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A lot of people picture their life milestones like this: land a great job, find the right partner, become debt-free, and then buy a home.
Of course, real life doesn’t always happen in that order. But even if those other goals don’t fall into place, buying a home can still be a smart financial move. Because of that, more and more people are finding creative ways to afford it.
One of those strategies is to find roommates. Here, four women explain how and why they did just that.
‘Living with roommates helps us travel.’
Elizabeth Bain, a realtor in Boston, spent her 20s living with roommates, even after her then-boyfriend moved in with her. When the two decided to buy a home, they were divided in what to look for. “My husband wanted a single family or a condo, but I was thinking it would be great to get a multi-family home and get tenants,” Bain says.
The two fell in love with a large single-family three-bedroom home. To test the waters, the couple began renting the vacant rooms on Airbnb. When that went well, they decided to look for a permanent roommate for one of the bedrooms.
“We had always lived with roommates, so it didn’t seem that weird to us to continue to live with one, even though we were married,” Bain says. For them, any loss in privacy is made up with rental income, which helps them afford long-weekend getaways. “We’re also looking to buy another investment property in a few years, so right now, the roommate lifestyle makes sense for us.”
‘Living with roommates allows me to invest in my future.’
Nola Lu, who works in communications and public relations in Austin, Texas, is proud of her frugal mentality — even when a rotating cast of horrible roomies in her early 20s drove her crazy.
“I always wanted to buy a house and was set on the goal from college,” Lu says. “In college, I was an RA [resident assistant] so I could get free housing. When I graduated, I would look for an inexpensive rental share and always would take the smallest room in the house. It was horrible at times, but it paid off: I was able to buy a house with a 20% down payment that I’d saved from being super frugal.”
Now, Lu is a homeowner but still has roommates to help pay the mortgage. “I want to buy more properties in the future,” she says, at which point she may choose to live alone for good.
‘Living with roommates helps fund my goals beyond homeownership.’
“In New York City, living with roommates in your 20s is pretty normal,” explains Cori Carl. That’s why she felt minimal pressure to end the cohabitation lifestyle even after she bought her own home. The upside was the additional cash, which allowed Carl to renovate — buh-bye ugly peach-colored bathtub — and go to grad school without going into debt.
Now that she does live alone and is debt-free, Carl has words of wisdom. “Think about what’s most important to you in the long run. For some people, it’s living alone at 22. But for me, I always knew financial independence was what I wanted,” Carl says.
‘Living with roommates felt like a backward step — but it helped me move forward.’
“As soon as I could afford living by myself in my 20s, I did,” says Jennifer S., a Hoboken, New Jersey, resident. But what the editorial strategist didn’t realize at the time was her skewed vision of what “afford” meant. She stretched her paycheck to live alone because it’s what her idea of adulthood looked like.
But when Jennifer received a $150,000 inheritance in her mid-20s, she also got a wakeup call. “I assumed the money would make a great down payment, even though I carried consumer debt.” When she sat down with a financial advisor, she realized that her debt, coupled with her income, didn’t make her a competitive buyer. “I ended up breaking the lease on my apartment and finding a rental share. I felt like I had my tail between my legs, but it was actually great,” she says about her decision. Not only did she find roommates she liked, but sharing costs including groceries, meals and utilities, helped her save nearly $1,000 a month toward a down payment fund.
By the time she was ready to buy several years later, she was debt-free and had more than $200,000 in the bank. “I was excited to live by myself again,” she says, explaining her decision to buy a small one-bedroom. “But for me, living with roommates was actually more grown-up than living on my own.”