What It’s Like Sharing Properties With Friends

I get tons of questions about what it’s like sharing property with friends, which makes me happy because I assume that it means that other people are thinking about doing the same thing. I stumbled upon it by accident, but shared property with friends is one of the major awesomeness-multipliers in my life.

My first time sharing property with my friends was when we were in college and all bought a huge school bus together. We had no idea what we were doing, but we had a blast working on it and driving it around. It sounds like a situation that would be rife with conflict, but the only one that ever came up was the great debate over whether to make a mobile-enabled urinal. I lost the vote and we never made one.

Since then I’ve bought an island with my friends, a place in Budapest, part of a neighborhood in Vegas, a condo in Hawaii, am waiting on the perfect spot in Japan. Each one has been amazing. You get all of the benefits of having your own place, plus the benefits of having your friends visit all the time, all at a fraction of the cost of owning yourself.

The key, of course, is finding people who are easygoing and who can lead but don’t mind not leading (i.e. competent people who won’t contribute to “too many cooks in the kitchen”).

A natural effect that occurs is that those who use the property the most will end contributing the most to it. I get the most use out of the island and Budapest by far, but I’m also the one hoofing around making it all happen. Other people come visit every year or two, but don’t have to do anything. I didn’t anticipate this dynamic, but it works very well in practice. Some people are in the middle and visit more often and help a lot. My friend Brian plays a huge role in the properties now and when we had a water leak in Budapest, four of us passed the baton and got it fixed.

I’ve found that the easiest way to handle finances is to open a bank account and a Stripe account. I estimate the costs to maintain the place, plus a big buffer for improvements and projects, and break it down into monthly and annual dues. Everyone can choose which one they pay, and it all happens automatically.

In practice, I unilaterally decide a lot of small things. Sometimes a small group of us decides. For example, if we’re building a loft in the yurt on the island and need to spend a couple hundred on a new saw, we just do it. No point in making people vote on things like that. Any time we’re going to do a big project, we discuss it in an online group. We’ve never actually had people vote down a proposal, but we’ve often gotten good ideas from people who weren’t involved in coming up with it, and everyone likes to be on the same page.

Again, this is something that I thought may spur some more debate, but we’ve had the island for almost 5 years and Budapest for over 2, and it’s been very easy. Partially this is because everyone trusts everyone else in the group, and all of our interests are aligned. When I pitch these properties I try to make a very clear case for what we are attempting to do, so that people know what they’re getting into.

Reserving space on these properties is never a problem, as we are all friends and would generally prefer that others are there at the same time. Once in a while someone will reserve a place for a trip with a significant other or family, but usually the goal is to get more owners to show up. We tend to post in advance when we’re going, either to reserve or to entice others to join.

We also have an informal system where people who use the properties most should yield to those who use them less. Even if I had concrete plans to be in Budapest for a period of time, I would find other accomodations if someone who uses the place less frequently wanted to use it exclusively.

The way I think about it, I would rather have 10 tenths of different apartments than one whole one to myself. It costs the same amount to do it either way, but this way is far more conducive to great times around the world with some of my closest friends. If you have a similarly agreeable group of people, think about how you can do something similar.

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Photo is a cool lizard that was on our windowsill in Hawaii. I had my collection of blog photos become corrupted somehow, so I’m running low. I’ll have to go take so more.

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