Aging Options

TV’s Golden Girls May Have Had it Right About Home Ownership

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If you’re old enough to have a clear memory of the 1980s – not that long ago, we hear you say – then you recall the television hit “The Golden Girls.” This sitcom ran for seven seasons and racked up a long list of awards, due in large part to its ensemble cast of accomplished actresses whose unique living arrangement made for some hysterical episodes.

So, what can today’s seniors learn from reexamining a TV show that went off the air more than 30 years ago? Apart from lessons like the power of friendship and the benefits of a good sense of humor, it seems as though a growing number of U.S. adults, consciously or otherwise, are starting to examine home-ownership the way it was depicted on the show: as a joint arrangement between adults not related to each other by blood or marriage.

With today’s soaring real estate prices, people may be taking a closer look at the advantages of co-buying. For a closer look at this small but growing phenomenon, let’s review this 2023 article from the Reuters website, prepared by reporter Chris Taylor. Since home prices show little signs of cooling off and interest rates remain high, perhaps some “creative purchasing ideas” might be called for.

Buying a Home: A Beneficial Partnership

“Maybe Dorothy, Blanche, Rose and Sophia had it right all along,” Taylor begins.

Aside from the “wit and quick comebacks” of the eponymous Golden Girls, what we remember most about the show was their unique home arrangement: “Living (and eventually owning) with each other, without spouses or significant others.”

Taylor writes, “According to a [2023] survey from LendingTree, an eye-opening 29 percent of Americans are open to the idea. Of those potential homebuyers, 63 percent said they would consider buying with a family member who is not their spouse, and 57 percent would do so with a good friend or current roommate.”

Jacob Channel, a senior economist for The LendingTree, says of the survey’s results, “That’s quite a lot of people, and I’m not surprised that people are considering it. It speaks to where we are in the housing market: It’s really expensive to buy a house right now, and a lot of people are looking into alternative ways to purchase.”

High Prices and Mortgage Rates Make Home-Buying Elusive

“Indeed, consider these figures,” Taylor writes. “The median price for existing homes in June [2023] was $410,200, near an all-time high, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Meanwhile, the average rate on a 30-year mortgage has risen to over 7 percent, following a series of rate hikes from the Federal Reserve.” With all of this considered, it can be very challenging to break into the housing market.

Gus Gibbs of Boise, Idaho would agree. In 2021, he bought a three-bedroom house with his partner and her sister. “All three of our names are on the mortgage, and we threw all the money that we could towards the down payment,” says Gibbs. “We were growing weary of high rental prices – and glad we got into the market when we did.”

Share of Co-Buyers is Small, but Growing

Is co-buying considered a common situation? Not at the moment, but the trend is expanding. “Currently, it represents about 3 percent of the housing market, although that rises to 5 percent among first-time buyers, according to NAR,” Taylor explains.

Jessica Lautz, chief economist and VP of research at NAR, says, “That’s the highest we have seen among first-time buyers. This trend is a good way to pool resources when housing affordability is a challenge.”

Before you get the wrong idea based on the numbers, it’s important to note that this path to homeownership isn’t without its fair share of pitfalls. Here are some tips from Taylor for how to avoid the dangers.

Pointer #1: High Levels of Trust are Essential

Money has the potential to ruin even the most loving relationships.

“Mixing finances with friends or family is always a dangerous business, since money disputes could end up causing serious relationship damage,” Taylor warns. “So this is not something to be entered into lightly, but should only be considered with relationships where there are very high levels of mutual trust.”

Financial planner Howard Pressman agrees. “I think this is a very tricky situation that has a decent chance of blowing up. I understand the reasons for wanting to do things in this way, but would be very concerned with how this sort of relationship ages.”

Pointer #2: Get All the Important Elements in Writing

No matter how much trust you have between you, a solid contract is vital.

“In any co-buying arrangement, there are all sorts of critical questions to consider: How long do you plan on staying there? What happens if one person wants to sell, and the other does not? Who handles which maintenance costs? And so on,” Taylor writes.

He adds, “Not only should you be discussing all those issues beforehand, you should put it all down on paper, with the help of a real estate lawyer. That way you both have a document you can point to later, and avoid potential misunderstandings.”

Pointer #3: Before Co-Buying, Consider Other Options

As attractive as this option might be if you feel that purchasing a house is out of reach any other way, it’s worth considering that there might be other paths to take, especially if the 20 percent down payment is throwing you off.

“People think you need 20 percent down, but the truth is you often don’t,” says Channel. “Most people put down less than half of that, and with a (Federal Housing Administration) or (Veteran’s Administration) loan, you could put down less than 5 percent. So there is wiggle room, and you might be more equipped to buy on your own than you think.”

“Nonetheless,” Taylor writes, “the harsh realities of the housing market may dictate more co-buying in future. With high prices and high interest rates, some potential buyers may not have much of a choice – and this relative rarity in the real estate world may soon become more common.”

“There is a very good chance these numbers will increase,” says Channel, whose words end the article. “In a few years, I expect that even more people will be considering co-buying.”

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(originally reported at

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