July 09, 2016

Advantages of home co-ownership

Advantages of home co-ownership
By The West View

Like most homeowners, my journey toward home ownership started with other people's money – the bank's money, yes, but also two close friends' money. We were going to buy a house together.

Not just any house, but a 100-year-old fixer-upper on a big piece of land. With a porch! Glendale was the perfect match for us: close to downtown, ethnically diverse, large lot sizes for urban agriculture, and access to the hidden gem of the Jordan River.

We removed the asbestos ceilings ourselves, refinished the wood floors, and insulated everything. That summer, the earth felt the plow and we were growing our own food. The clucks of hens could be heard soon after.

Truth be told, we weren't just any homeowners. Not only were we going to co-own the property, but we were going to live in it together too. One single guy and a married couple in a 1200 square foot, 2-bedroom rambler. We would split the mortgage, utilities, everything. Through a “Tenants In Common” contract that we drafted ourselves, we divided the property into private use spaces and common spaces. I had the front living room and bedroom, they had a back bedroom and two living rooms, and we shared the kitchen and bathroom.

Why would you cooperatively own a home and live together with friends? It's simple: to reject capitalism!

Capitalism is a system that profits most when you're isolated from your fellow human beings. Each individual or family has to have their own car, their own fridge, their own cheese grater. You end up spending a lot of money on all those things in your cupboards and closets and garages that you could have shared with others while splitting their costs.

So you end up working more to pay for those items too, meaning less money and less time to spend on things that matter most. In my case, only three years after buying the house together with my friends, I was able to pay off my share of our house's principal entirely, because we had split it three ways. That meant that I had no monthly mortgage or rent payment – leaving me with quite a degree of financial freedom.

Environmentally, co-living makes sense too. Instead of heating a home in the winter for two people in one home, and just myself in another home, it's possible to use a fraction of the energy by living together.

Because living sustainably was important to us, we made improvements like installing a tank-less water heater, building a sunroom for passive solar heating, and mounting a photovoltaic solar array to the roof for generating all of our electricity.

In the end, I offered to buy out my friends because they had started a family, and the space was beginning to feel cramped with two new children. Nevertheless, we still had a successful seven years of co-ownership. Like any relationship, it required constant communication and hard work. But many hands make meaningful work, and fond memories.