Refinery29 is proud to partner with the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) to share real women’s stories about finding, buying, flipping, and paying off their homes. Ahead, read one woman’s testament to homeownership, and discover the power of a REALTOR®.
Editor’s note: We recognize that every individual's financial journey to home ownership is unique -- there is no one-size-fits-all narrative. So, in place of prescriptive advice or guidance, we're providing transparency into the process by way of one real woman's authentic experience.
It should come as no surprise that a couple in the suburbs might decide to take the plunge and buy a home together. But here’s the thing: When my partner and I began the process, we weren’t married. We weren’t engaged, either. And we had never lived together. In fact, neither of us had ever lived anywhere aside from our childhood homes.
Sure, marriage isn’t a prerequisite here — but as partners, we were admittedly a bit non-traditional in our approach to a mortgage. After six years together, we were making the decision to take on the biggest financial commitment of our lives thus far without even knowing what it was really like to share a bedroom.
When we told friends and family, they were often openly disapproving. To them, it felt impulsive and irresponsible. But in spite of all the naysayers, we both felt, deep down, that this was the right choice for us. While living with our respective parents and siblings — retiring each night to our childhood bedrooms — we both desperately craved a space of our own. Neither of us was paying rent, our savings were growing substantially, and we often fantasized about what our life might look like under a shared roof.
At the time, I was working as a full-time editor in New York City making $65,000 a year, and my partner was working in construction making $110,000 a year. Between us, we had about $30,000 in savings, and we were ready to put that towards a down payment somewhere in Long Island. So we tracked down an agent from the National Association of REALTORS® through Douglas Elliman— one who was openly supportive of our decision — and we got to work.
Of course, we knew that renting an apartment together was the more logical next step. We understood this would be a safer way of testing the waters without, well, diving right in. But we both wanted to settle close to our families, our agent assured us that the market looked good, and most adults we knew in the area were already owners. Buying simply felt like the smartest step — it was what we wanted in the long term, and paying rent rather than working toward that goal felt counterproductive.
Still, in all honesty, I occasionally felt myself wavering. What if his propensity to leave dirty glasses in his bedroom for days on end pushed me over the edge? How would he feel about me once he realized I had never really learned how to do laundry correctly? Were we being completely delusional? I thought about making an ultimatum: We could get a house if he proposed — but at the same time, I didn’t want a proposal he felt pressured into. In fact, I felt that purchasing a house together was, in some ways, a bigger commitment than a ring. It was this enormous investment, both financially and emotionally, in our future life together. And our agent was fully prepared to help us take the plunge.
After she'd sat down with us a handful of times to talk seriously about our game plan, she helped us to narrow our search. We talked through what Long Island neighborhoods we were interested in, the condition of our future home, the importance of a spacious backyard, and plenty of other things. Then she showed us options. We perused countless places online together and visited many an open house while she offered us details about levels of buyer interest and potential for kitchen remodels.
Then finally, after one particularly long day spent perusing various open houses, our agent convinced us to stop by a home we hadn’t been interested in when we’d viewed the listing online. She insisted it would be worth the trip, so we agreed, reasoning that she hadn't let us down yet.
As soon as we entered the space, something shifted. We looked at each other — we knew this was it. Walking through the rooms, we could both imagine our futures here, in each of these vacant rooms, and it felt right. That night, we called our agent and told her we wanted to make an offer. The place was listed at $399,000, which wasn't so far beyond our target price.
The rest of the home buying process was centered around financial logistics — the particulars of which our agent dexterously helped us navigate. It forced us into a number of conversations about finances that many couples don’t have until marriage (not fun, but necessary). We met with a lawyer about the details that surrounded putting both of our names on the deed. With Sandy's help, we eventually negotiated the price down to $365,000. And eventually, closing day arrived.
Our agent and our lawyer worked together to make sure things ran smoothly. Once the paperwork was squared away, I felt myself loosen up. I began to feel a particular sense of elation. This was our home — this was where the life we’d been imagining together for the past six years would take place. That evening, we began to move some of our things in (just a rug or two, some end tables, a favorite chair), and, one piece at a time, the space started to look less like a vacant structure and more like a home.
Less than a year into living together, he proposed. And now, nearly three and a half years after that first day in our new house, we’re married, we have a baby, and we still love our home. Scheduling aside, buying was the right choice for us — we knew this place would be the setting for our entire lives together.