Last Sunday I was in the audience at the BBC’s The Big Questions programme. I went along because one of the questions being discussed was “Is it still acceptable to have a second home?” As you might expect my view is generally “yes, but I’d be happier if you shared it”.
One of the panellists was Jonathan Bartley, director of the religious think-tank Ekklesia. During the debate he explained that he lived with another family and several other people in several properties. Well I had to find out more.
I had an interesting chat with Jonathan and found out how his sharing arrangement works. Several years ago, he was working with a good friend on a charity dot.com. Like Jonathan, his friend was interested in communal living. Following an idle “what if we buy a house together” conversation, Jonathan and his wife wound up buying a six bedroom terraced house on several floors in Streatham, London with his friend. Jonathan and his wife’s share was 75% and his friend had a 25% stake.
Then his friend’s brother moved in too. When his friend married, his friend bought the house two doors down and Jonathan bought out his friend’s stake in the first house.
Time moved on, both families had children and one of Jonathan’s children is a wheelchair user, which isn’t easy to accommodate in a tall terraced house. So Jonathan bought the ground floor flat in the house in between and connected it to his house. This created a three bedroom apartment on the ground floor of both houses. On the upper floors of Jonathan’s house live his son’s carer and three other adults who rent rooms. There is also a shared office.
All three gardens have been joined together and everyone contributes to expenses and food costs. The group is a mix of Christians and non-Christians, with many different lifestyles, but everyone gathers together for a communal meal on Wednesdays, which alternates between the two houses.
Jonathan is understandably delighted with the sharing arrangement. They live in a great house, in a great location, and everyone enjoys being part of the group. The arrangement succeeds not only because everyone is like-minded and willing to make it work, but also because the ownership has always been clearly defined. When the first property was joint owned, there was a formal contract in place. Jonathan clearly understands the importance of clarity and contracts.
When he first mentioned the sharing set-up on The Big Questions I was intrigued as one thing I’ve learned with yours2share is that arrangements between friends are the most likely to fail because friends can’t or don’t want to discuss them properly at the outset.
It’s lovely to see an example where friends have worked it out a sharing arrangement so well.