Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“Will Buying a House Hurt My Relationship?”

I’m 26 and I’ve been dating my 32-year-old boyfriend for almost seven months and it’s been going great. We are secure and stable and talk about future plans (i.e. summer travel plans). My current lease is up at the end of the summer and it has been my dream for the last couple of years to buy a house. I’m in a financial position where this can be achieved. I’m concerned, however, that the long-term financial obligation of buying a house will keep me and my boyfriend from taking our relationship to the next level anytime in the next few years. He already owns his own house and has plans of renovating it and staying there a very long time. I’m nervous to discuss my plan with him because I don’t want to completely freak him out by the idea of moving-in together or for him to think that I’m fishing for the “right” answer. Part of me wants to own my own home and yet part of me wants to keep my options more flexible in the event that we would like to live together in the relatively near future. Is buying a home going to potentially hurt my relationship or am I simply freaking out? — Being a Grownup is Overrated


By all means, discuss with your boyfriend your theoretical plan to buy a house, if only because after seven months together, it’s appropriate to discuss your dreams with each other, especially if those dreams might affect one another long-term. What you want to be careful not to do, however, is make the conversation too serious or to push your relationship harder than it’s ready to be pushed. If, in your mind, making plans for the future means discussing where you want to travel this summer, that’s totally fine. But it also means you probably aren’t quite ready to discuss where you’re going to raise your babies one day. So, keep that mind when you tell him, “Hey, my lease is up at the end of the summer, and for the last couple of years, I’ve been toying with the idea of buying a home of my own. I know we aren’t in a place yet to discuss living together, but I feel like that’s a direction we might be slowly moving toward eventually and since you’re a home owner yourself, I’m curious what your thoughts or advice on the subject might be.”

There’s no reason buying or thinking about buying a home should hurt your relationship. It may bring up some issues that you perhaps wouldn’t be discussing so soon, but that’s not a bad thing. It can actually be quite a good thing. And it’s important to remember that as big of a responsibility as home ownership is, it doesn’t have to mean you’re totally tied down. If you buy a house and decide six months later you want to live with your boyfriend, you can always rent out your house (or he can rent out his), or you can be totally luxurious and live in both homes until it makes more sense to make one the primary residence. My point is, you’ll have plenty of options, and I would hope that at 32 years old and after seven months with you, your boyfriend would be mature enough to discuss some of those options — specifically, in regards to your relationship — without getting too freaked out. If he can’t, that might be a good sign that perhaps this isn’t a relationship that’s stable enough to think long-term just yet and you’d be wise to make future plans that have the best interest of you as an individual at heart, rather you as a part of a packaged deal.

*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at [email protected].

20 comments… add one
  • avatar

    ArtsyGirl March 7, 2011, 9:20 am

    LW – Good for you for saving enough to purchase a house on your own! It is a huge step and obviously shows you have been able to save for your dreams. I am going to give one word of caution. I have a friend who purchased a house in her late 20s. Now five years later she is planning on marrying a guy who lives out of state and needs to sell it. She purchased the house because she really wanted to plant roots and get the investment a house represents – but her life has changed drastically (as has the market) and it is a bit of a regret. If you are sure you want to stay in the place you are now and have looked closely into the market to make sure you can get a great deal then go for it, but if there is any question about where you will be in a few years then maybe hold off and invest the money in stocks and bonds until your future is mapped out.

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    • avatar

      evanscr05 March 7, 2011, 10:25 am

      I agree. A girlfriend of mine bought a house about 3 years ago. Not long into being a new home owner, she met and fell in love with her now-husband. She’s lived in the same city her entire life (aside from college, and even then she went home almost every weekend), is still incredibly close with a lot of friends from middle and high school who still live there, and VERY close with her large family (who are also in the area). Her husband is in the Navy and has been reassigned to Hawaii. She never expected to fall in love with someone that would force her entire life to be uprooted. She’s had to deal with the incredible pressure of figuring out what to with her house (among other major things) when she’s upside-down on her mortgage, because of the recession, and has had to give up her job for a while until she’s able to start looking for one several months after she gets out there (there are reasons she cannot work right away). She bought it when she was single, finally at a place in her life to take on major responsibilities, and had every intention of staying in the area for many, many years.

      Life throws you curveballs, so it’s never a bad idea to consider what-ifs. Considering the LW is in a relationship that is looking to the future, it’s most definitely a good idea to have this discussion. Don’t put your goals on hold because of someone else’s potential plans, but don’t ignore your goals, either, because of someone else.

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    • avatar

      jena March 8, 2011, 12:18 pm

      Agreed. I just got tossed out of a house by a landlord who’s daughter bought the house 2 years ago, then got a job and moved to LA, and no longer could afford the mortgage payments.

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    • avatar

      SpaceySteph March 8, 2011, 2:47 pm

      I agree with the above posters… to an extent. I have experienced both sides:

      I contracted to buy a new build a year ago, and 2 months later met my current boyfriend. I moved into it when we had been dating for about 3 months. He also owns a house, and we have discussed that though we might be headed for marriage, we will both keep and live in our current houses until the time comes. They are 30 minutes apart and we do alot of timesharing (I’ll sleep at his house one night and he’ll sleep at mine another). Its a hassle, but its not the end of the world. And although selling a house is a hassle, if you can afford your house and he can afford his, then if you get stuck with your house and can only rent it for awhile while living in his (or vice versa) when the time comes, then you aren’t in such a bad place.

      On the other hand, I was in a serious relationship that we thought was heading towards marriage a few years ago. I moved from apartment to apartment while waiting for that guy to graduate college in another state. Though I could afford a house on my own, I was waiting for it to be “our home,” which we could shop for and buy together. Well, we broke up, and I had wasted years and money waiting to start my life with him when I could have had a house.

      I guess my point is that you need to weigh that part of it too. How much will you regret NOT buying a house if you guys break up, or even if it just takes a few more years to move to the next level? vs. How much will you regret having two houses and needing to rent or sell one? Decide which potential problem you can live with more, and go with it.

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  • avatar

    WatersEdge March 7, 2011, 9:40 am

    My first thought was what Wendy said, you should be able to talk to your boyfriend about where he sees the relationship going without him freaking out at this point, and if he does freak out, that’s a bad sign.

    My second thought is, if you don’t know where your life is going and you’d like to consider moving to your boyfriend’s house in the next few years, maybe it’s not a good time for you to buy. I say that because I’m currently in the process of selling a home, and it takes on average 5 years of owning a home to be able to make any profit at all from it. We’ve owned the place for 5 years and selling it is an absolute bitch (and we’re in a good housing market that hasn’t plummeted). We hope that after all the renovations we’re doing we can break even. So I’d like to offer a word of caution that home ownership, while generally a good idea, is not to be taken lightly. If your life isn’t settled then I don’t really recommend it. If I were you, I’d keep saving. When the time comes, you’ll either have the funds to choose a new home with whomever you marry, or you can use the money to make an addition to your boyfriend’s place or something. Keep your money and wait until you know that your life is less uncertain before you invest it, whether that’s with this guy, a future guy, or no guy.

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    • Betsy

      Betsy March 7, 2011, 10:36 am

      I agree that if your life is up in the air you shouldn’t rush into buying. What is the rush anyway? Find rent vs. mortgage calculators online and see just how much money you will save by renting for another year or two while you sort out your future. Keep your cash in the bank and accrue more interest. Avoid getting stuck with an anchor you regret.

      http://patrick.net/housing/calculator.php

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    • avatar

      RoyalEagle0408 March 7, 2011, 11:14 am

      I agree about not rushing into home buying. I’m 25 and nowhere near ready to buy a house because I don’t want to tie myself financially to a location just yet. Also, there are a lot of expenses associated with home ownership besides the mortgage and I’ll hopefully be in grad school in the fall, so unexpected expenses are not something I want.

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      • avatar

        ArtsyGirl March 7, 2011, 1:23 pm

        Good Luck Eagle – it is a bitch to get through but totally worth it

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  • avatar

    Mainer March 7, 2011, 9:58 am

    I”ll offer a different perspective. This may just be a guy thing, and it certainly won’t apply to everyone. But I think it’s important to determine what your motivation is in owning your own home. Do you see it as the “next step” in your adult life, where instead of renting you would like to start building both your assets and your credit? Are you looking for this to be an investment property, where you won’t become too tied up with it in the hopes of primarily renting it out? Or, are you looking to finally have a home? Some place you can call your own where you can escape and relax; a place you can embrace as a domain you have personally customized to be your own. If it’s one of the first two, selling won’t be a problem (I mean that emotionally, not like you’ll be able to actually sell it quickly).

    But personally, I fell into the latter when I decided to buy. A little of the former, but mostly the latter. I love my place. I have invested quite a bit into making it “mine,” and have plenty more projects on my list to get to. As such, I don’t see myself moving any time soon and would not feel comfortable either selling or letting another person live here (i.e. renting it, I don’t mean refusing to let someone move in with me). I just feel connected to it, almost like it’s a part of me now.

    So just prepare yourself for that same feeling. You may have it or you may not. It depends on how you approach it and whether or not you fall into that category in your decision to buy. But owning a home is a very intense endeavor, and a lot of people don’t realize the personal connection that is made between you and your home. It’s a lot like a relationship – you invest a lot of time and energy and before long you are so compatible and comfortable with each other you don’t want to leave. You can already see this with your boyfriend; he has projects planned and said he plans on staying there for a long time. Like I said, this may just be a guy thing.

    So I’m not going to tell you whether or not you should buy. But just consider why you’re buying. If it’s for the same reason I did, then think of something that you own now, something very personal and to which you feel a connection. Then think of how easily you would be able to give that thing up. There’s a chance you may feel that way with your home.

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    • avatar

      WatersEdge March 7, 2011, 10:43 am

      I very much agree. We were advised against renting out our house because it can be difficult to make logical decisions about renting a property that is emotionally loaded for you (i.e., your first home which you scrimped and saved to buy and which is a reflection of your hard work and independence).

      Actually LW, maybe you should consider investing in a rental property? Meaning, don’t live in it. Just rent it out. This is still a huge undertaking and I’d personally be more inclined to save my nest egg and invest it in my own future needs, but if you’re itching to buy because the market is so good, maybe a rental property is your answer.

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    • avatar

      TheOtherMe March 7, 2011, 11:09 am

      That’s an awesome reply Mainer, it’s true that depending on our reasons to buy a home, we can definitely become very attached to it. In my case, after divorcing and selling my dream home, I rented an apartment for 2 years and then I bought a 3 bedroom condo. I really didn’t “need” 3 bedrooms but my intentions were to be able to handle a changing situation ( like dating a single dad ! ). I knew from the get-go that I really didn’t want to move again for a very, very long time.

      So, long story short, LW, talk to your boyfriend… You might both be very attached to your homes and it might be difficult for either of you to let go when you are ready to live together. On the other hand, owning your own home is a terrific feeling, it might take the pressure off of “going to the next step” too quickly.

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  • avatar

    lemongrass March 7, 2011, 10:17 am

    I went through a similar situation. When my fiance and I starting dating he lived 3 hours away from me and the devoted guy he is, drove up every weekend to see me. It was getting too much and we knew it was early but I moved in with him at 5 months. He told me before I moved that he wanted to buy a house soon and a few months after I moved we started to look.
    I’m not going to lie, at first I had an inner freak out. First, I was 20 and had about $20 in my bank account. (He’s 4 years older than me) Second it was a confusing place for me. I wasn’t sure where I stood. So we talked about it. I told him that I could either not be involved in the picking at all and that it will be all his house that we will live in or I could be an equal in picking and it would be “our” house (quotations because my name is not in the papers). He picked the latter and we both love our house.

    Anyways, my point is: communicate! It will only bring you sunshine and puppies.

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  • fast eddie

    fast eddie March 7, 2011, 10:51 am

    Defiantly you need to talk to him about it and it may freak him out but it may give you both the nudge to resolve the question of living together or not. Even if you decide to move in with him an investment of owning a rental property would reap a financial gain of tax advantage in the short term and long term gain down the road. If living together doesn’t work out you’d have a place to move into.

    In any case consider a condominium. Home owner association fees cove the building maintenance and landscaping plus minimize the risk tenet damage. I’ve had rental property and the biggest time consumer and expense was landscaping.

    This whole thing sounds like fun to me. Doing it together can cement a relationship or dissolve it. Your signature is right on, being a grownup is indeed highly overrated. To quote the bard: To be or not to be. That is the question…

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  • avatar

    Painted_lady March 7, 2011, 12:06 pm

    I wish someone had explained to me (and that I’d have listened) that if a man isn’t ready to discuss even theoretically moving in together after the better part of a year, the relationship isn’t going to last because I look back on that very theoretical conversation – during which he became intensely uncomfortable and insinuated that he wasn’t ready to leave his 52-year-old male roommate just yet – and realize, yeah, he’s still not ready to think of himself as an adult, and he still likes pretending he’s a college kid at 29. Which is fine, as long as it makes him happy, but I just wish I had picked up on the “wants to stay young and irresponsible” vibe he was so clearly giving me and left him alone with his middle aged frat brother.

    Fortunately, I figured out the lesson that guys who want to be your serious boyfriend aren’t going to waste time not acting like a boyfriend…and my boyfriend now acts like just that. So great advice on that point, Wendy, and LW, you should heed this. If he isn’t comfortable discussing the long-term future, it’s probably because for one reason or another, he doesn’t see you in it.

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  • avatar

    _jsw_ March 7, 2011, 12:58 pm

    My advice – which seems to fit in nicely with most of the rest – is that, if you do end up buying, buy a place which is affordable (being house poor is not fun), which is at the lower end price-wise for the area it is in (it’ll be less affected by pricing drops), which has some very easy fix-ups (which means you can buy for less and with little expense at least improve the value or selling potential), which is in a good neighborhood (location location location), and which isn’t right down the street from your boyfriend (in case things don’t work out). House, condo, duplex… that’s up to you, but fast eddie’s comment about having maintenance covered by a monthly fee is one to consider.

    Basically, you want to buy a place which needs some TLC – so there aren’t a hundred other people bidding on it – but which needs cosmetic or minor TLC (so you don’t end up with a money pit). And always always always get a home inspection by someone reputable.

    If you do those things, you’ll have a nice little place you can make your own and live in for as long as you want, but you’ll also be able to rent or sell it without too much hardship. By buying a bit of a fixer-upper, you should be able to recoup your investment barring a major downturn in prices.

    You can do all of this regardless of how your relationship advances. I think it is a wonderful step to take if you can do so and shouldn’t hurt any relationship possibilities.

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    • avatar

      Dani March 16, 2011, 7:45 pm

      That’s exactly what I did. My husband and I only plan on being in this area for 2 years, but I was really uncomfortable with the idea of tossing $12,000+ away on rent. Since I had enough for a down payment, I went ahead and purchased a foreclosed house that needs a good bit of remodeling but is structurally sound. This house was by no means a financial stretch; I should have it paid off in under 5 years. From my perspective, if we lose less than $12,000 (the minimum cost of renting) then we win. Since this isn’t a great house and we’re not terribly attached to it, we’ll likely hang on to it and rent it, so it shouldn’t be a burden. (Plus since it’s not a stretch, two mortgages are doable.)

      I don’t think there’s much at stake financially if she buys a house she can afford. If her current relationship continues, they’ll be sharing a home and it costs and can sell or rent the other house. If it doesn’t work out then at least she’ll have a place of her own and something to show from the thousands of dollars she’s spent on housing. Unless LW plans to move in with her boyfriend in the next year or so, continuing to rent doesn’t make sense to me. I definitely agree with Wendy that they should be able to talk it out without creating any issues in the relationship. Without any additional info at only seven months I’d advise the LW to make the choice that’s best for her as an individual.

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  • avatar

    Jessica March 7, 2011, 3:57 pm

    I agree with just talking it over. I thought the exact same thing. I was in a position where I had to look for a new apartment and I had been seeing my boyfriend for quite some time. I discussed how I should go about buying a new apartment and the thought of us living together didn’t really cross my mind. But when I discussed it with him he brought up the idea of us living together. I didn’t say yes right away mainly because I wanted to weigh out the pros and cons. Now we are perfectly happy and I think I made a right decision! Hope you all the best!

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  • avatar

    sarolabelle March 7, 2011, 4:23 pm

    I had been dating my guy for 5 months and I told him I was looking at buying houses. It was March. My lease wasn’t up until June but I wanted out of there and could afford both rents. I found the house I wanted to buy on March 18. I made the offer a week later and it wa accepted. I told him somewhere during that time this very line:

    “I don’t want you to think that me buying a house mean anything. I still want a future with you.”

    Well after I told him this things got way differnet in our relationship and 3 weeks later he broke up with me saying he doesn’t see me in his future. It took a long time for me to get over this relationship. But in the end I’m very happy I bought the house. Even though my first memories of it were me cleaning the ceremic tile grout by hand and crying.

    You have to say something to your boyfriend, whether it hurts your relationship or not will depend on how committed he is to you.

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  • avatar

    HmC March 7, 2011, 6:11 pm

    Just the fact that a woman is having to ask this question pisses me off. (Not at anyone in particular, at the world I guess.) Will buying a house hurt my relationship? A guy would never have to ask that! Girls would view a guy buying a house for what it is- a significant achievement and a sign of fiscal responsibility. And that’s how any decent guy should view a girl doing the same, IMO.

    I do think that anyone of either sex buying a house on their own should make it clear to their partner that the purchase does not mean that they don’t see their partner in their future. Wendy definitely has a point about communication… that always seems to be the answer when it comes to relationships doesn’t it? I agree that after 7 months, with partners in LW’s age range, light talk about possible futures together should be ok.

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  • avatar

    Leyahn March 7, 2011, 6:40 pm

    Buy a condo or a duplex – they can easily be converted into income property if you do wind up living with/marrying your current boyfriend. As for him thinking you are trying to nudge him down the aisle – if he really panics at that thought he may not be the “one” for you.

    We should never put our dreams and plans on hold because of someone else. Especially after only 7 months of someone else. If you want to be a homeowner – then go for it. As many other posters said – you never know what the future holds. So follow your dream – enjoy your boyfriend and make a wise investment in your future.

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