I should have had the sense to put the brakes on before my daughter, her husband and I committed to buying a house together. I should have held out and demanded promises in writing. Each item I presented for discussion was dismissed before my list hit the table.
“These are all common sense.” Her husband waved the air as if to clear away my fussiness. Once he agreed to our arrangement, it was full speed ahead. I’m not blaming him, we all three dove in together. I should have forced the rules to avoid early problems.
Currents of excitement soon plunged us into the maelstrom of house-hunting. My house sold a week before my new closing date. I became a minefield of nerves ready to explode; the worry of bridge financing almost shattered me.
Once we signed the papers, the lawyer pointed out we were three unequal owners. The percentage of ownership was equal to the amount invested in the purchase by each party. He waited for this information to sink in. My son-in-law had the notion his percentage would increase because he would look after the property. The lawyer explained it would not. Only the market value would increase or decrease if the house was sold.
Our ownership as Tenants-in-Common, protected each of us against life’s unforeseen setbacks. My son-in-law’s contribution was split equally between him and my daughter. In the event of death, divorce or remarriage, the question of exact ownership could be resolved outside of court if a fight arose. Of course, each of us had to draw up wills or update them to spell out our wishes should the unthinkable arise. In the event of a forced sale, each owner would receive his or her market value share by percentage contributed.
As we searched for a suitable house, we found quite a number of so-called granny suites in the basement that I wouldn’t let my dog live in. We were lucky to find the perfect one-floor house with a finished, open-concept basement including a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, laundry-room, and entrance for me. I wasn’t bothered with coming in through the garage. My car would be parked there anyway. I knew I would not have liked a common entrance and communal kitchen. That kind of sharing would not have worked for any of us. My daughter and her family had the house (whole main floor) to themselves with no interference from me and vice-versa.
Some rules had to be re-enforced time and again. No running up and down the stairs allowed for a quick pop-in unless invited. Knocking on my door or phoning ahead were encouraged; borrowing discouraged. I had to put my foot down hard numerous times against last minute babysitting.
We were in agreement about major maintenance. The cost could be evenly split by my son-in-law and me. Any necessary work would be discussed before proceeding.
I distanced myself from gardening and landscaping, either by contribution or discussion, because our opinions differed in this area. To keep the peace, I closed my eyes and ignored what didn’t tickle my fancy. On the bright side, by parking in the garage and with the immediate walk down the stairs to home, saved me from any disgruntled opinions. Living this close together, you must learn to keep your lips zipped.
Parking in summer wasn’t a problem. In winter, I had to beg someone to move a vehicle on a regular basis. This was a big headache for all of us and I know no-one liked to drop everything when I wanted to go out. We had three vehicles among us and a double driveway. In summer one vehicle was parked on the street, but in winter no cars were allowed on the road. We played musical cars that frayed everyones nerves all winter. If I arrived home after everyone else, this left my car out in the cold and blocked from entering the garage.
We are almost six years into our multigenerational living. For other cultures this life-style isn’t new. They’ve lived it for centuries and continue to do so. This is now becoming a necessary trend in North America and abroad. Think boomerang generation; student debt; divorced children with children; unemployed children and failing or aging parents.