How do we buy a house when we can’t agree on a location?

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Screen Shot 2013-05-05 at 3.28.52 PMMy husband and I decided to buy our first home by next year. So, of course, I have been on the web searching for the perfect house.

I was looking at houses in Georgia and noticed houses that are gorgeous and are cheaper than where we are currently living in Alabama. Why is the price so different? I don’t know, but I am willing to move from one state to another.

I have shown my husband these houses and although he agrees the prices are great, he doesn’t want to move to another state. So my question is, how do you buy a house together when neither of you agrees on the location? Anyone been in this situation before that could offer up some advice? -Emma

Comments on How do we buy a house when we can’t agree on a location?

  1. Personally, although I get the frustration about your husband not wanting to move, until you know a bit more about the state, the area, education (if you’re thinking about kids etc), jobs, blah blah, there’s nothing to woo your husband with. He’s probably seeing it as “lets move just because it’s cheaper”, rather than “it could be a great place to live, and be cheaper”. Even if you have a great house, if you end up hating it there, that extra money isn’t going to make you feel better, so I’d do a TON more research before you suggest it to him again.. then if you love it AND it’s cheaper then you’ll be able to sell the effort of moving and he will love it too.

  2. Here’s the thing about a cheaper house: unless the houses are significantly (read: several tens-to-hundreds of thousands of dollars) cheaper, the difference in your home loan payments will probably be small. It’s definitely cheaper in the long run, but you might not feel a huge financial difference month-to-month. It’s worth mathing it out to see if the difference is worth the move, especially if there’s a big difference in what’s available nearby.

  3. First, I’d figure out what it is that each of you really wants in your location. Why does he not want to move states? Does he want to be within X miles of his family? Draw a circle with diameter X around his family. Are you wanting to be in an urban environment? Look at the cities that fit in your circle. Do you need to be in a good school district? Cross out all the districts in your circle that don’t fit your criteria. Now you should have a jumping off point.

    When my husband and I started the househunting, we knew we wanted to stay around Indianapolis, a house less than 140k, and we wanted a good school district. We picked a realtor and had him set up searches in the nice school districts for houses under 140k…. Our price point locked us out of some of the neighborhoods/districts around here, narrowing our search by default. This helped us narrow our search to a particular town, basically. Granted, we had already picked a city… but if you can focus in on some areas of the state/region that you would like to look at, and then set your pricepoint, you might find that one or two areas really pop out as a better option for you.

    • I agree with this. Choosing your home is also choosing the life you want. In order to do that, you have to define your values. What do you value and love about your life now? What do you imagine your life becoming in a new home? What are you unwilling to give up?

      After 12 years in the same apartment, we’re ready to start looking for a home to buy. Part of that process has been thinking hard and talking a lot about what we value as a family. If we moved about 30 minutes away, we could afford a bigger house with a bigger yard, but we would lose the ability to bike to work and a lot of the public amenities that have made our life good in our current home. Our daughter, an only child, would lose public space to play and make friends. The house would be awesome, but the life might not be.

  4. I don’t exactly where you are located, but how far of a move are you considering? If you live on the border between the two states and the move is just to the next town over, then it sounds like moving wouldn’t be that big a deal. However, if it would be further than that, would you have to find new jobs along with this move? If so, have you looked at what the job market is like in the new town? Sometimes when an area has a lower cost of living the jobs also pay less or there are fewer of them. It’s something to consider when deciding if you want to move.

    Also, the job market is pretty bad in most places in the US, and I’d say it makes sense very hesitant to make a move that would meant giving up a job unless you already have a new job lined up.

  5. Wow..I can relate to you. I live in Orange Beach,AL and am from Georgia. My whole family is in Georgia. Georgia may be the one state that is popular for being the highway to Florida, but other than Atlanta, Georgia’s housing is cheap because many communities are nearly bedroom communities. This being that unless you’re retired with some sort of regular income coming in, its hard to find a job unless you are in a factory-type area or an area with tourist attractions. The commute, on average, can range from you driving 30- an hour and a half drive to a job. I lived in Atlanta, Clarkesville, and Atkinson County. All three were vastly different from each other. Urban life has the upsides of jobs, as well as still having southern culture and hospitality in its midst, Clarkesville is one of those no-name cities in the middle of the mountains that you think is TN until you hear the accent. Jobs are scarce unless you have a degree of some kind, anything else below that you have to know jim-bob’s wife’s sister’s cousin to get a decent position in any place nearly. Atkinson is just teetering near the florida line, deep south culture at its best. Sadly, many of those areas, unless you are in a city like Valdosta is nearly close to poverty. Believe me, an uncle of mine is mayor of one of these backcountry towns, and wears overalls to all district meetings. Unless your family has roots and some sort of political business background, you won’t make it far until you have some sort of degree and work under them.

    I do agree with everyone though, if you’re wanting to move around, look up more info on places. It may be a lucky break to see a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere there, but nowadays you may see a meth lab in the storm cellar. When you look at housing and prices, the prices tend to reflect the value of the community as well. It is almost horrifying and sickening to know what exactly can lower the appraisal. I hope some of my info helps at all. if you want to know more about any areas, let me know. I have family in all three places and visit regularly. And though I know about the culture, I HIGHLY suggest looking more into actual facts like how well the schools are, jobs, economy, government, and whatever else is important in you finding out what you really want in your community. A house is a house no matter where you live, its the environment around it that you have to own and accept.

    Good luck!

  6. Start with a pro/con list. Pros of living in each state, cons of living in each state. Factor in everything included, like how much more transportation costs might be (not just gas, but how much more frequently you might have to change the oil, tires, etc) or how much more/less state taxes might be. Look at schools e.g. if you’re looking to settle in a house for a while, are the colleges in GA better than AL? How much less might in-state tuition be in one state than the other? Also factor in how much better quality of life might be – are the neighborhoods you can afford in GA better for families or have more fun stuff to do? Are you going to be further away from family or closer to the major airport you use to fly to see them? Try to round out your whole lives in each place and see if one place starts to fit your vision of how you want your life to be more than the other place. Also think about resale in both areas – is one market more stable than the other? Could you sell easily if you realize it’s not the place for you?

    Long story, short: when you’re making an investment like a house, there is a lot more to factor in than just how much home you’re getting for your money.

  7. My husband and I are also facing the “we are going to move and buy a house” event within the next year. Our problem though isn’t what state to live in, it’s that I hate cities and find them claustrophobic, and he grew up in a cramped neighborhood in Detroit, and wants to live close to a city.
    Unfortunately, by virtue of living “in a city” (in America) it seems you cannot also live in a place near nature with lots of green space.

      • I second this! Even if you don’t live in DOWNTOWN Seattle, like out even in the “sticks’ suburbs (think Issaquah/North Bend) you have a very city feel with TONS of nature. I’m a firm believer that if it were abandoned for even 1 year, the whole city of Seattle would be overrun with the forest.

      • My husband and I are considering moving to the Seattle area. Does anyone have any advice about where to find the least expensive rents in an area with decent public transit?

    • I would avoid the south with lots of sprawl (neither green space or city!). There are some cities that have commuter trains that run out past the suburbs, so if you wanted to live by green space but have faster access to a city for weekend visits, etc, it’s possible.

    • Indianapolis is a city where you can be 20 minutes from downtown, yet living next to farmland. Granted, it’s not a *huge* city with nice transportation and such, but it’s something like 11th biggest in the country…. Depending on how close he needs to be to a city, and how far away you need to be, I bet there are suburbs all over the country that suit your needs.

      • Same with Cincinnati, although it’s not just flat farmland around here (lived in Indiana for a while and hated how flat it was!!), but we have trees and hills too! 🙂 And Cincinnati as a city has something like the most parks/green space per capita than any other large city in the U.S. (or something like that).

    • “Unfortunately, by virtue of living “in a city” (in America) it seems you cannot also live in a place near nature with lots of green space.”

      There are still many places in the West that have lots of nature near cities. But every time someone makes a comment about how awesome it is out here the Coloradans will come hunt you down for letting out their secrets. So adios, OBH&L, I’ll be going into the witness protection progr

    • You can in Atlanta! I remember running through Morningside’s urban forest as a small child. There are tons of wooded areas inside the perimeter.

      • I live in Decatur, GA. It’s like living in a small town but not. We have tons of trees around, I have the windows open and it sounds like I’m living in a forest.

  8. My husband and I went through the same thing last year deciding between Pennsylvannia and Delaware. One thing to look into is property taxes. Homes in Pennsylvania were a bit less expensive, but the property taxes were more than double, adding more than $200/month on top of our mortgage payment.

    A lot of areas in Pennsylvania also had additional taxes etc.

    Even so, we still went to look at them. They were downwind of the mushroom farms. If you’ve never been to a mushroom farm… well the smell is basically manure/rotting hay. It’s unbearable.

    Basically, there are a lot of factors, and it depends on what’s important. We were concerned with 1. cost 2. crime and 3. quality of schools. Make a list of what’s important to you and then do the research. sites like are good for looking up schools in your area.

    • Just had to highlight the property tax factor!

      If you are child-free and it doesn’t matter what school district you want to live in you can save SO much money! It’s not a direct indicator, but I think generally the best school districts have higher taxes.

      • If taxes aren’t your main consideration, even if you don’t have children at school – or at all – looking at the local school district can often tell you something about the general values of the community. Areas that can’t get public funding (taxes) for schools often won’t get it for libraries other educational considerations either, so if that’s a thing that’s important to you, you might not be happy living there. If you’re an artist who thinks sports culture is silly, you might not want to live in the town that cut their school arts program but whose football team gets new uniforms every year. If the school sports teams/ drama club/ whatever gets no local non-financial support, there might not be much ‘community’ at all and it’s a good idea to know if that matters to you before you move there.

  9. I think previous posters have touched upon this, but before you figure out what you want in a house, and a house location, talk about what you want in life. Do you want to be near the current location of friends/favorite places/your favorite martial arts studio? Where if your current job located? Where might future jobs be located? Is walking/public transportation/plenty of parking/location near family/schools, etc important? Talk about all this stuff, then talk about what you’d like in a house and a location, and then figure out where you can compromise.

    Neither my husband nor I consider our condo to be our dream house, but we fully expect to be in it for another 20 years or so. While neither of us got everything we wanted in a home, we both got enough of what we really wanted* to be happy on a regular basis.

    *Sometimes the things that we want conflict. Like city and suburbs/ex-urbs. In our case, the compromise was a close-in suburb that’s walkable and with decent public transportation.

    • So much this! Back up a bit and figure out what you both want out of your overall living situation before you focus on particular places, houses, etc. (or even buying a house at all – if you might need to move for work in a few years or something, buying could be much more expensive than renting.)

      The specific house (and it’s price) it a relatively small part of the set of decisions you’re making when buying a house. You’re signing up for a location, schools, neighborhood and a particular job (and the associated commute) for the long haul. You want to make sure all those things work out first and foremost. The only thing you can’t change about the house once you’ve bought it is the location!

  10. My husband and I are house-hunting right now, and have had discussions like this! Thankfully, the towns we are discussing happen to be right next to each other; my issue is school districts. One is better than the other, and I think that is/was the deciding factor for us and where we are looking.

    Someone mentioned pro/con lists, and that is an excellent idea! Another idea is to go to the local police website and read their crime reports/stats for an area. Since we already live close to where we are looking, I have been driving through the areas at different times of the day to see what is going on. A co-worker said the best advice she was given when house hunting is to go (without being a creeper!) when the school buses drop and pick up students. She said to look and see if parents are out with the kids, if the kids are respectful of the space they are waiting in (staying out of neighbors yards and such). Parents who teach their kids respect will most likely be good neighbors.

    Good luck on your search!

  11. I think checking out that ‘hard conversation’ post might be helpful to this situation, but here are some things I’m curious about:

    1) Why now? What makes you want a house within a year. Also, is it about owning a house, or is it about settling down in a different way, or simply because the market is good right now for buying? I would have each of you brainstorm separately the reasons for why right now is a good time.

    2) Why are you living where you are currently? Is it because of jobs you love or close to family? Is it because one of you was raised there or have some nostalgic tie? Maybe exploring why you’re where you are, and then brainstorming: where you want to be.

    3) rather than going online and just picking places, maybe make a list (separately) of where you want to be living…parts of the country (regardless of price) and why. I feel strongly tied to the pacific northwest, so I wouldn’t want to move to Eastern Washington…or Georgia…even if a house was $1.00, but others don’t feel tied to a certain location.

    4) qualities in a home: what are your dreams as far as this goes? We chose a house that’s older, needs work, but is in the neighborhood we wanted…other people might choose the house, regardless of where it is. Figure out what you want and then have your partner figure out what they want and talk about those things.

    5) If location is the factor, maybe have a real estate agent take you around your area or other areas to get a feel for it. Road trip to Georgia to check it out? Take some Sundays to go imagining in your current hometown?

  12. My boyfriend and I are at the beginning of a similar discussion. My family has been moving house often, and my sisters are spread all over Germany and the Netherlands. His family, on the other hand… he is living 50km away from his mother’s home, and this is the furthest he has ever been from home.

    We have agreed that we will move based on where we find good jobs. There are several areas we could imagine living, and some areas that are off limits for one of us (mountain-y areas, too-warm areas, too-rural areas). Apart from that we are still rather open about the whole concept, but I think there will be several discussions in the future.

    One thing I know, however – the house itself is not that important. Discuss what you want in your area, where you want to live (close to family, sunny, good schools etc.) and go from there. Make a list with areas where you might want to live. And promise to remain open about all options based on your list.

  13. My husband and I just finished the search process (and we are now in a house). Here are a few things that worked for us, and since some are repeated from above- it sounds like we aren’t totally alone….1. figure out what you want in a house (heating, age of house, size of house…)2. Figure out what you want in a community (schools, neighborhood, distance from family/friends, distance from work, type of street ex. dead end, busy road, don’t care…) 3. Figure out what you don’t want in a house and community (for me I really didn’t want septic, oil heat, a house over 50 years old) 4. discuss the points where your list and your husbands list are different. 5. figure out exactly what you can afford (I’m talking price of home with taxes and interest rate. Since the taxes will differ in each community- the monthly payment will differ too).

    For us, once we figured out all those details we looked at houses. Some with septic tanks, some to much money, and ultimately we found a house with almost everything we wanted! I hope you do too! Good luck!

  14. Are you able to go and visit a couple of the areas that keep coming up in your web searches, just to see what they are like?

    When my partner and I were looking for our first house together, we narrowed it down to a few areas which looked promising online, then took a trip out to have a wander around. That ended up pretty much answering the question for us. There was one place that just felt right, straight away: it had everything we wanted, and had a real feeling of community, as well as being within our price range. I eventually realised that I was arranging to see properties that I *didn’t actually want*, just for an excuse to visit the area again. Two years on, and I am still completely in love with the place.

    There were beautiful houses in other areas, but when we came to look around, there just weren’t the local facilities or the atmosphere.
    I always figure that you can make a house better once you’ve bought it, but if there’s nowhere to go out locally and no community events to get involved in; well, you’d better like the house because you’ll be spending a lot of evenings there.

    Of course, I realise that visiting different states is a much bigger deal than exploring different London suburbs, which is what I was doing! Still, I think the more you can get to know a place – and that could start with just googling and seeing if there are any local forums that can give you a feel for the community – the better you’ll be able to judge whether a house will really fit what you want.

  15. We are having a similar discussion: do we buy where we are now, or do we wait to buy where\when\if we move? Also, if we choose to buy here, do we wait until we are away for his grad school and my job to get a better house than what we could get if we bought here now? It’s super-tough. I am at a loss as to this situation. I strongly advise to not move anywhere until you both have jobs in that place though. A lot of things can go wrong; you need some form of security.

  16. Not helpful to your question, but…

    Move to Athens!! 🙂 We live in Athens, GA and for the most part we love it here! It’s so much more than a college town, which I never knew.

    And also, I had no idea living in GA was cheaper than AL. Weird. Maybe you’re in a bigger city in AL, though.

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