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What to do when couple can't agree on house? (BUY)

Posted by oicu812 (My Page) on
Wed, Sep 18, 13 at 7:57

Does anyone have any experience with, or some tips on how to resolve, when a couple can't agree on a home purchase?

Background: Been looking to purchase for 4+ months now. Not many choices so far. Lots of small fixer uppers or large luxo homes, but little in the middle. When something does come in the middle, there's bidding wars. (Lost a couple of those already.) Tried extending search area to a few more towns...nothing. Bumped up max price range another 50, still nothing.

Situation: Recently looked at a home, priced just above a newly increased price range. Looked more out of curiosity than attraction at first.

She likes it. Recognizes it's the only option available, and a good way to end search (been living in a hotel with the kids.) Wants to put an offer.

He's just neutral on the property. Recognizes that it has most of the requirements. But just doesn't FEEL any attraction to the house or neighborhood. There have been neighborhoods they've driven into (with nothing for sale) where they instantly agree "wow, this feels like home." But they don't get that here.

The listing is 6 months old, been no other offers, and supposedly no other interest right now. He thinks they can wait and still look, keep this on the back burner. She is very pro-active "type A." Wants it, wants it now. (actually, it's new const and wouldn't be ready for 60-75 days.)

Should he just "suck it up" and buy a house he doesn't feel anything for?

If not, what arguments does one do/say to convince the other person to pass on something they want?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: What to do when couple can't agree on house? (BUY)

try generating a list of pros and cons together.... you may get a better feel for the praises and objections you each
have for the place. Talking to potential neighbors may shed some light, talking to local police dept or looking up crime statistics in unknown neighborhoods, or just parking on the street near the home in question at various times of day and observing what happens in the area may be of some value. communication is the key, and doing any of these things together should help open doors to understanding so you can reach a happy ending. hang in there! best wishes


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RE: What to do when couple can't agree on house? (BUY)

Can you dig into your feelings a bit more and understand what about a neighborhood makes it feel like home? Is it mature trees shading the streets? Kids riding bikes on the sidewalks? The style of the homes?

That might help you identify what's making you not love this place, and figure out if those things can be addressed. Or determine how important they are to you or her.

I would focus more on understanding each other than on convincing the other.


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RE: What to do when couple can't agree on house? (BUY)

After 4 months maybe you need to evaluate what you are looking for. I understand you have expanded your search area and upped your budget. Maybe you need to really talk about want you need in a home. Sometimes what we want in a house, in the area we want, at the price we can afford, just isn't going to happen. Something has to give. Its not good to be in a position where you have to literally take the first one that comes along. Ideally you should have choices. With kids I would think the school district would have great importance.

Could you rent on a month to month basis until you find a house? Or move in with family or friends?

If there is a neighborhood you like have your agent start contacting home owners to see if any are interested in selling.


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RE: What to do when couple can't agree on house? (BUY)

Happens a lot.
Have husband and wife sit down and list their "Wants" and their "Needs". See where you all agree and disagree. If you agree on the "Needs", it is much easier to compromise on the "Wants". But these answers will tend to be merely physical and concrete items, such as three car garage, close to work, and brick exterior... This is a good start. But then take each one of these answers and ask yourselves, "But why is that important to me?" Take THIS answer and ask the same question again, and again and again, until you really come up with why these "Wants" and "Needs" are important to you, and your spouse. Both of you should do this separate from one another. At the end of the exercise, usually the couple has a very enlightening realization of why it is that they want to move and what it is that they REALLY want from the new home. And it is rarely the difference between brick vs. vinyl, three car garage vs. a two car or so on. It is usually much more deep and emotional than these surface items. It will have to do more with how you want it to affect your lifestyle and your family and your standards in life, and so on. When some people do this exercise, they are amazed at how far off they were with what they thought they needed and wanted.
It is phsyco - gobbley gook, I know, but I really wish I was taught this trick sooner in my career than I was. It would have saved me a lot of headaches, along with my clients.


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RE: What to do when couple can't agree on house? (BUY)

Thanks for the replies, folks. Tough times buying a home...

egbar: We're going to try to walk the neighborhood on the weekend and talk to some residents. There's no crime to speak of, and no other neighborhoods nearby. That's actually the problem for me: too secluded.

weedy: I think I've identified what I don't like about it. It's that it feels too secluded to me. We've both lived in cities our whole lives: small, large, medium. Got to the point where we wanted a little more "elbow room". A house that's not on a 1/5th acre lot. Maybe an acre or two, in a medium size neighborhood (25-75 homes) in a larger suburb with stores and some stuff to do. Family neighborhood with kids, people who maintain their homes & property.

The house in question is in a small town (pop 10k) a town or two over from where we'd been primarily focused. 20min ride down a slow road from the highway (important because I commute 35 miles away to work). No grocery stores or anything in town. Neighborhood is new construction, 7 homes surrounded by 1200 acres of protected forest. Other than those 7 homes, it's easily a mile or two to the next neighborhoods. The parcel was the only private land in this forest area and was bought by this developer.

I know it sounds crazy, but I feel claustrophobic driving a couple miles into the forest to get to the neighborhood. The trees are tall and dense. It's too secluded for me. It sounds insane, and it bugs me that it bugs me. I'm wondering if I should just get over it.

debrak: We're really in tune with our wants/needs. There's simply a huge hole in the market. Tons of listings for small homes, or older homes, or poor location, priced $300-$475. Plenty of large luxo homes in the 750+ range. But literally nothing in the 500-700 range. (This is Boston suburbs market)

Regarding kids/schools, that's one primary motivation in moving: finding something more challenging & engaging for our kids. The good news is that the 5 or 6 towns we're targeting all have school systems in the top 10% of the state. Only minor percentage points separate them.

I also believe the "take the first one that comes" issue is also in play here. As stated, my other half is very Type A, aggressive, wants things resolved asap. Doesn't want to switch to rental and search longer. The objective is to get a house ASAP. I don't want that to cloud judgement.

Actually, after having a first 15 min showing the other day, in a house that's just stud walls, she walked out and said "alright, this is good enough. Let's lock this up now, right?"

We tried looking for a month-to-month rental, nothing came up. Even finding a rental in our market is challenging. No family in the area. No friends with space.

We found a real good realtor, who knows exactly the neighborhoods we like, who did indeed start actually knocking on doors to solicit a sale, called other agents and putting us on the first contact list, etc etc. But it's been 2 weeks ;) and there's no leads, so my wife feels we need to just lock up the next best option and finalize this process.


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RE: What to do when couple can't agree on house? (BUY)

It sounds like you've got a good handle on your feelings. :-) I think it's a great idea to walk the neighborhood together and get the flavor of it.

Does she also go to work, or does she stay at home with the kids? What's behind her strong desire to get settled? Perhaps there are some things about the temporary living situation that particularly irk her, and if addressed would increase her patience in the search process. Let her vent a bit and help her explore her feelings about the process.


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RE: What to do when couple can't agree on house? (BUY)

You have to feel comfortable where you live. While you wife is in a hurry to just get a house already, how to do think she will feel a year later? Any past experience of regret with making a decision too fast?

Sounds like you are talking about it so just keep talking and you will work it out.


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RE: What to do when couple can't agree on house? (BUY)

Weedy wrote:
"Does she also go to work, or does she stay at home with the kids? What's behind her strong desire to get settled? Perhaps there are some things about the temporary living situation that particularly irk her, and if addressed would increase her patience in the search process. Let her vent a bit and help her explore her feelings about the process."

Weedy is on to it... These are the kinds of intangibles of which my first post is about. You have to peel back the layers of fluff and find the real reason why it matters to her to get something sooner than later. It is probably true that she has not even thought it through completely.


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RE: What to do when couple can't agree on house? (BUY)

From your original post, I thought you just felt "bleh" about the house. From your update, I can see that it is the *location* of the house that bothers you.

You can't do anything to fix a bad location.

If you are too isolated from other houses, stores, work, it would have to be a super-duper-fantastic house to compensate. Clearly, this house is not.

Go with the problems with the location and the commute. That's a solid, logical reason to reject this house.

While you can't find a month to month rental, what about a 6 month rental? or 9 months? or even a year? A year lease would get you all out of the hotel, give you all a chance to live in one of the towns you are considering, give you a chance to find out about commuting and in general let you all decide if giving up city living is really for you.

Besides, you are heading into the slow season for houses to be listed. If you can rent for several months, you'll be in a good position come spring, when more houses go on the market.

Right now, it sounds as if you and your wife are about to settle for just about anything to get out of the hotel. It might be a good idea to find a temporary solution, so you have more time to find the right house.


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RE: What to do when couple can't agree on house? (BUY)

weedy: She works, kids are in school. I'd say that the biggest thing bothering her about our current arrangement (hotel) is feeling crowded and disorganized. She's a "place for everything, and everything in it's place" type of person. There's not enough space in a hotel to have things the way they need to be. It also bothers her that we haven't been able to find a house yet. She's driven. Accustomed to finishing things immediately. Hasn't really taken on long-scope projects.

debrak: She's from even bigger cities than I am. I think after a year in the woods she'll go crazy. And discussing past mistakes is a big no-no.

camlan: I expressed my concerns with the location and commute issues. She just said that if we want something good, that's the sacrifice we'll have to make. I should note that this home is 12 mins from her office, and (during lunch hour with no traffic) 52 minutes from mine. I've been doing a 45 min commute (12 miles) for ~20 years, and that's about my upper limit.

Rental seems to be a no-go with her. We originally agreed to go to a hotel for 2 months, for flexibility. If no house by Halloween, we'd get a 6/9 month rental and look hard in the Spring. Now she says going to a rental would be "going backwards." She is not going to accept defeat. We said we were buying a new house, and that's what we'll do. How can she face all her friends who thought she was buying a new house?


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RE: What to do when couple can't agree on house? (BUY)

Ah, I think you've found something needing a bit of digging. She feels like not buying a home loses face. How can you address that? What "story" can she tell her friends that will make her not feel ashamed?


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RE: What to do when couple can't agree on house? (BUY)

There you go... starting to get to the crux of the real issues.


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RE: What to do when couple can't agree on house? (BUY)

You might not be able to look backwards at your past mistakes but you might want to look closer at this listing and try to identify why the house has been listed with no bites for so long. Pose those questions with your wife and see what she says.

I understand where she's coming from but the bottom line is you all have to live with the decision. Pardon my frankness but to heck with what other people think. If you're not happy with a decision, that unhappiness will spread throughout your life. She may be happy in the short term but you won't be. That's not fair.

You think this is miserable? Think about how lshe may change her mind after being "isolated" for a while. Then living with a bad decision will continue for the rest of your life. If the house isn't selling now, will you be able to sell when you want to move on?

If you like a neighborhood, you'll have to wait for it. Don't settle for anything else.


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RE: What to do when couple can't agree on house? (BUY)

If it isn't ready for another 60-75 days, then I'd not necessarily feel like jumping on it. You are still going to be in the hotel another 2-3 months. And, probably, nobody else has "bitten" because it isn't finished.

You need to (both) like the location; especially with where it is in relation to school, work (x2), grocery store (your favorite--stand alone or warehouse type), daycare, sports/music interests, church, family (if any in area) or friends, etc, and lesser, doctor and dentist, orthodontist, etc. If it is secluded, but with good neighbors and convenient to all those locations, you might grow to like it.

If it is not convenient to any of those locations, you will not like it.


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RE: What to do when couple can't agree on house? (BUY)

our retirement dream home - 12 - 15 miles from grocery store/bank/convenience store/doctor/dentist/school (no kids for us, but 3 1/2 yr old relative living next door)/hardware store/restaurants/church.

I am retired and i still must drive to all of the above several times a week as I cannot always schedule everything on the same day. Then, the closest towns are 'small towns', i.e. less than 10000 folks.

I spent most of my life in Houston TX although a lot of the recent past was on the outskirts, I still had doctors/hospitals/grocery stores/churches, 24-hr drugstores all within less than ONE mile.

You need to seriously really think about the logistics of this secluded home. What are your kids gonna do for friends? afterschool activities? sports? etc.


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RE: What to do when couple can't agree on house? (BUY)

Research shows that happiness is correlated to commute time. Your hesitation is buying this house is very wise -- if you want to be happy, anyway. I'd hold out for one that puts each of your commutes at 20 minutes or less.

Here is a link that might be useful: Happiness and Commuting


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RE: What to do when couple can't agree on house? (BUY)


Lord, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

That there applies to both houses and spouses. ;)

If past history is an indicator, I'm not going to convince her it's the wrong house once she's made up her mind, or that it's a poor location, or we'll regret it someday, or ignore the opinion of others. She's an only child of an attorney and an executive. Used to getting what she wants. Pushed to excel at everything. Also, 12 years of Catholic school and church 4x per week, so God is always judging you because you're bad. I will never be able to re-wire any of that.

We've now progressed to the "Well fine, I guess we have to have it your way now" phase. Progress.

In this case, my strategy was not so much getting her to agree that it's a bad location, but rather to "buy time" with the fact that it's still got at least 2-3 months to get complete and there's been no competition so far. Finding another house might get us moved in and done sooner. She's begrudgingly agreed to wait and look at what else may come up.

Thanks for listening and all the advice.


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RE: What to do when couple can't agree on house? (BUY)

we purchased a home that fit our needs-I didn't particularly like it but it had a large area to put a
shop on and since he builds old cars-we needed that
we had been driving back and forth to work (65 plus) miles in Houston traffic for almost three months and I
was sick of it
so we bought the house
12 years later, he loves the place and I like it less every day......
fortunately it's retirement time and we've made the decision not to live here during retirement
point being, if you really don't like the place (or the
drive) that feeling will magnifiy greatly over the years....


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RE: What to do when couple can't agree on house? (BUY)

What is wrong with you people? He repeatedly stated she is Type A so there doesn't need to be a motivating factor for her urgency for resolve (whether she works or kids) it is just a symptom of her personality.

I Can't advise but a home unlike a car is maybe life long commitment. You may grow to like it but if you don't you will regret and blame (whether external or internal voice) each time a mishap happens in your remote location (think medical emergency, natural/weather crisis or warning, gas price increase, etc.). So, of all decisions or choices this is not the one to compromise on unless there is convincing evidence it will inflate in value. Perhaps, discourage your other half by investigating why it has been on the market for 6 months when other homes have bidding wars?

Might even investigate with your new upper end price would you have won any of those bidding wars (check sales records) which might give encouragement to keep looking.

It is difficult with a Type A but logic might overcome the impulsive haste for now.


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RE: What to do when couple can't agree on house? (BUY)

Your best bet is what Roosevelt says... make sure you are the winners of the next home that the both of you like. A couple thousand dollars over 30 years is worth it for not having to go through what you guys now have to go through.


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RE: What to do when couple can't agree on house? (BUY)

I think I'm more like the Type A - I do NOT like procrastinating decisions.

That said, the best advice our realtor gave us was "If one of you hates the house, don't even waste any energy on it. Walk out the door and look for the next one." Ideally you'll find one you both like. It might be worth pointing out to her that this secluded area is less prestigious and her friends might think it's weird that you guys moved out to the sticks.

I live in a small city and am thinking that your own stated needs may be in conflict -- an "acre or two" in my area would definitely be way out in the woods. If you want something on a couple of acres that's not super secluded, around here anyway, that would not exist except for the largest, priciest city estate lots. So it may be worth listening to what's frustrating your SO about the slowdown - have you perhaps been throwing a few roadblocks up with your own conflicting needs? Are there other houses she liked that you balked at, are you perhaps being hard to please?

I speak as someone who is more than 1000% ready to charge ahead with a home reno with a husband who's been throwing every roadblock possible in the way. At some point I'm just going to go get a bank loan by myself and book the contractor.


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RE: What to do when couple can't agree on house? (BUY)

You are in a tough market. Like all major cities on the coast, these cities are having a real estate boom. Currently, there is a trend for American families is move close in to where the amenities are because many young people value quality of life over the size of the house. Cities are growing faster than the overall population growth.

Sacrifice is only meaningful WHEN you have the increased quality of life that you desire because you sacrificed. It seems to me that your wife is asking you to commute a long distance without the increased quality of life from your point of view.
How does your family measure the quality of life? Is it material things; ie a larger house in an upscale neighborhood? More elbow room as you said? Is it how you spend time with your family? Is it the fact that you can eat dinner together every night? Do you want money left over (after housing) so you can take fabulous trips every year? Is it the best school that you can send your kids to? Do you want to have enough money to send kids to college without debt? No two family sees life the same way. You and your wife first need to define and AGREE on what is worth 'sacrificing' for.

IMHO, if you are sacrificing (since you will do the bulk of the commute) without getting something that you value and want, the resentments will grow over the years.

I commute;) 2 miles to my work. My husband is retired and no longer commute. When he used to work, his commute was much longer. Even so, he did not want to move because we liked our neighborhood better than where we would have moved to. My kids walk to their schools which are probably two of the best schools in the city. I live in a home about 1/2 the size and 1/10th of the lot that I could live in if I lived somewhere further out of the city.

I am a firm believer in making your daily life as pleasant as possible. When I have to drive during the rush hour, it raises my anxiety level significantly.

I suggest that you live in a hotel that is near where you would like to live, ie shorter commute, and see what your daily life is like. Since you are in a hotel already, the move should not be a huge issue. The difference in your life style maybe enough to convince your wife that you will not compromise on the location. I am not sure if you wife will go for this or not but I am just throwing it out there.

For example, can you get home by 6:00 so that you can help prepare dinner together versus you get home at 7:00 so end up grabbing to go food, etc..

Can you sneak away from the office so that you can take the kids to soccer practice instead of your wife... etc etc

I live so close to everything I sneak away from my work to go to my kids' school functions and then go back to work!

There are many families that can live farther out because their jobs are such that they do not have to commute daily. Often, the companies allow them to telecommute multiple days per week. Their jobs require a significant amount of traveling out of town and the rest of the time, they work from home etc. Over next few years, can you look for such a job so that commute becomes less of an issue for you?


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RE: What to do when couple can't agree on house? (BUY)

Roosevelt: We definitely would have had a home by now had we been shopping in this higher price range 6 months ago. But it's taken her this long to become comfortable with the bigger numbers. Fiscally conservative.

ncrealestateguy If there were a house we both liked, we'd for sure go for it. The problem is that most of the houses that are left now we're just sort of "neutral" on. She wants us to lower our requirements to just finish the process.

robotropolis: I'd love for her to take the "walk out the door" approach, but being Type A she is accustomed to getting what she wants when she's made up her mind. Woe to the person who stands in her way.

In our area (west of Boston) most towns have a highway or two running thru them, or 5-10 mins away. And to slow down suburban sprawl, most towns have adopted 1 or 2 acre minimum lot sizes. Most of the neighborhoods that've gone in in the last 10 years are 75-100 homes on 1-2ac lots but within 3-5miles of a highway.

The problem with this home she really wants is that it's 2 towns removed from the highways. A 25 min ride down the only road into town just to get to the highway.

And regarding other roadblocks, none to my knowledge. The primary frustration is that there's just been nothing to look at. Before we sold our home, and when we first listed, there were easly a half-dozen or more "ideal" homes. But that was Spring market and those got snapped up quick. Now that we're in a position to buy, there's just nothing there. And had we had this higher upper price limit from the start, probably a half dozen more good homes would've been available to us. She's frustrated by the lack of choices.

And the roles have been reversed. There have been a couple homes that I've liked that she wouldn't even look at. But I just took the "walk out the door" approach to look for the next one. I'm pragmatic. She's a perfectionist. It doesn't bother me to walk away and look for the next one. But I am troubled that she's not willing to do the same.

kaismom: We do seem to be on the same page on what we value. Better schools for the kids. Community with outdoor activities. Neighborhood with other kids/families to socialize with. A place where people show pride in their community and neighborhoods. On that we pretty much all agree. But she's impatient and doesn't like to wait for what she wants.

Since you mentioned it, family dinner is actually very important to us. And it's actually already me that does the majority of the meal planning and preparation. I'd love to be 30-45 mins away from home instead my current 45-75min commute. We usually don't cook together because she knows I'm better at it and thinks I embarrass or insult her by showing her how to do things or correcting her. (type A, remember.)

RE commute, I already work a split day. I have colleagues and clients on both coasts, plus europe and asia. I work an hour or two at home in the early morning (phone & email, 5a-7a) to connect with EU folks, do the breakfast & bus stop routine with the kids, then commute 45 mins to Boston and work 6-7 hours in the office, then home 60-75 mins to prepare dinner & have homework/play time with the kids. Then after they're in bed I put in another hour or two of email/phone with PacRim-mers. For me, adding another 20-30 mins in the car to each end of that day would just kill me. It's a deal breaker.


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RE: What to do when couple can't agree on house? (BUY)

OP, please pardon me for saying this, but I almost get the feeling that you don't have a house problem, you have a marriage problem.

"she is accustomed to getting what she wants when she's made up her mind. Woe to the person who stands in her way "

"We usually don't cook together because she knows I'm better at it and thinks I embarrass or insult her by showing her how to do things or correcting her. (type A, remember.)"

If I were you - and I'm not, but it just what comes through to me on this thread - I would stop house hunting, and spend some time talking to a counselor to help you both start to value each other once again. Good luck.


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RE: What to do when couple can't agree on house? (BUY)

hayden: It's not a problem, it's simply the status quo. She is a determined person, an overachiever, a perfectionist. Her mom and cousins assure me she's always been that way. If she does something, it's 200%. If she senses she's not "the best" at something, she quits. If something fails, there is conveniently some fault other than hers. I came to accept this years and years ago. Accept the things I can't change. If you've never been close to a truly driven person like this, then you won't understand their uncompromising nature.

We actually have been to counselors a couple times over the years. In both cases it was her idea. And in both cases she quit it after 2 or 3 sessions when the counselor implied that she was wrong about some things and suggested she change some behaviors. And she didn't quit because they implied she was wrong, it was because they simply didn't understand her POV and she needed to find another counselor who knew what they're talking about.


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RE: What to do when couple can't agree on house? (BUY)

I am of two minds here. On the one hand I want to say that if something is a deal breaker than don't go see houses that have that negative feature. That is, if you don't want to have a commute longer than X minutes then don't go see houses if commutes longer than X minutes.

On the other hand -- be sure that you know what is a deal breaker. When DH and I were looking for a house, there was a subdivision he didn't want to look at because it was a gated community. He had all kinds of negative opinions just based upon that and was sure he didn't want to look there. As we had few options for what we needed I suggested we go there and look at several houses and he reluctantly agreed. When we got there and went through one of the houses, he walked out and said he was ready to buy it. So, he was glad I had talked him into looking at it.


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RE: What to do when couple can't agree on house? (BUY)

Build the house you want where you want it.


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RE: What to do when couple can't agree on house? (BUY)

kats: The problem with the "don't see houses that don't meet criteria" approach has been that there's just nothing to see otherwise. We don't have tough criteria. Standard mid-priced move-up family home. There's a big hole in the middle of the market in our area. When we get 4-6 weeks without seeing homes, one of us gets 'itchy' and says "well, let's just go look at this other one." Then we get into second guessing ourselves.

Seeing this latest house, the one I don't want. The deal-breaker worked in reverse. I had originally had this area on my "might consider" list, but after making the drive (non-rush hour) I felt it was just too far and need to exclude it.

jakabedy: If only it were so easy. I would love to have a home custom built. I just don't have pockets deep enough. In our area, "custom" means millionaire territory. In most towns, a buildable lot is $300-$500k. Then construction I'm told is averaging $200-$350/sq ft.


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