Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“He Wants Us To Move Into His Dead Grandmother’s House, But I Hate It!”

home with heart

My significant other’s grandmother has passed and her home has been left to the family. “Chris” and I are currently house hunting and he would like to move into her house. I do not like the location of the house — it is too close to the road, I don’t like the house’s style, I really don’t like anything about it. It is full of Chris’ grandmother’s things and is a painful reminder of her; I adored her just as I adore my own grandparents.

The house positives are: It is close to Chris’ family’s home, is almost completely paid for, and has a beautiful back yard and lots of land.

I am going to be finishing my degree soon and transferring to another school to continue my education. This school is just under two hours away from the grandmother’s house. It is also over an hour away from our closest friends.

He really wants to move there and I am unsure how to start a conversation with him. I don’t want to hurt his feelings. But this is my home too! — Not Into That House

It’s a little troubling that you are house-hunting with your partner and don’t know how to communicate that you don’t like a particular house. It makes me wonder if there any other important things you haven’t yet done or discussed or agreed on before deciding to move in together/get a house together. Beyond your not liking the house or its location, have you discussed the legal and financial aspects of buying/moving into this house? You say it was left “to the family.” How many family members was it left to? What is Chris’ legal ownership of it? Is he proposing you buy out the rest of the family who also have ownership of it? Is he proposing paying them rent? Would the rest of he family be ok with this? What about the stuff inside the house that you say is a painful reminder of Chris’ grandmother? Is he suggesting that everything just stay put and you move in as-is? What does the rest of the family think about you and Chris keeping everything in your possession? What if something breaks while in your possession? Has everything been appraised so you know what you would owe to the estate if you break or damage or destroy an item that belongs to the estate?

It seems that if these issues haven’t even been acknowledged, let alone resolved, you can easily incorporate them in your argument for why this house isn’t a good fit for you (beyond your simply not like it and not wanting to live there, which, of course, is argument enough!).

So, if I were in your shoes, I’d wait until you and Chris can be alone together and say something like this:

“I know you are very interested in moving into your grandmother’s house, and, even though the timing coincides with our house-hunting, I’m feeling very anxious about this idea. First and foremost, I know how important your grandmother was to you and your family. I loved her like my own grandmother, too, and I would never want you to think that my feelings about her house reflect my feelings about her. I was crazy about her. But I am not crazy about her house. I don’t like the style or the location. I think that, rather than providing a happy memory of your grandmother, it would feel painful living in her home and among her things. I am worried about being so far from my school next year and far from our friends. And while I love the back yard and the idea of being closer to your family, I would prefer finding a house that better meets our mutual checklist and that we can have ownership of without needing to negotiate with family members, which could potentially create tension if everyone isn’t in agreement. But the most important thing to me in all of this is that we are in agreement — this is a huge step forward for us and I want it to feel right, and moving into your grandmother’s house doesn’t. It doesn’t feel right for me, and I want us to keep looking until we find something that feels right for us both.”

If he has a problem with that and can’t appreciate why you wouldn’t be excited about moving into a house that the rest of his family owns, that is full of his dead grandmother’s stuff, and that is two hours from where you’ll be going to school, then maybe this isn’t the right time to be house-hunting together. And if Chris is still grieving too much to think about this rationally and fairly, I suggest tabling the house-hunt until there’s more emotional distance from the loss of his grandmother.

Good luck.

***************

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

12 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Brise August 18, 2016, 9:44 am

    Perhaps it could be a convenient week-end or vacation house for you both, and for his siblings/cousins? It would make it alive, be a meeting point for the family, without your having to delocalise and arrive far away of what you really want.

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  • call-me-hobo

    call-me-hobo August 18, 2016, 11:12 am

    If you do decide to buy said house, please let Chris know that everyone will feel like their opinion of house/renovations matter. Especially if it was his parents/aunts/uncles’ childhood home. Want to replace the old grungy mantle? We hung Christmas stockings on that for 3 generations, you can’t take it down! It’s hard to own property that everyone feels ownership over. It could cause friction within the family.

    Would he have to pay out inheritance/shares to anybody willed in Grandma’s estate? Sometimes with family payouts AND the cost of repairs/renovations it doesn’t make financial sense to buy it even if it IS almost paid off. (Also- OP, I live in a house that’s 50+ years old. Believe me, if it’s an older home there’s almost ALWAYS a shit ton of work/problems to fix).

    I think that Wendy has a good point about waiting until the grief is a little less fresh to continue house hunting. You both need to feel equally comfortable with the home you purchase.

    I think another avenue to explore would be purchasing the home and using it as a rental property/additional income. That way the property is still in the family, and an option after grad school/settling down way in the future.

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  • avatar

    Cheesecaker2911 August 18, 2016, 11:24 am

    My brother in law bought his grandma’s house for his growing family after she passed away because my MIL and her brother just wanted to sell it fast, so it was super cheap. And as Call-Me-Hobo says, every time a change was made, you can bet my MIL had something to say about it. Every time she visits and notices something new or different, my husband and I have to hear her complain the whole way home, even it it’s just something as simple as a new accent wall paint color, or the chain-link fence they replaced around the front. She actually complained when my BIL replaced the 60 year old pipes, because “the water pressure wasn’t THAT bad”. (It was).

    Now fast forward 6 years, they have two more kids, and that tiny cheap house needs to be added on, but BIL is afraid to do so because of the reaction my MIL might have. It’s frustrating to watch, but I’m glad I’m not the one in that position. Even though I’d be more prone to doing what I wanted and ignoring the family pressure.

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  • avatar

    Andrea G August 18, 2016, 11:46 am

    You may not even have to worry about having a conversation about the house. You say it was left to the family meaning several relatives have a share in the home. They may not want to just give up their piece and hand over the deed to your boyfriend and have him own it and pay off the rest. They may want to to sell the home in order to collect their share. In this case it wouldn’t be “mostly paid off” your boyfriend would need to purchase the entirety of the house. When my grandmother passed she left her home to me and 2 of my cousins. We chose to sell the home and split the money 3 ways.

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  • avatar

    LisforLeslie August 18, 2016, 11:51 am

    Call-me-hobo & CC are spot on; that place will always be “Grandma’s house” and everyone will have an opinion on any work done. Older homes have small, closed rooms, they have worn carpeting or floors, leaky pipes, out of code electric. There is SO MUCH TO DO. Which is fine – if you like doing it, have the time or money to do it and don’t get constant chatter about what you can or can’t do in your own home from people who don’t live there.

    I say put your foot down. You’re not taking into consideration all of the hidden costs and your not communicating.

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  • mrmidtwenties

    mrmidtwenties August 18, 2016, 1:44 pm

    I like everyone’s advice but to me the letter doesn’t contain enough detail on the situation. If the market is anything like where I live, if you can get a freestanding house under market value, you take it and deal with some of the consequences later. But there are so many unknowns in this letter, like the market, whether the other family members would sell their portions, what his family is like and how comfortable they would be with modifications, would the LW have ownership in the home or would it be in his name.

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  • avatar

    dinoceros August 18, 2016, 3:24 pm

    I think if you do decide to live there, there needs to be very thorough discussion of the future. Do you intend to live there indefinitely? Do you plan to move to a different house later? If so, is the intention to do so before starting a family or once you have the financial footing to have something nicer or what? I think this is one of those situations that could easily turn into one of those letters Wendy gets where one partner is saying that they thought they’d move after a couple of year’s, but their partner wants to stay.

    To me, the most compelling reason here not to is the commute. On paper, certain commutes might sound fine, but they are often anything but in person. I have a co-worker who took her current job knowing she’d have an hour commute and saying it’s fine, but is leaving her job a year later because of the inconvenience and cost (tons of gas, oil change and tire rotation money).

    Aside from the commute, I can see how this might be a good starter home. But you’d need to be very clear, like I said, to make sure everyone — you, him, and his family — understands the timeline for the future. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want to have a house (at some point, at least) that you’ve chosen. Obviously, there are financial reasons to own a house, but one of the big reasons people own homes is that they get to make it their own and have a say in where they are located, etc.

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  • bittergaymark

    bittergaymark August 18, 2016, 9:29 pm

    Eh, it amazes me how many people seemingly bitch about living in what I assume is a MORTGAGE FREE house…

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    • avatar

      dinoceros August 19, 2016, 10:20 am

      Mortgage-free becomes less great if you have a two-hour commute.

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  • avatar

    Gwyneth6 August 18, 2016, 11:20 pm

    Way too far of a commute. I’d be put out to be asked such an imposition on my daily life. Unless there’s a great commuting train maybe. Since you don’t like it, can u do renovations ? Better ask that Before deciding, that is if the location’s not already the deal breaker

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  • avatar

    Gwyneth6 August 18, 2016, 11:24 pm

    Honestly I’d consider it a bad sign (maybe just that he’s inconsiderate due to immaturity) that he really wants to move there despite it being 2 hours from your school for the next two years. Hope the talk goes well

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom August 19, 2016, 6:32 am

    If the house is almost paid for who owns it? Will the family sign it over to Chris? If your boyfriends name isn’t on the title don’t start making house payments on a house you don’t and won’t own. Don’t make payments on a house you will half own or a quarter own, at least not more than the part that would be your share. If he would own 1/4 of the home the two of you shouldn’t pay more than 1/4 of the mortgage. Don’t let his family get the two of you to make the payments for them but they continue to own the home.

    The same goes for remodeling. You shouldn’t be paying for remoding unless you own the house.

    I think it would help to discuss what you need your home to do for you, including being a comfortable commute and what Chris needs it to do for him and then exclude any home that doesn’t meet the needs of both of you. When buying anything my husband and I always eliminate anything that either of us doesn’t like. Neither of us ever tries to talk the other into something they don’t like. There are so many options to choose from there is no need to try to force someone to like something that they don’t. It is also disrespectful.

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