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The new DIY New York communes, and the pros and cons of co-buying a home

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The price of real estate in New York City is such that even gainfully employed, debt-free professionals are struggling to save the cash for a down payment. But one alternative, according to New York Magazine, is the so-called commune approach, whereby city dwellers team up to buy a place—a situation that sounds both idyllic and fraught with peril. 

With tips on how to make the shared purchase, a list of "splittable" properties on the market now, and a forehead-slap-worthy story on what not to do, the whole package is worth a read. But we were particularly interested in the stories from real life co-buyers, and pulled out a few things—good and bad—that surprised us about their experiences:

  • If splitting up chores with roommates is tricky, dividing the labor of owning a house (snow shoveling, boiler repairs, and so on) between two families is worse. “Like, if you have to nag one husband,” says one co-owner of a Prospect-Lefferts Gardens townhouse, “in our case you have to nag two.”
  • Many of the co-buyers profiled said that living together created a de facto extended family—and that this, not the cost savings, was the best part of the arrangement. As one owner of a floor in a West Chelsea building put it, describing her children’s interactions with the neighbors, “When they were young and they’d be coming home from school, they’d be smelling all these smells and wander into one of the apartments—we happen to have exceptional cooks in the building—and I’d get a phone call saying, ‘Oh, I’m eating dinner at so-and-so’s.’”
  • One of the major drawbacks to co-buying, it seems, is that the expiration date of the arrangement is set by someone else, like a sister who’s engaged or the couple upstairs who decide to move overseas.
  • A surprisingly large number of the co-buyers didn’t put anything in writing or didn't get legal advice before doing their deals—even though this seems like a basic first step. In fact, one of the owners in the West Chelsea building found a second lawyer after the first advised her not to do the deal. 

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