Three single moms bought a house together and saved $30,000 each last year

Feb 3, 2022, 12:34 PM | Updated: 1:03 pm
single moms...
Herrin Hopper, Holly Harper, and Madeline Harper (from left to right) in front of the home they purchased together. (Photo courtesy of Holly Harper)
(Photo courtesy of Holly Harper)

It’s not uncommon for women to joke around with their dearest friends about living the “Golden Girls” life: a future where they all move into a dream house and create a utopia of female friendship.

“Someday we’ll live in a commune in Vermont,” said Maryland’s Holly Harper, who had been a part of such fantasy conversations.

“Then, as my marriage [of 17 years] failed, I luckily was able to turn back to those women and say, ‘I need help,'” Harper said. “One of the people there was [my friend] Herrin. We both were like, ‘Well, we always say some day, but why not tomorrow?'”

Her friend, Herrin Hopper, was also getting a divorce, and investing in home ownership was important to both single moms, so they decided to buy a house together.

“In one weekend, we found The Siren House, where we live now,” Hopper said. “We decided to pool our resources because we found life isolating, wondering why we suddenly had to take on all of these expenses alone.”

They bought a four-story farmhouse in Takoma Park, Maryland, that was already divided up into four separate units, with common spaces for laundry, storage, and a big yard for all the kids to play. Then they put the word out for a third woman to join them.

“If you want to rent from us, just know that it’s going to be a thundering herd, messy and wild, and we have kids,” said Harper, paraphrasing the ad they put up on a community listserv. “And this lovely woman who had lived in the neighborhood for a long time said, ‘I want in.’ And we were like, sold! Come on in! We offered her the basement unit, two bedrooms for her and her two kids, with an option of, if it’s working, she can buy into The Siren House and that will help her build equity and stability in her own life. So now we have three-part ownership.”

The Siren House is home to three moms, a fourth female tenant, five kids, three dogs, two hamsters, a gecko and a trampoline. The families often eat meals together, help walk each other’s dogs, share things like sewing machines and sleeping bags, and the kids bounce around from unit to unit.

“I have the freedom to go out and have an adult life and know that my kids are happy,” Hopper said. “I don’t have to worry about vetting and bringing in a babysitter.”

Owning a home together is a big commitment, and these women didn’t jump into it blindly. Hopper has a law degree and made sure everything was laid out in a contract.

“If I want to sell, there is a right of first refusal. The other owners get to decide who comes in. One of us can move out but retain equity and rent out the space. So, it’s pretty flexible from an ownership perspective, but it does protect the other owners. I mean, I personally think I’m going to live here the rest of my life — I don’t think I’m ever moving,” Hopper laughed, and Harper chimed in to agree. “But if anything ever changes, there is built-in legal flexibility in a way that still helps the others who are living here.”

The joint ownership functions sort of like a condo. Everyone contributes monthly to an emergency fund, so when they needed a new water heater and a roof repair last year, they split the cost. Between her shared mortgage, bills, home repairs, and other shared items, Harper says she saved about $30,000 last year.

Before buying the house, Harper and Hopper sat down to make sure their values were lined up, to take an honest look at how they’d match up as co-habitaters.

“A lot of folks have been asking, ‘How do you pick the person?’ Part of me wants to reply: Really consult your therapist because if you’re not in a position to be mature in a relationship, that’s just what it is,” Harper said. “If you’re not mature enough to believe that you can do unconditional love and you can repair hurt, then you can’t live this way because you’ll constantly be triggering one another. What we do is provoke one another to grow and be stronger, and it takes a lot of intentionality around that.”

And just like any good fantasy club house, there is exclusive membership. In this case, it’s moms only.

“I am in a relationship and he’s never moving in here,” Harper said. “Can he come stay? For sure. Maybe I’ll move in with him for 354 days a year, but I will always have this as my home. We are welcoming to guests, but I don’t want to cohabitate full-time ever again. I don’t ever need that. If I have a partner who needs that, then I have the wrong partner. I want to give them that flexibility in their own growth. This is our womb, our home base.”

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Three single moms bought a house together and saved $30,000 each last year