What happens when you can’t agree on which house to buy?

Have you fallen in love with a home that your partner just can’t stand? 

Choosing a home can really test a relationship. The act of buying such a large asset is fraught with emotion which can seriously cloud our judgement and effect our ability to make sound investment decisions.

Houses are interesting because for most of us it is the single biggest financial investment we will ever make. Yet it is also where we will spend half of our time every day. Our home is our refuge, our place to escape from the hustle and bustle. Financial implications shouldn’t outweigh this emotional aspect but when you take the long term view you realise that your financial outcome regarding a property will effect your emotions going forward.

Just ask anyone who has suffered through the process of owning a leaky-home. Or conversely, someone who has a home+income type property and essentially has their mortgage covered, freeing up funds for saving, travel, or other investments. 

What we often find is that in any relationship, one person prizes emotional reward more than financial incentives (and vice versa).

  • One person is more likely to fall in love with a home and move heaven and earth to make it theirs. Their emotions blind them to factors which (if not considered) could effect their long term enjoyment. 
  • The other person is more likely to look at the opportunity cost: 

“But this other house is so much cheaper”

“If we bought in another area we might make more money over the long term.”

There is no right or wrong when it comes to what you favour most, but it can present some interesting challenges, and cause a lot of angst if you aren’t careful.

My Wife and I view houses entirely differently from each other.

I value sun, character and any financial incentive. Got a home & income? Large flat section? Lots of potential? I’m all over it.

Annah on the other hand values practicality. Will our kids have somewhere to play? What kind of street is it? Will I feel safe walking home at night in the dark? Where are we going to walk the dog? Is the house going to be hard to clean?

My approach causes me to minimise the work involved in fixing problems and to look past features that would otherwise be deal-breakers. Eg. I realistically need a double garage and a low maintenance house, but show me a character home & income and I start drooling before I walk in the door. No matter what location it’s in.

Show Annah that same home & income and she automatically thinks about what could go wrong. If we have a baby that is up all night crying will that piss off our tenants? Are we going to have the amount of privacy we want? Will our dog barking piss them off? Will the tenants play loud music on Saturday nights?

For me the financial incentive (eg. The tenants will be paying our mortgage) wipes out all those concerns. For Annah no amount of money could sway her from considering the practical, day to day issues that could come as a result.

Often this clash of priorities can happen when couples are considering which area to buy in. One side wants to buy in Titahi Bay because ‘houses are cheaper and we’ll pay our mortgage off quicker’ while the other side can’t stand the idea of commuting an extra 20-30 minutes each day and will take on $200k more debt to live closer to town.


How to achieve a consensus?

Tip 1. When you are starting out, always buy a home you could rent out later. Stick to a 2-3 bedroom home that is 100sqm or less (approximately). If your plans change and you decide to move City, travel overseas, or have 5 kids, you can always rent this home out and have it become your first investment property. Pick an up and coming area where you can still get a 5-6% yield at least. This way the rent will cover your mortgage payments as long as interest rates don’t go through the roof. Keep your options open!

Tip 2. Each of you needs to write down what you love. Eg. Character, afternoon sun, having a view, being near the sea. Try and tick at least 1 of these boxes for each of you when you buy. Be prepared to forgo some of your loves. In the end it’s better to have someone to share the home with right? 

Tip 3. Right down what you need. Put your practical hat on and think about what you really need to be happy. A spacious kitchen? An internal access garage? A covered deck? Have a very short list of non-negotiables. Be ruthlessly strict about what goes on this list, but stick to it. 

When one of you is blind-sided by temptation, revert to this list and see if the home you are looking at meets the necessary criteria. If it doesn’t, you’ve got a fight on your hands to convince the other person!

Tip 4. Stick to your guns. We all respect and admire partners in life who have a bit of backbone. Don’t be afraid to stick up for what you need or desire. There is that age-old saying ‘happy wife, happy life’ but in my opinion if you either of you don’t agree with a decision then you have to stand up and have your vote counted. You don’t want to be sitting there, resenting a decision you were forced into for years to come. That will effect your relationship more than anything else.

Tip 5. Keep an open mind. If you do make a smart financial decision you might end up mortgage free 10-15 years earlier. It’s delayed gratification but that sort of decision will give you incredible freedom a few years down the track. At the same time, if one of you doesn’t feel safe in a home you simply won’t enjoy being there. 

In conclusion… 

Don’t be closed-minded, and above all stay away from absolute statements. Saying things like “Oh I could never live there!” Is negative and un-helpful. Spend some time in an area before you rule it out. Explore different suburbs during your weekends – do people smile at you when they walk past you? Are there nice areas where you can be close to nature? Are there shops nearby so you don’t necessarily have to drive to go out for brunch on the weekend?

Just because it isn’t where you grew up or it isn’t where your parents live, doesn’t mean it won’t be a wonderful place to live.

Lastly, buying a house doesn’t have to be a 10-20 year commitment. Last time we bought a property we made the mistake of looking at it as our ‘forever home’. The place where we would raise our kids down the track. In hindsight we should have realised that with our personalities, the chance of us staying in 1 place for even 5 years are very remote. We both constantly seek out new adventures and challenges.

I recommend looking at any real estate purchase with a 3-5 year timeframe max and see how you feel after that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts