My brothers and I are thinking about purchasing a house together. Good idea?
May 14, 2008 10:46 PM   Subscribe

Have any of you (as adults) purchased a communal house to share with your siblings? Any tidbits of information? Wise words of wisdom?

My brothers and I would like to buy a house and convert it into separate living arrangements for each of us, with a communal kitchen and living room area. (3 people total)

We would be doing this mainly because it's more affordable. We all get along and are very close in age.

Naturally, we want to make sure that if we do this, we don't screw up. We're interested in hearing from other siblings who have lived together in adult life.
posted by melodykramer to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Also, this would be in a few years. We're not in the same city, and they're still in school...

Mainly we're just feeling this out, to see if it's something we could do and if others have done it, and if so, what to think about....
posted by melodykramer at 10:51 PM on May 14, 2008

How old are you guys(all of you)? This makes a HUGE together at 22 is WAY different than 35.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:58 PM on May 14, 2008

I bought a house with my mother. In my country, there are two ways to buy with someone else. With your spouse, you're likely to buy as joint tenants, and with non-spousal units, as tenants in common. The joint tenants bit means if one of you dies, the other(s) automatically get ownership, where as with tenants in common.

For the last ten of twenty years, I've wanted to access the money in the asset that is the home my mother lives in. I can't. I can't sell without her permission. She doesn't have enough money to buy me out. I'm stuck. There may be some legal convolutions I could do to evict her and get my money back, but I'm not that kind of person.

So I suggest to you when and if any of you marry or partner up, what's going to happen? Do you move your partner in? Do you keep your share, rent it out to a stranger and wait till your brothers want to sell? Do you sell to them? At market rate even if inflated?

On the other hand, I've lived with my brothers. I did so on and off between the ages of 18 and 21 and it was mostly good, a real learning experience, and heaps of fun. There was some argument about the level of hygene of the house, but I'm a girl so it might have been a gender thing. I'd suggest that you guys try living in a rental property without parental guides and see if it works. Then talk about the ramifications of what if someone wants out of your joint deal. Then see a lawyer.
posted by b33j at 12:12 AM on May 15, 2008

A colleague did this, but on a very large scale (Back in the late 90s, when the Y2K scare was in full effect, he told me his town's disaster readiness plan was "We all go to Mike's house").

I suspect it takes a very special bunch of people to make it work. But if you all get along and enjoy each other's company, it might be a wonderful arrangement.
posted by jbickers at 3:33 AM on May 15, 2008

I've lived with my sister for almost 2 years now, though in rented apartments--we don't own. (FWIW, I'm 25, she's 23.) I love living with her and wouldn't want to live with anyone else, but I think we have an especially close, easy relationship. It helps that her boyfriend (who's over a lot) is equally pleasant and easy to be around. So, I'd say take that into consideration--are any of you in relationships? If so, can you tolerate each other's SOs? If not, how will you deal with new relationships coming and going?

A lot of the things you'll have to consider are the typical roommate things--how will you deal with food, split utility costs, etc.? This may be fairly easy to figure out, but there will be this extra layer over it, which depends on your relationship history with them. Like, even if you decide not to share food, will it be easy to forget because you're accustomed to everything in the family refrigerator being communal? If one sibling is late with utility payments, will there be extra resentment because so and so is always irresponsible?

I think it can totally work out, as long as you think through all the usual stuff about living with roomates.
posted by CiaoMela at 7:13 AM on May 15, 2008

I lived with my "irish twin" older sister for a large chunk of our adult lives (without owning the property). I really liked it. None of the irritation of roommates, but most of the benefits of not living alone. Some people can live with their siblings--some cannot. You know best whether or not your family dynamics will work.

As for joint ownership of property, that's pretty routine, although the financing and sales contracts will be a little more complicated than with an unmarried buyer or a married couple buyer.

Prior to buying, you will want to discuss what you will do when one of you gets married and moves out or gets a great job in a new city and moves out. Will the remaining siblings have the means to buy the leaving sibling out? Will your mortgage company refinance the mortgage with only two borrowers, instead of all three? Will the leaving sibling remain an owner (and on the mortgage) and rent his or her quarters out? Will your shares of the downpayment be even? If not, remember that your responsibilities under a joint mortgage will be and that any one of you can end up responsible for the whole mortgage in case of default.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:18 AM on May 15, 2008

I've lived with my two brothers for over three years, and our sister moved in with us this past fall. Age range is mid-20's to very early 30's. We've only been in apartments. The current place is 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom - and it can feel too small. The four of us get along great, even though we had many issues as teens. We have discussed purchasing a place together, but more along the lines of a 4-unit building. I think we all want more private space (the messes each of leaves in the kitchen, for example, gets hard to deal with; and it would help a lot if we had more than one TV).

As others have said, living with siblings is a great way to get roommate benefits without some of the drawbacks (I can get on sibs' cases to clean something unlike I'd be able to with a roommate). But you need to give some thought to the arrangement of common space to begin with.

Personally, it's been a great experience for me. And I get a kick out of telling people I live with all three of my sibs, because they're so often taken aback. But at this point, I wouldn't want to go so far as to buy a place - it's too permanent, and I don't think any of us are near enough settled.
posted by bibbit at 8:17 AM on May 15, 2008

It can be a real recipe for heartache and resentment if the pie is divided inequally.

This means that you should all try very hard to contribute the same amount to the down payment and then contribute equally to *both* the mortgage payments and a savings/checking account for house maintenance.

A very special kind of group could manage if one person made far more money and chipped in extra. This person usually gets the largest/choicest bedroom. Having seen zero success in friends that have attempted this, I think it's quite possibly a bad idea to rely on one person for a larger amount. YMMV.
posted by terpia at 11:34 AM on May 15, 2008

There are a bunch of answers about the social aspects of this question but I'm curious about the legal aspects(I'm not the original poster). Is there some way to write up a contract or agreement about the house the money part of the situation to avoid the default legal arrangement? Could this be a simple contract or does it have to be some sort of business partnership?

What will you do when one of you wants to move on and would like to sell their part of the house? You talk about physically seperating the living space, what about ownership? Could this be set up legaly as a condo? IANAL so I have no idea.
posted by bdc34 at 12:08 PM on May 15, 2008

We're young, but this would be in like 6 years when we'd be 29, 28, and 24. Ideally, we'd be on separate floors (maybe a brownstone) and convert the first floor into a common area (kitchen, living area.)

I'm honestly not worried about not getting along with them. We're all very similar and lived together for our entire lives up through college. I just feel like living with them would be SO much better than living in a random building with strangers, and I know we're all going to end up in the same city....because every other member of our entire family lives there (within a very small area) and none of us will probably ever leave this city once we settle in it (so we'd want to make sure there was enough room for our respective families...)
posted by melodykramer at 9:41 PM on May 15, 2008

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