Re: Shared Houses
From: Buzz Burrell (
Date: Wed, 9 Sep 1998 09:25:30 -0500
A few people asked me for comments on living in a shared house.  Like 
many others, I've been doing it in various forms for years.  Here we go 
in random order:

1. Shared houses make sense like cohousing makes sense.  It is certainly 
more intimate since there is one deed and one kitchen, but it is also 
easier since you pick your co-owner, and would never want to do this if 
you hadn't already tested out to be compatible.

2. A shared house can also be one owner and a rentor, or two owners one 
of whom doesn't live there, and assorted other combinations.  They all 

3. Needless to say (presumably), don't do this without a signed 
Agreement.  If you can't get it together to put it in writing, then you 
are not qualified to share something of this value.

4. Once you have a good Agreement, then it is legally enforcable and you 
are protected.  There certainly is the potential for more trouble than if 
you are the only owner, but that's the way it goes, and the reason why 
you only do this with people you trust.  Also as we know, just the 
process of working on the Agreement is very good;  once through that, its 
common to never see it again.

5. If you have a template of an Agreement that works in your state, and 
modify it to your needs, there is no reason to use a lawyer, although 
naturally people will take umbrage at this statement.  Using a lawyer 
certainly does not guarantee there will be no problems. 

6. The economics of a shared house are very good.  It violates the 
"Little House On The Prarie" nuclear family model that we grew up with, 
but otherwise makes a lot of sense.

7. Feel free to fully customize your Agreement.  Don't be shy.  We even 
wrote in where the dog can go in the house, and how many times a year the 
carpet has to be cleaned (by the dog owner).

8. Shared houses can be illegal in some zoning districts.  This is really 
stupid, but it exists.  Here in the People's Republic of Boulder, and in 
most counties on the Front Range, a family may live with 2 unrelated 
people;  after that, you may get thrown out.  It happens all the time.  
This means that 4 people may not share a house (even if they are students 

9. If you are building now, then design your space to allow for two 
entities.  This really helps.  Note that a house is usually defined by 
code authorities as a kitchen.  Thus, it may not be allowed to have two 
kitchens.  Seperate entrances and internal separation will almost always 
be allowed.

10. Mortgage Lendors are glad to have more than one person signing the 
Note;  otherwise they don't care.

11. Times change, so make sure your Agreement has all possible exits 
clearly identified.

12. A purely financial arrangement will eventually become tiring.  They 
work best in the shorter term (a few years) while people become 
financially established or sort out their plans.  Long term shared houses 
require that the people want to live together and not just for 
convenience sake.

Buzz Burrell
Boulder, CO

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