Is it wise to buy a unit in a two family home if you have a young child?

Asked by Bggas400, Boston area Sun Feb 22, 2009

I've read that it is not but do not know the reasons. I prefer a single family home but there are not many with the square footage available in some units of a two family home and especially in my price range... 250k

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Deb Nicholls’ answer
Deb Nicholls, Agent, Concord, MA
Mon Feb 23, 2009
I think you were asking about buying one unit ( a condo) in a 2-unit property, not buying a whole two family to live in one unit and rent out the other. So there are a few things to consider about living in two-family.

First, you will have no control over the other occupants. (You won't in a single family either, but there is usually more separation.) You will have to think about how you will get along, because decisions about when to fix the roof, paint the siding, or replace the driveway (for example) will have to be agreed on. If you buy a condo in a multi-family, make sure you read the condo documents carefully and understand how these decisions are made. If there are condo fees, who controls the spending? I once had a client who had trouble selling her unit because exterior repairs were needed, and the other owner refused to contribute. In another sale, my buyer rejected a beautiful unit because the unit next door had trash all over their side of the yard.

So if you are thinking of a two-family, your best bet is to buy the whole thing, and rent out ther other half. Then the advice below from Marybeth wiill be very important. Good luck!
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MaryBeth Mil…, Agent, Pembroke, MA
Sun Feb 22, 2009
A two family home is a home, many times a buyer can afford more home and a better quality of life, larger backyard, better school district and more purchasing power with a two family. I am assuming you do reside in Massachusetts and as an owner occupied property in Massachusetts as a Landlord you have a right to be particular as to the tenant. This tenant could very well be the first building block of a secure financial foundation for the future which of course offers your child or children more security as well. With or without the question of children you must first ask yourself if you are prepared to have a business. A multi family home should be treated as a business, there is commitment on both the tenant and landlord's part, their commitment is to pay you the agreed to amount of rent on the agreed day, your commitment is to provide them a safe comfortable place to enjoy peace in their lives. This two family also allows you to deduct depreciation on your business portion of the property, deduct expenses and to appropriately expense the capital improvements and repairs you make to the income producing portion of the property. When the time comes to move, should you not decide to keep this property (as your first revenue generating property and build your empire from there) then you will face captial gains on the business portion of the property - the unit you occupy will be treated as a primary residence. Being a landlord in Massachusetts has it benefits and more importantly strict guidelines and laws to ensure the tenant is protected. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts site offers information on both tenant and landlord rights. Your own local housing office will also offer classes to prepare you to be a first time landlord. Our first property was a two family in the city, the benefits were many, close to work, large living area, full basement, great backyard and we were fortunate to purchase the property with tenants who had resided in the house for 42 years before us! We always felt to some degree we were living in their house. The assistance with the rental income allowed us a fine quality of life from a fiscal point of view, we built equity and moved to the suburbs with considerable equity but as Judy mentioned this is your decision and only your decision. Good Luck with your new home.
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Judy Boyle, Agent, Marlborough, MA
Sun Feb 22, 2009
Hi Bggas400!

My answer is going to sound a little Wizard of Oz'ish but you have the ability to answer your own question.

Others can offer their opinions, but the ultimate decision is, and should be, yours because it is a very personal one.

Whether you are buying a unit in a two family or a single family, you will be asking yourself the exact same questions.... Does this property "talk to me". Does this property feel like "home"? Is the property in a good location? Which school will my child be attending? Could there be a presence of lead paint that could potentially be hazardous to my child's health?

If you can be flexible with your town and location...and patient.... you will find the perfect home. What is most important is that you do not limit yourself by what you "hear". Go with your heart, a good buyers agent who understands what you are looking for, and you will soon be saying "There's no place like home!"

Good luck!
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