Are you considering the benefits of living in community? Looking to start your own community? Sometimes, it’s as simple as living with someone you already know. Carolyn answers questions about her decision to buy a house with a friend.
Why did you decide to buy a house with a friend?
Cody and I have been together for 9 years, married for two. Jess and I have known each other for 6.5 years – we were in the same graduate fellowship program (Trinity Fellows – contact me for more details!). Jess and Joe have been dating for 4 years, and engaged for 1.5 – getting married in May 2017.
Sometime in 2013, Jess asked me out to lunch and asked me if I wanted to buy a house together. Home ownership was not something I thought was possible at the time – working for a nonprofit, making little money, not a lot of savings, paying loans and bills. But we found out that it was possible, so started looking and found our house and within a month or so were waiting to sign papers. We certainly didn’t have a grand plan at the time – it was more of an economical decision that has turned into a beautiful situation.
How does your community economically sustain itself?
Well, everyone living in the house has a full-time job, or jobs. We have a joint account where part of each paycheck goes, and that pool of money is used for the mortgage, shared bills, structural repairs and upgrades, and any other shared costs we discuss. We share a garden, trade off on maintenance supplies, and share a similar ethos regarding sustainability and upkeep. It also helps that we have many mutual friends, so our gatherings tend to include one another.
Your favorite thing about living communally?
So many things! It’s like the best parts of college (can wake up and walk to your friends’ house/dorm, share meals whenever the mood strikes, built in social network) with the added bonus of shared expenses, and relatively no drama. Whenever there is a project to be done, there are at least four willing and able people who will pitch in. We respect each others’ personal space and time, but pull together when needed.
Any advice for others looking to create a communal home?
Make sure that you have a conversation and understanding about the non-negotiables for each person, as well as what can be compromised. Trust is so important – for budgeting, follow-through, security, and so much more. For example, we share bills, and each pair is responsible for a specific bill – water, internet, property taxes, etc. I trust that each of us will pay those bills on time, and will let the other know when it is due.
I would also recommend finding people who both share a common vision of how to live life (budget, lifestyle, values) and you have experienced that vision through working with them, volunteering with them, or spending time with them. Our community wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t share a common beliefs on important expenses, sustainability, general working hours, etc.
We have a substantial front and backyard garden, which is important for all of us. We compost, recycle, and collect rainwater. Another essential for us in periodic (at least quarterly) house meetings where we bring up ideas, issues, projects, and set goals for the coming months, assigning each person to take the lead on different things. This has been instrumental in accomplishing many, many things.
How do you balance life within the community with life outside?
Well, for better or worse our social and work lives are also intertwined. However, we have our own interests, and are respectful of each others’ time and calendars. If we need a meeting, that is scheduled in advance. We let the other know if we are planning a social gathering or a party. It definitely works that we genuinely enjoy each others’ company and like to spend time together, whether its related to the house or not. It doesn’t feel like a burden to balance work, friends, community. It’s a part of my life.
How does living in community effect your world view?
It affirms and strengthens my world view – community has always been vital to me, and I believe vital to creating a loving, positive world that focuses on similarities rather than differences. It has shown me that communication is key, and challenging, and that understanding where you can’t negotiate helps illuminate areas where you can compromise. It has strengthened who I am as a person in community, as well as challenged me to take stronger stances on what I believe.
Is this a long-term situation for you?
Well, it’s existed for three years – I anticipate that in the next few years we may decide to rent the house or sell it, as we each decide to start families or move into a larger space. I’d love to see future owners continuing to live communally.