Location, Location, Location: 10 Things To Look For In A Shared House

This post is part of Multi Family Living Mondays, a series of articles on co-housing and multi-family living.

1: Bathrooms

We recommend having at least one bathroom available per family. Please think about how many people – especially women and children – will be sharing each bathroom and whether they will have the access and privacy they need.

2: Privacy

Consider the layout of the house. How close are the bedrooms to one another and shared/public areas? How well does sound carry? Are there little spaces to get away and be alone if necessary? This is important in any shared living situation. Everyone needs some space and time alone sometimes – make sure this can happen. Also, this is incredibly important for couples. You need to be able to have conversations and time alone together in your own space without always having to schedule it.

3: Pressure Valves

This is somewhat related to #2. You don’t want the house to become a pressure cooker of emotions, conflict, frustration, etc. Are there physical places to go and breaks in your schedules where people can retreat and decompress or recompose when necessary?

4: Kitchen

When households combine, your supplies double! You can probably pare down your dishes, utensils and appliances to what you’ll regularly use and put the extras in storage, but you’ll still have more than you did with just one family or couple living alone. Also, you’ll have more food to store than before. Depending on whether you will be sharing none, some, or all of your food, consider how much space you think you’ll need.

5: Guest Quarters

You may not have friends or family that come stay with you, but if you do, this is important. Co-housing really cuts down on idle space – this is good in many ways as it reduces waste and encourages efficiency and simplicity. BUT, consider whether you need to be able to house others from time to time and how you will do that.

6: Storage

If you are an established couple or family (or even single adult!), you probably have a lot of STUFF. If you decide to share a house, your available space will decrease and all parties may need to downsize. Even so, there are probably some necessities that you’ll have to keep and store. Consider whether the garage/basement/closets or lack thereof will be sufficient for everyone’s storage needs.

7: Kids

If there are kids involved, where will they sleep, eat, and play? Are the ages similar or different? Consider safety, privacy, and storage, and remember that kids’ needs change a lot more quickly than adults’ needs do, so think ahead.

8: Money

Discuss your budgets and decide on a price range that is comfortable for everyone, especially if one of your primary motivations is to save money. Decide whether you’ll be splitting the cost down the middle or breaking it down another way, and don’t forget to factor in expected bills! If you’re moving into a house from two apartments, for instance, you may not end up saving much on utilities as electricity, heat, water and garbage bills for a house often cost a lot more.

9: Location

Think through your weekly schedule and the places you travel to most frequently. Do you need to be close to a bus line? Where do you shop? Are there friends you get together with a lot and want to still see often? Decide on a general area that is acceptable for everyone’s needs, but know you’ll probably have to compromise. There also may be opportunities for carpooling, car sharing, or other alternative transportation methods.

10: Exit Plan

If you are just starting out with co-housing, be careful about your commitment level – and make sure your relational commitment outweighs your financial commitment. For instance, don’t sign a lease for a year if you are only firmly committing to a six-month trial. And don’t buy anything unless you are really, really sure, or one party can (and will commit to) taking on the space and payments alone if things don’t work out.

Did I miss anything? Have a question or an opinion? Leave a comment!


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