you longer to pay for the condo, or you lose some passive income because you're paying a property management company, or you have awkward conversations about sharing expenses. A standard "price of admission" sort of thing.

I would also highly recommend that you don't think of it as "playing landlord" to your girlfriend, but making an agreement with a partner you cohabit with about how you will manage shared expenses. I would probably avoid dating someone who conceptualized the relationship that way, although I would not avoid homeowners categorically.

I will also say, however, that a friend is in a difficult situation right now, because he wants to break up with his common-law partner, but thinks he may lose the condo he owns. He is concerned that if they break up she will be legally entitled, in our jurisdiction, to half of his assets. At face value, this seems correct, although IANAL. I think he wishes he had signed a cohabitation agreement with her in the first place to protect his investment. Your own moral and ethical orientation is important here, however, since many people see legislation about asset sharing as a way of protecting the partner with the lower income during a relationship. In my friend's case, his partner has a significantly higher income than he does, and he can't afford to buy her out of her half of the condo.

I think ultimately, life will go on. As I get older, I see more and more the mixed results that purchasing property seems to produce for the people who do it. My friend is a successful young professional with some means. He will have a roof over his head and food to eat and people who care about him, regardless. It won't be his ideal future if he loses the condo, but it's also not like losing a child or being diagnosed with a terminal illness. On some level I think he understands that no one is entitled to have their real estate purchase guarantee wealth or security with zero risk. It's not a ticket to class mobility in the way it's sometimes sold to us as a concept.
posted by unstrungharp at 7:03 AM on January 20, 2021 [4 favorites]

So I dated owning an entire house that I had bought out from my ex-partner. The idea that it would have been an problem is entirely foreign to me.
posted by Kurichina at 7:04 AM on January 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

(Oh, on the landlord side - yeah, have lease paperwork, make it all official. Signed, someone who watched way too many queer couples with no legal protections have messy-as-fuck breakups.)
posted by restless_nomad at 7:07 AM on January 20, 2021 [6 favorites]

In my experience, dating as a homeowner in an expensive real estate market (and as a cishet woman) only hurt my prospects when it came to dating a younger man who was not financially well-established or stable. He was somewhat threatened by it all, and felt emasculated that I could afford things for myself that he couldn't afford to give to me.

When I started dating my current partner, also a homeowner, it was mutually appreciated. He felt reassured that I was, at least on some level, a responsible adult with a good credit score, and I felt the same about him. In terms of practicality, it is impossible in this city to buy a home of any size exceeding that of a shoebox, unless you have help from wealthy parents, or two people combine equity from the sale of their respective shoeboxes. As unromantic as that sounds, it was nice to know that we could join forces and imagine a future with some more square footage.

If one or both of us was renting, I think there would've been more financial pressure to move in together, maybe sooner than we would've chosen to otherwise. As homeowners, we didn't feel so rushed to make that decision. Even though we spent most of our time together, and we each could've pocketed more liquid cash savings by sharing one residence, we were still building equity in both our properties month by month, and we had the option to rent one out too if we'd needed more cash. When it came time for my partner to sell his condo and move in with me in mine, the only awkwardness was deciding how much "rent" to charge him and whether we should have a cohabitation agreement drawn up to protect my asset.

Overall, owning my home has been a big plus for dating, both in terms of weeding out insecure dudes, and having that financial foundation to build on with a partner.

unstrungharp, your friend should really take a closer look at the local laws governing cohabitation or consult with a lawyer. That doesn't sound right to me. In our jurisdiction, a common law partner would only be entitled to a half of the appreciated value of the property since CL status was attained, not half of the entire market value of the property. They'd also share any property that accrued during the course of their relationship (but again, not property brought into the relationship).
posted by keep it under cover at 9:07 AM on January 20, 2021 [6 favorites]

I recently moved in with a partner who owned a house. I did not own property when we met - I rented an apartment. I'm a cishet female, he's cishet male.

I thought about buying property a few times when I was single and had some reservations about it for a number of reasons - fear of the debt, hesitancy to give up my lifestyle a bit to amass a down payment, buying too high etc - but I can't deny that there were some dumb, sexist reasons holding me back too. Looking back, I sincerely wish I had done it. It would have been nothing but a positive for me and my partner now - more assets/net worth once you are coupled up and building a life with someone is nothing but good for your long term finances assuming you do it responsibly, and while I bring solid earnings into our life, he has a nice nest egg wrapped up in this house that has gained passively over the years. Whether or not I found him, I see now what that has done for him, and am sad I didn't get a jump on it earlier. We could have figured out the practicals, no problem.

More so, I think it would be a great way to quickly identify exactly the type of dudes I dated that were wrong for me - namely, men who were subtly jealous of my successes and needed to feel more powerful in relation to me to affirm their own concept of manhood. Mind you, none of these men ever conceived of supporting me as a sole bread winner either. Not sure I would have made a single different decision, but I do wonder if it would have weeded out those losers faster.
posted by amycup at 10:00 AM on January 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

In general if I were dating these days I would see house ownership as a neutral or weak positive, assuming the person wasn't financially irresponsible in buying a house that's wildly unaffordable for them. Though not any more positive than someone who's been saving up an equivalent amount for a downpayment.

What would make me hesitate a little is this: And once I buy, I'm settling down -- I cannot promise a partner that I will drop everything or move to follow them to keep a relationship going, and I have to consider strange awkwardness like cohabitating and having to play landlord to a girlfriend.

If this means you wouldn't consider selling the "very small" condo to move into a new place with a partner, I would be very surprised and taken aback (it easily could even be a dealbreaker). It's also very unclear why you think cohabiting would be "strange awkwardness" or "playing landlord". Maybe I'm reading too much into the phrasing but it seems like a strange attitude to have about a very normal thing for relationships. My partner owns our home and while we did have to sit down and work out what would be fair for my contributions to mortgage/bills/maintenance when I moved in, it was pretty straightforward and hasn't been an issue since then.
posted by randomnity at 11:33 AM on January 20, 2021 [4 favorites]

I'm not sure of your age, but I definitely encourage you to go ahead and buy a condo if that's what you want to do. And I definitely don't think it's a great idea to hold off on a major life decision because of a possible future partnership. Being a homeowner could be seen as a real positive -- it might indicate you're financially stable and secure, to some possible partners. And I don't see that being a landlord to a girlfriend would somehow be more financially complex than buying a home with a girlfriend (if you're talking about moving in together in a home one of you owns), and likely not all that different than being on the same lease as tenants. You still need to muddle through figuring out what's fair and such for each of you.

It seems like you've associated a few different things: being in a serious relationship, settling down, and home ownership. These things can come separately too. And owning a condo doesn't really preclude moving, not if you find the right relationship and want to move. So I say go ahead and buy a place, and keep open the possibility that at some point you might change your mind about what you want, and you don't have to make all these decisions together.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:27 PM on January 20, 2021

This was me when I met my now husband. I owned a condo; he rented. When he moved in, I did not charge him rent, but he picked up the bills. we had a specific agreement that he had no stakes in the ownership of my condo. Later, when we married and i sold it at a significant profit, I used a portion of that towards the full down payment for our home together, and we agreed that in the event of divorce, we would account for that in the division of property.
posted by BlueBear at 1:40 PM on January 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

My husband was impressed I had my act together.
I’m glad I ditched the “plan” and lived with the flow of my life. Rather than wait for some guy.
(And if you want cats get them too! My husband is also an animal lover, so it was green flags on both sides.)
posted by St. Peepsburg at 4:22 PM on January 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

This seems like something that wouldn't necessarily have to come up early in a relationship (someone might assume that you're renting, but the subject might not even come up if you don't bring it up.) When you're more serious, you can figure out the next step, which might mean moving somewhere else together.
posted by pinochiette at 4:25 PM on January 20, 2021

Yes, I think the stance of "I'm settling down here" might be the only real hindrance, especially since you describe your prospects for home ownership as being limited to a very small condo. But I think even that depends. All couples don't wish to cohabitate. You would have similarly "awkward" conversations even if you were both were renting if you chose to give up your rentals and move to the same place.

I didn't own until after I got married but only one of the people I know moved his now-wife into the house he already owned (everyone else I know ended up selling and re-buying as a couple) but the only drama I've heard about there was that she hates the house and would like to move, but can't contribute enough for him to want to.
posted by sm1tten at 4:29 PM on January 20, 2021

I am not dating and will not until the kids do so ymmv but I find that talking about the property creates interest.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 5:20 PM on January 20, 2021

I'm currently dating a homeowner and moved into his place a little quicker than I would have otherwise for COVID reasons. Agree with the consensus that the fact he owned a home was not at all a deterrent to us dating - the idea wouldn't have occurred to me, to be honest. Definitely do not delay your plans based on some future hypothetical partner.

That said... while I'll repeat that I don't think it will hurt your dating prospects at all (and could well help), I do think the points you bring up are relevant from a long-term planning perspective. My partner bought this place a few years ago on a single income, and the choice of where to live with two incomes in play is obviously a different decision. But because he already owns the place this is where we'll stay - it has definitely limited our flexibility. On the other hand it has forced us to live below our means, which is great!

I only bring this up because, if your ideal long-term plan is to own a larger place with a partner and the only reason you want to buy now is financial, it might be worth digging a little to make sure you're right that buying a small condo is absolutely better than renting. We tend to get a lot of external messages that "renting is throwing money away" and that rising home prices will go on forever (and will compensate for taxes and insurance and maintenance and opportunity cost), but that often isn't true when you do the math, even in hot markets. I live in DC (the ultimate bomb-proof company town, and also face-meltingly expensive) and have been casually looking at real estate, but when I look closely at any property where I'd actually like to live I find that it'll probably be a financial wash compared to renting, with considerably more work and risk. There are plenty of lifestyle reasons to want to own a home, but the financial argument is often a bit more dubious. At the very least, spend a bit of time with the NYT rent vs buy calculator and input some realistic/conservative assumptions to make sure your calculus is on point.
posted by exutima at 7:20 PM on January 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

I am a single cishet female and I have owned my own home since 2014. I'm actually on my second house now. I bought my first house with 5% down, super cheap in 2014 in Western NY. I made good money selling that house last year. It sold for like $60k over what I paid for it. I turned that money over and was able to put a 20% down payment on a (very small) house on Long Island, with a mortgage payment significantly lower than rent. As long as the housing market doesn't crash, I will make money when I sell this house too. Owning a home is an investment at the end of the day.

That being said, I never really thought about being a homeowner having an impact on dating until I moved to LI. In WNY, my house was so cheap, it would be stupid to not own. Now where I live, home ownership is more impressive / intimidating. My hope is that the people I date when this lousy pandemic is over will appreciate my financial stability, but I think there will be some guys intimidated by my independence.
posted by DEiBnL13 at 7:53 PM on January 20, 2021

1. Living your life to accommodate someone who isn’t there yet is a silly idea.

2. When you do meet that someone, you can always readjust. You sell, they sell, one of you moves in with the other, you both buy a new place, etc., etc. This is not a problem.

3. Dating as a homeowner is a definite upgrade. You have your shit together, and that’s clear to others.

4. Once you have made that upgrade, you will find a bit of hesitancy dating those who haven’t. Dating someone who doesn’t have their own place (or worse still — living with their parents) seems like a real step back. They may have really good reasons for not owning, but... yeah.

Go for it.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:07 PM on January 20, 2021

Instead of buying something super small, you could consider buying a 2 BR and renting out the second bedroom. If / when you meet someone, that might give you more options (such as having your partner move in when the roommate moves out). Also, I find that 2 BRs tend to be better deals and more common, but your market may be different.
posted by slidell at 1:37 AM on January 21, 2021

My spouse and I were both homeowners when we met, and both sold our condos. I do regret not renting out my condo as I didn't live in it very long, so there was not much appreciation. If I had held on to it a few more years, there would've been a lot more in the pot. So yeah, I'd try to buy something that you can rent easily. I dated both homeowners and renters when I was single and if I’m honest with myself, homeowners did seem to provide a sense of greater financial stability…though I know this — in reality — is certainly not the often the case at all.
posted by Lescha at 9:45 AM on January 21, 2021

Well this would usually be seen as a positive for dating.

And once I buy, I'm settling down -- I cannot promise a partner that I will drop everything or move to follow them to keep a relationship going, and I have to consider strange awkwardness like cohabitating and having to play landlord to a girlfriend.

It seems like you are saying you would be unwilling to consider moving, and aren't interesting in having someone move in with you. Some people will definitely be put off by this and find it a dealbreaker.
posted by yohko at 5:14 PM on January 29, 2021

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