About a year ago, my husband, his sister, her husband, and I hatched a plan to purchase a house together and share the space. It seemed crazy and a bit far-fetched at the time — and it still does when we tell people we share a house. But there were also so many reasons why we thought it was a good idea. So we launched into the great unknown armed with a hard-working realtor, some prayers, and a “we’ll see how it goes” kind of attitude.
Financially, it made more sense to pool our resources for a downpayment, split a mortgage and get a bigger property than buying two apartments separately. Living so close together would also allow us to build deeper relationships with them. And hopefully as our families expanded in the future, we would be able to grow together as families. As a bonus (especially for us since we have a baby), we would have in-house babysitting!
In March 2012, we began the search in earnest. Finding a place that suited both our families would not be easy. To begin with, we were looking for a two-storey house with a separate suite on each floor. The suites were to have their own entrances, but also be connected to each other from within the house. Both suites needed to be bright and feel like home (no awkwardly laid out or dingy basements.) Both suites had to have a decent kitchen and living area. Upstairs needed 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. Downstairs, 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom. Additionally, we wanted to be walking distance to groceries and central enough to other shopping. And we had to be close to transit and schools. A fenced in backyard would be bonus. To top it off, our budget was pretty modest for the type of house we were looking for. When we looked at our list of specifications, we knew we were trying to find a needle in a haystack.
Adding to the impossibility of it all, selling our apartment also looked like it was going to be very difficult. Everyone was talking about a potential burst in the Vancouver housing market bubble, resulting in slower sales. And at the time of our listing, there were 4 other units in our building up for sale — 2 of which were on the same floor as us. Due to our personal finances (we had bought at the height of the market, just before the crash in 2008), we had to list ours for $15K higher than our neighbours’ units. And if that wasn’t enough, our building was also gearing up for a big project to replace all the water pipes, which would mean noise and dust for a few months at least. Who was going to buy a place like ours and at this point in time?
The odds were against us. If this move was going to happen, we would need a miracle.
After looking at 30+ houses, we found one that we could seriously consider. It met all of our requirements, and the upper floor suite had been recently renovated. The downstairs would need some work, but nothing we couldn’t handle. The main drawback was that it was in Port Coquitlam, which was a bit far from most of where our relatives and friends currently lived and definitely far from my sister-in-law’s workplace. We weighed the options and decided that for the money we were spending (or not spending), the size and age of the house and the house’s proximity to shopping and transit, moving out further was still worth it. Plus, with the Evergreen Line expanding to Coquitlam Center in the next four years, this area would definitely become more developed. As for our friends and family, we wouldn’t be surprised if more of them end up moving out here as their families begin to grow and they look for affordable larger living spaces.
We ended up moving into our new house in June and miraculously, closing the sale of our apartment in July.
So far, we have enjoyed exploring the area, walking the trails in our neighbourhood and the convenience of having a plethora of retail stores close by. The downside is that we see our friends and family in Vancouver less often. It’s also been a challenge finding a new family doctor, dentist, chiropractor, mechanic, and barber. As for sharing the house, it’s been great. It’s hard to beat getting a text message at 9:30pm asking if we want to go downstairs for freshly baked dessert! (The full story can be read on our blog).
Photo: jorik de beer