Life as a single parent is not easy. You’re trying to be a present and engaged parent for your children. At the same time, you likely have to hold down a career where you also need to be focused. There are chores to be done, bills to be paid, and on top of all that, you need to find some time where you can also focus on yourself. It’s stressful raising kids when you have no one to lean on but yourself. This is why this single mom decided to do something a little different. She bought a house with another single mom – and their families couldn’t be happier.
“I Bought A House With Another Single Mom: This is How It’s Going”
In 2018 after 17 years with her partner, Holly Harper made the difficult decision to separate from them. The two parents committed themselves to co-parent in a friendly way with their daughter’s best interests always the focus. They sold their Washington D.C. home and Holly began renting an apartment. After a year of living the renter life, she knew she wanted to buy as a future investment.
“I knew it was going to be impossible to find a duplex or condo in Washington, DC, on my self-employed, single-mom budget.” she wrote.
Holly was also well aware of the demands of homeownership, financial and otherwise. Still, she knew it was what she wanted for herself and her daughter. That’s when she had an idea and got chatting with her friend Herrin, who also happened to be a single mom.
Each woman and their family had similar needs with the same constraints. They wanted space for their children to play and a house that was comfortable to come home to. They didn’t want to feel like they were back in their early, young professional days of renting apartments that felt more like living in hotels. The women wanted a home.
Their constraints were also similar: Each of them on a single mom budget meant that this goal, alone, was out of reach. Together, however, it was more than achievable.
“I wanted to live in a familial community. Furthermore, I knew it was possible,” she explained. “Serendipitously, one of my closest friends shared my “commune dream,” and she had separated from her husband around the same time I had.”
They called up Holly’s realtor who absolutely loved the idea. Soon, they were on the house hunt.
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Sorting The Details
Of course, this is not like signing a lease with a roommate in college. Deciding to purchase a home with another parent and their children along with yours means there’s going to be a bit of family blending. Especially considering that you are purchasing a house together, you have to make sure that you are aligned in certain areas.
“We ensured our values aligned in many categories, including political outlook, parenting style, finance, and lifestyle,” Holly said. “We also had to agree on what type of house we needed. We wanted a multifamily property that would allow two units of similar size, with neither of us sleeping in a basement. We also wanted to be within walking distance of public transit and in a safe neighborhood for our kids to play.”
Lastly, they set their maximum budget and got to work with the realtor to find their dream home. Lucky for them, it didn’t take much time at all.
Their Cohousing Dreams Come True
They found a home they loved on their first day of searching. The women put in an offer in April 2020 and closed the deal in mid-June. Once they had possession, they set out renovating their individual units to suit themselves as individuals and their families. They had a fourth unit which they offered as a rent-to-own space for another single mom that they met. By August, each family was happily living there. Three moms, five children, three dogs, two hamsters, and a gecko.
“Legally, we are coinvestors and have an operating agreement for the asset purchase. We then created a sub-agreement by which we are considered “tenants in common.” Essentially, we live in a condo building with an informal, but legal, agreement between us.”
Benefits and Drawbacks
The families are very happy and the children are essentially living in a kids’ paradise. They have a trampoline, craft studio, and built-in playmates – especially during a pandemic, this was a dream. The moms are also thriving. They’ve got options for car-sharing and carpooling. They have potluck dinners all together sometimes and someone is always available and willing for small favors. Babysitting, dog-walking, and expense sharing are just a few of the perks. On top of that, the moms, too, have built-in friends with who they can lean on and cry when times get tough.
Of course, it isn’t all perfect. Holly says that as their kids grow they are finding they are running out of space. Alone time is also harder to come by in a living situation like theirs. Still, they insist that the pros outweigh the cons by a landslide. The kids are learning so much, as well.
“they’re experiencing diverse perspectives on how people they love navigate real life,” Holly said. “My daughter is learning from all of us about divorce, dating, family, having “siblings,” bullying, puberty, gender identity, sexual orientation, entrepreneurship, creativity, death, rule-breaking, safety, and finding joy.”
For single parents out there who are struggling to create the life they want for themselves and their kids, she can’t suggest something like this enough. As long as you do your homework, find the right people, and have some solid agreements between each of you, your families will thrive.
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- “I bought a house with another single mom to share costs and maintenance. Now we have a kid paradise, with built-in babysitting, car-sharing, and a craft studio..” Insider. Holly Harper. January 20, 2022.