There was a really great article posted today about what to do when you and your spouse/partner do not have the same taste (or same anything) when home shopping. Like the author, I too have been on the "neutral" side of the table when a client couple does not exactly see eye-to-eye on housing wants or needs. In fact, it is quite common. They say opposites attract, right? :)

First, in addition to the great advice she gives, I would also encourage both buyers to talk early and often to other influencers in their lives early in the process, and decide where their (sure to be varied!) opinions measure up. During my career I have certainly served families where not getting the buy-in of another person close to a buyer--the father, the grandmother, or a close family friend, for example--was enough to monkey-wrench the whole process or at the very least, add a layer of unexpected emotional stress onto my Buyer's shoulders. At the end of the day, it is the home YOU have to live in, and YOU have to feel good about writing a check for every month, but the reality is that there are often people in your life that have an opinion that you (or your partner) just might value more than you realize when you begin. Before you start home shopping, sit down and make a list of people in any way related to the buyers (and therefore the impending transaction), and categorize them as:

  • Stakeholders - Those financially involved in the purchase (almost always also "decision-makers"),

  • Decision-makers - Individuals who have a tangible "say" in what you buy (often the exact same people as listed "stakeholders" category),

  • Influencers - Individuals who you seek an opinion from (decide their weights),

  • Outliers - Individuals who might offer an opinion, but it is not of weight. 

Be sure to arrive at that final list with your partner, share that list early with your Realtor, and agree to stick to the decided upon roles as you go along.

Second--if you remove the real estate transaction from the equation for a second--in some cases the reality is that disagreements about buying a home may indicate that there is more that needs to be ironed out in the relationship overall. Buying a home is one of the more concrete ways in which a relationship gets cemented, and is easily on par with life events like getting engaged, or taking the plunge and establishing joint bank accounts--it is a real, serious, public commitment. It is not some Facebook status you can just change the next day when it doesn't work out. And though I do make my living off of home sales, I honestly do not want to ever see anyone go down the homebuying road unless they really both feel ready to settle--They must be prepared to compromise, and to fully vest themselves financially and emotionally.

Especially if you have never lived together as a couple or you suspect that you want to buy (translation: put down serious roots) more than your partner, there may be some warning signs to heed:

  • When one partner expresses dislike for (most? all?) home styles you suggest

  • Has a sudden distaste for (any? all?) locations on your list, especially when they seemed to like those areas previously, 

  • Generally throws out gripes or roadblocks to the process,

  • Suddenly turns wants into deal-breaking needs (knowing it will be impossible to find such characteristics in your price range or location of interest),

  • Disengages from the process (suddenly can't make showings, or doesn't want to look at listing links you send along),    

  • Puts the homebuying ball totally in your court ("let me know what you pick out/let me know when I need to sign the paperwork/see you at settlement").

To avoid experiencing these manifestations, I recommend that you sit down before you start looking to buy a home: Take stock of common priorities and future plans, be fully heard, listen carefully, and really do what you can to nail down the things important to you both. These behaviors just might indicate general uncertainly or nervousness with the permanence of the relationship itself that you might want to talk through or address up front. If you don't go through that initial exercise on the front-end, what seems like a simple common-sense buying decision (with a compromise here or there) just might become an ugly bone of contention that leads to a home not-so-sweet-home.