People Are Buying Houses With Friends for Affordability, Companionship

Estimated read time 5 min read

Elisa Ball and John Williams bought a house in Florida last year. It has 2,200 square feet, a backyard for the dog — and two master bedrooms.

Though they dated from 1997 to 2009, Ball and Williams are now just friends. They banded together to buy property in Palm Bay, a city north of West Palm Beach, because Williams needed some help after a fall and Ball found her rent in South Florida was skyrocketing out of control.

It worked: Ball said her half of the mortgage payment is about $1,100, much less than the $1,875 rent she was paying in nearby Boca Raton.

“I am now able to save a minimum of $500 a month that I’m banking — I haven’t been able to do that since 2014,” Ball, a 67-year-old travel agent, told Business Insider. “I can spoil myself a little more that I haven’t been able to for years and in an environment that I truly love to be in.”

The upfront cost of buying a house has always been a burden for potential buyers. But now — when mortgage rates are relatively expensive, home prices hover around all-time highs and insurance premiums and property taxes are on the rise — it’s especially hard.

A woman sitting with a dog.

Ball was able to cut her monthly expenses almost in half by buying a home with her ex.

Courtesy of Elisa Ball

Just take the standard down payment of 20%, which could cost anywhere from $39,127 to $263,392 depending on where you live, according to Business Insider’s personal finance team. These days, real-estate data shows, monthly payments including mortgage, taxes, and insurance are probably not going to be lower than rent.

As a result, people like Ball are buying homes with friends. A January survey by insurance agency JW Surety Bonds found that 13% of 1,004 respondents said they have co-purchased a home with a non-romantic partner — and 48% would consider it.

In 2023, cobuyers were much more likely than in 2023 to cite affordability and ease of getting mortgage approval as reasons for choosing that route, according to Zillow.

Ball and others who’ve bought homes with friends say there are pros and cons. One of the more obvious benefits? The reduction in housing costs. The downsides include openly talking about finances and coordinating sensitive legal documents like wills.

Did you buy a home with a friend? Would you like to share your story? Email Jordan Pandy

A woman in Austin helps others buy homes with a friend — like she did in her 20s

Kristina Modares enlisted a friend’s help to buy her first property in San Antonio at 24 years old. Since then, she’s bought eight properties with the help of friends or family members.

Kristina Modares and Steph Douglass founded Open House Austin.

Austin real-estate agents Kristina Modares and Steph Douglass. Modares has bought homes with friends.

Open House Austin

Modares, a real-estate agent in Austin, partnered with a friend, Steph Douglass, to create a brokerage that encourages women to invest in real estate and promotes purchasing property with friends as one means to do it.

They call the trend of cobuying “houses before spouses.”

“No one was teaching first-time homebuyers. Everyone was like, ‘Millennials don’t have money, and they’re never going to do this, and it’s not possible for them,'” Modares told Business Insider’s Noah Sheidlower. “It is possible, but you just have to be creative. I bought every single property with friends, and that was the only way I could get started. Now it’s my preferable way of buying homes.”

You must make sure you trust who you’re buying with

Making a purchase as large as home is always risky. But when you’re going through it with someone you’re not legally tethered to, there is an added level of uncertainty.

It’s important to have an exit plan in place in case one party decides they want out, Ball said, adding that her negotiations with Williams were made easier by their relatively simple family structures.

“We don’t have parents and we don’t have children, so basically what’s mine is his and his is mine,” she said. “His other legal documents leave everything to me and vice versa.”

Ball added that she trusts Williams, which is a key factor in making their partnership work. The two have a joint bank account that is used just for housing expenditures, like mortgage payments and repairs.

“If you don’t trust them, they can empty out the bank account,” she said.

People who haven’t dealt with roommates for awhile will need to get reacquainted. Ball said it’s important to test out living with the other party before committing to buying — maybe in a lower-stakes renting situation.

Ball and Williams lived together when they dated, so she already knew what to expect. But if you and your co-purchaser have different lifestyles, she added, it could be a mess.

“I’m very happy,” she said. “It’s a wonderful thing if it’s with the right person. But again, if it’s with the wrong person, it’s a nightmare.”