Can Your Relationship Handle Buying A Home? It's All About Compromise

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Money is a feminist issue — and yet, women are still reluctant to talk about it. According to a recent Bustle survey of more than 1,000 Millennial women, more than 50 percent of people said they never discuss personal finances with friends, even though 28 percent reported feeling stressed out about money every single day. Bustle's Get Money series gets real about what Millennial women are doing with their money, and why — because managing your finances should feel empowering, not intimidating. Today's topic: Millennial Love Expert, Samantha Burns, a licensed counselor and dating coach, discusses what couples need to know about buying a home together.

You’re living together, engaged, or married, but you’re ready for an even bigger commitment — homeownership! The truth is buying a home together isn’t just playing house and making Pinterest boards of dream kitchens; it’s a serious commitment with enormous financial implications. Even couples who are confident and secure in their relationships face turmoil during the searching and buying process, which can put significant stress on your relationship.

In fact, according to new survey data by home financing company LendingHome, 60 percent of Millennial and Gen X couples disagreed occasionally, frequently, or “a lot” when buying a house with their partner or spouse.

Longer Together, More Aligned

The process is most challenging for new couples. Thirty percent of those together for four years or less disagreed frequently or more, whereas only 14 percent of couples together for five-plus years disagreed frequently or more. Twenty percent of couples that were together for one year or less were not even open to compromise, compared to only five percent of couples together for five or more years.

These findings likely reflect that successful long-term couples have mastered the art of communication and compromise. They’ve had ample time together to learn about each other’s preferences and get on the same page when it comes to what they value.

Westerners & City Dwellers Disagree More

The LendingHome survey also found regional differences, with couples in the West and in large cities in opposition the most with 31 and 37 percent respectively disagreeing frequently or more.

For busy Millennial couples at the beginning stages of their careers and family life, they may be forced to decide between a city lifestyle, including pricey real estate, ample recreational activities, and shorter commutes to work, compared to the more affordable, family-friendly suburbs where you can get more for your money when it comes to property size.

You might think these big life decisions could leave them at odds, however these couples were more likely to fully compromise, with 40 percent of Westerners and 42 percent of city dwellers coming to agreement, versus only 26 percent of Midwesterners and 25 percent of rural couples willing to fully compromise.

Fear Of Debt Is A Major Issue

So what exactly are couples butting heads about? The top disagreements arise around the level of debt they are willing to take on (49 percent), the style (46 percent) and size of house (45 percent), and whether or not to renovate (43 percent).

It’s normal to have disagreements throughout the buying process, so don’t freak out that an argument is a sign that you’re not supposed to purchase a house together.

Though loving couples, like Chip and Joanna Gaines of HGTV’s Fixer Upper make renovation projects look blissful, the average couple may be ready to call it quits by the end. Since the majority of couples will repeatedly disagree throughout the process, your conflict management skills need to be in tiptop shape.

First, accept that it’s normal to have disagreements throughout the buying process, so don’t freak out that an argument is a sign that you’re not supposed to purchase a house together. It’s important to keep in mind that you’re on the same team and you’re building and investing in a future for the two of you.

Compromise Is The Key To Buying A Home Together

In order to navigate the process smoothly, compromise will be a valuable skill. Similar to dating and finding your perfect match, in searching for your first home it’s important to get clear on your wants versus needs, your firm deal breakers, and ability to analyze the pros and cons. The goal is to align yourselves at the beginning of the search in order to minimize conflict throughout the process.  

The data shows gender differences in housing preferences:

  • Women prefer traditional/cozy homes (48 percent) to modern homes (34 percent)
  • Men likely modern houses (48 percent) slightly more than traditional/cozy homes (42 percent)
  • Women prefer the suburbs (54 percent) to a big city (15 percent) and established neighborhoods (46 percent) to an urban-like environment (21 percent)
  • Men prefer the suburbs (42 percent), but their second choice is almost equally split between city living (25 percent) and countryside (24 percent), and they almost equally like an urban-like environment (40 percent) to an established neighborhood (39 percent).

Before you start your search, rank-order the most important characteristics you want in a home. The following six features tend to be important factors to consider — location, price, style of home, size of the home, and need for renovation. Feel free to add any other important factors to your list, then share it with your partner along with any concerns.

Before compromise can happen, both partners need to feel listened to and validated about why their preferences are important.  

If you enter the discussion with the intent to stand your ground, the conversation will quickly turn into confrontation and feel defensive and hostile. Before compromise can happen, both partners need to feel listened to and validated about why their preferences are important.  

Are your top criteria butting heads? Compromise is about give-and-take, so if you both prioritize location, but he wants to be in the city and she wants to be in the suburbs, look to the next two or three highest ranking criteria and see if one person will concede on location in order to get a certain price, style or fixer upper. Once you understand each other’s priorities, you can set realistic expectations together.

All’s Well That Ends Well

The good news is that despite all of the stress and potential arguments, 60 percent of the survey respondents said their disagreements didn’t matter in the end, and over 50 percent of the couples reported feeling more committed to the relationship after purchasing the home.

At the end of the day, you don’t want your disagreements and arguments about buying a house to threaten the health and happiness of your partnership. Safeguard your relationship by proactively and open-mindedly discussing what you value most in choosing a home, with the realistic mindset that you may not get everything on your wish list.

Ultimately what makes a house a home is the loving couple living inside of it.

The Millennial Love Expert, Samantha Burns, is a licensed counselor and dating coach who helps couples and individuals create love lives that thrive. Download Samantha’s FREE ebook on the secret ingredients too cook up a happy relationship.

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