For Greg Horen, a residential architect in Chicago, moving into a two-bedroom apartment with his girlfriend this summer was a natural next step in their relationship. And it went fairly smoothly – for the most part, at least.
“We had a little hiccup with move-in and move-out dates, so I ended up moving in with her and her dog in her studio for a while,” he says.
Short-term close quarters aside, the transition to cohabiting has worked well for the couple, who are among the 7.3 million unmarried-partner households in the U.S. as of 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Combined with the more than 61 million married households as reported in 2018 by the Census Bureau, more than half of households throughout the country involve cohabiting partners.
Whether you’re moving in with your boyfriend, girlfriend, fiance or spouse, the process of combining two worlds into a single household requires patience, planning and an open mind.
Here are seven ways to make moving in together a success.
Talk location and cost together. There’s the option to stay in your current home, move into your significant other's place or find new digs together. Logistics often play a big factor in where you end up, including proximity to both partners' work locations, distance from hangouts or other frequented spots and whether one partner already owns property.
Moving to a completely new home may be the best option for both partners to start with a clean slate, says Joyce Marter, licensed psychotherapist with Refresh Mental Health in the Chicago area. “It is important that you both feel you have ownership of the place and identity for you as a couple,” she says.
You also have the option to purchase property together, which can be a sound investment to build equity together, although some mortgage lenders may be wary of issuing a mortgage to an unmarried couple. Horen says he and his girlfriend both preferred renting as they live together for the first time: "We're not married, so we didn't want to buy anything."
Establish formal residency. Regardless of where you move, it’s important that both partners establish formal residency. While breaking up is never the plan, it’s important to be able to document your residency so no one is left paying more rent than he or she can cover.
If you’re renting, make sure both people are on the lease. This is also important to avoid getting into hot water with the landlord. If one person owns the condo or house, the two of you should draw up a quick month-to-month lease so you don't have to make up an end date, with rent established as the amount you agree to pay toward the mortgage or utilities.
Discuss what you have and what you need. When you’re combining two households, you’ll realize you have two sets of dishes and silverware, more mugs than anyone can ever use and an assortment of furniture that neither of you really loves. Before packing to move, Marter advises couples sit down to review “what they both have, what the new space is going to be like and how they’d like it decorated.”
Especially if the house or apartment you’re moving into has more space than your previous respective places, there’s a good chance you’ll need to buy furniture. The additional costs may be something you can split easily, or you may need to factor them into your monthly budget.
Store or give away duplicates. What to do with all those extras that don’t have a place in your first home as a couple? Take a hard look at them and decide whether to store them or give them away, says Amory Wooden, vice president of brand for on-demand storage company MakeSpace.
Especially in major cities, storage space in an apartment is tough to come by, and you don’t want to be cramped with extra furniture and boxes of memorabilia or other items that may be of use to you eventually. Getting a storage unit for any belongings you’re not willing to part with can help reduce clutter and tension in your first home with your significant other.
Expect that amount you store to be more than you have before, too. “People often think they need to store less than they do,” Wooden says. She adds that seasonal apparel, hobby items and holiday decorations can also go into storage.
But when it comes to the stuff you just don’t need or want anymore, give it away or toss or recycle it if it’s broken, Wooden says. Many moving companies and storage facilities partner with organizations like Goodwill, the Salvation Army and Purple Heart to make it easy for you to pass on items to others in need.
Compromise on decor. You haven’t minded your significant other’s decorating aesthetic up until this point, but you also never considered it your home. Couples often find themselves at odds when it comes to making design choices in their newly shared home.
For example, when there are two couches: “Often, the old leather sofa from the frat years isn’t going to stay, but they’re not ready to let go of it,” Wooden says.
Marter stresses that open, direct communication is important to ensure both partners feel ownership over the space and avoid resentment down the line. It’s unlikely the common areas will look exactly how you envisioned on your own, but with compromise you can both be happy with the overall design.
Divvy up cleaning and maintenance. Once you’re moved in, cleaning and maintaining your home can quickly become a point of contention. To keep things tidy without any messy disagreements, have a conversation about chores you prefer over others. For example, you may not mind cleaning the bathroom, while your boyfriend is happiest taking care of laundry or dishes.
Marter recommends starting out by dividing cleaning in half. “Division of labor may shift a little bit,” she says. “It’s just important to have clear dialogues and conversation about what that’s going to look like.” If one person works from home while the other works 60-hour weeks, it’s natural to rebalance tasks so both people pull weight and also have the ability to relax at home as well.
In Horen's apartment, he and his girlfriend have fallen into a natural cleaning pattern where each person focuses on areas they find most important to clean. He'll sweep floors and clean the kitchen more often, while her focus will be on the bathrooms.
Know it’s OK to get professional help. Moving can always be stressful, but moving in with your significant other for the first time adds a whole new set of stresses. If you and your girlfriend or boyfriend feel you’d benefit from an unbiased third party to help make living together a success, go for it.
You don’t necessarily have to talk to a counselor right away, either. Marter recommends sitting down with a financial advisor as well. “The two main reasons people come into couple’s counseling are issues about finances and issues about communication,” she says.
Communication is imperative for success in any relationship. Communication about finances is key to keeping both parties in the loop, especially when you’re cohabiting and directly affected by your partner’s financial situation.
Renting is in, and so are amenities.
More people than ever are renting rather than owning, with more than 35 percent of Americans living in rented housing as of 2014, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council. To compete with the growing number of rental opportunities in the U.S., many apartment communities are upping the ante with luxurious amenities that make living easier, more convenient and more fun. While resort-style pools, movie theaters and recreational spaces are becoming the standard, many places are going above and beyond to appeal to residents looking to rent in the area. Here are eight apartment amenities you never knew you needed – until now.Making fitness fun
Making fitness fun
Full fitness facilities, complete with treadmills, weightlifting machines and free weights, are quickly becoming standard for many apartment communities. Even buildings without space to accommodate a small gym often offer discounted memberships to nearby gyms. But at The Lorenzo in Los Angeles, residents get to take advantage of more recreational fitness options, with a rock wall and indoor soccer field on the premises. As off-campus student housing for the University of Southern California, The Lorenzo's student residents don’t have to worry about reserving on-campus facilities for a pickup game or quick climb in their free time.Water features for everyone
Water features for everyone
Pools are quickly becoming a staple for even midsize apartment communities. And while some aim for terrific views and lap lanes, others are reaching beyond their own walls. The Villages of Parklands in the District of Columbia, owned by property management and development company WC Smith, includes a splash park that's open to community residents and the surrounding neighborhood. “It’s something that’s not just a high-end amenity for people with lots of disposable income,” says Anne Marie Bairstow, vice president of marketing at communications at WC Smith.Tuneup space for two wheels
Tuneup space for two wheels
Particularly in major cities where parking can be expensive, residents take to bicycles for their commute to and from work as well as pedal around the city for recreation and exercise. AVA Little Tokyo in Los Angeles, owned by AvalonBay Communities Inc., helps its biking residents stay on two wheels with bike storage and a repair station, which includes a lift to make it easy to work on your bike and any tools you might need to make improvements and repairs. Residents take full advantage of the facility, says Juan Rodriguez, sales and service supervisor at AVA Little Tokyo. “The storage itself is pretty much always full,” he says.Pets as a priority
Pets as a priority
Pet-friendly apartments are in high demand for renters who want to ensure comfort for the furriest members of their family, but at 2M apartments in the District of Columbia, also owned by WC Smith, pet residents get their own representation. Emmy, an English bulldog owned by the property manager, is the official “pet ambassador.” She regularly draws residents into the management office for a quick pet and playtime while also highlighting the building’s pet-positive attitude and private courtyard for dog walking. “Dogs just make friends, and so everybody that has a dog knows the other dog owners, and it really helps to build the community,” Bairstow says.Living in a luxury hotel setting
Living in a luxury hotel setting
If you’re going to live in luxury, why not live like you’re in a high-end hotel? Residents at The Atlantic Midtown in Atlanta can opt to purchase concierge-arranged services, from housekeeping to dog walking to room service. While anyone can hire similar services themselves, the added hotel-like concierge service removes items from your to-do list and relieves the stress of finding the right vendor.Swinging for the greens year-round
Swinging for the greens year-round
Luxury communities throughout the country have been tapping into their residents’ love of golf. While some add small putting courses and even a sand trap or two, others go a little further. At AMLI River North in Chicago, owned by AMLI Residential, golfers don’t have to put away the clubs once winter hits. The community has a golf simulator for golfers to practice their swing whether it’s snowing outside or it’s tough to get a tee time at nearby courses.Facilities for your fruit of the vine
Facilities for your fruit of the vine
Forget wine bottles lining your countertop or even a wine cooler in your kitchen. Lincoln Property Company's Highgrove apartments in Stamford, Connecticut, appeals to wine aficionados with a private space for each residence in a climate-controlled wine cellar. The community confirms most residents take advantage of the wine cellar, which offers space for roughly 30 to 40 bottles per household. Thanks to this free amenity included with renting in the community, wine lovers avoid having to go elsewhere to store their favorite wines that are best served with a little extra care.An eye for art
An eye for art
As amenities like fresh coffee and business centers with free Wi-Fi draw residents into common areas, property managers and owners know they have to make the spaces as appealing and entertaining as possible – which is one reason curated art collections are popping up in luxury communities around the country. Communities like Jasper in San Francisco feature art throughout their lobbies, mail rooms and other common spaces. The art displayed in Jasper "tells a story of a contemporary San Francisco 21st century style with a nod to its film noir history," according to a statement from Jasper's art curator, Maria Di Grande. The collection includes commissioned collages as well as street photography.Read More
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She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.
Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at email@example.com.
Devon Thorsby | June 5, 2019
Homeowners should not fret, as long as they're prepared for the possibility of a downturn.