With the cost of Toronto real estate, does it make sense to buy a home with another family? Mandy Wintink thinks so.
She, her husband Mike Lovas and their toddler share a four-storey, semi-detached home in Leslieville with another couple, Lindsey White and Bronwyn Whyte, and their own toddler. Both couples were renters previously, before deciding to pool their resources and become homeowners. Wintink and Lovas have the basement and main floor, while White and Whyte have the top two floors.
Of course, it isn’t for everyone.
While it works for Wintink and her housemates – likely because the two couples were friends before and have lived together in the past – Toronto real estate agent Joshua Chisvin says that dual ownership in residential real estate is often better in theory than it is in reality. “In my experience consulting with families looking at this opportunity, I find that the only positive to the situation is short term economic gain, while families are leaving themselves vulnerable to many negative outcomes,” says Chisvin. “Most families look at this situation as a final option when not being able to own a family home themselves, while being unaware of the risk they are putting themselves at.”
When it comes down to it, says Chisvin, your choice shouldn’t be about space. “When you split the purchased home into two, the individual space per family is generally the same size or smaller than the space of two individual condos,” says Chisvin. “Property-wise, the advantage is the yard space.” Yard space, of course, that you’d likely have to share. For the Leslieville couples, it’s no big deal; their boys are the same age and play together and both families often share a BBQ meal outdoors.
In this type of living arrangement, issues can arise with things like repairs and renovations when it comes to who pays for what. “Although the costs are split in half, decision making is often troublesome,” says Chisvin. “This concerns everything from timelines on repairs and renovations and priority order to the quality of materials – all of which can cause rifts between homeowners.”
Wintink and Lovas are currently redoing their kitchen. “There have been some issues; it’s disruptive and we’ve had to discuss who pays certain costs and how to split costs, especially unforeseen ones,” says Wintink. “For example, we also have a plumbing issue that involves their toilet but is affecting our ceiling. There are so many of these things that you can’t plan for.”
Naturally, schedules – in everything from laundry to dinner routines – can also be a source of contention with dual ownership. Wintink says they make it work. For example, when one family is away, that’s when the other has family members visit, who can occupy the other family’s living space. They also have two kitchens, which makes mealtime less chaotic.
But, things like zoning can cause a headache. “The majority of single family homes are zoned as such for a reason,” says Chisvin. “Zoning does not permit dual family housing. This can cause issues with the city and with your insurance.”
Then, there is always the potential of one family deciding they want to sell. “When one family decides to sell due to any number of reasons – home upgrade, space upgrade, financial issues, divorce – the timing may not work for the other family. If a buyout is not possible this can have huge implications for the future. Other sale details such as price, conditions etc. are also much harder to agree on,” says Chisvin.
Neither Leslieville family plans on leaving anytime soon (it’s our “forever home” says Wintink). If families expand, they’ll renovate, she says. She cites the key to their successful dual ownership as open and effective communication. “I would say you need to have tough conversations with the other parties and be able to express yourself openly,” says Wintink. “If there is any kind of suppressing of emotions, it will fester and get ugly. It’s like a marriage.”
The Leslieville crew has a website to help others looking to follow in their footsteps.
Would you ever consider co-habitating or sharing a home with another couple? Let Vv Magazine know in the comments below or tweet us @ViewtheVibe.