They bought a triplex with friends in Montreal and share their best advice with us
Sarah Blanchette, Mariève Proulx and Martine Côté have been friends for 10 years. Last summer, they embarked on a crazy project, that of the joint purchase of a triplex in Montreal. They tell us about the main stages of this “exciting and frightening” project at the same time.
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A project like The galley
“It has always been a joke that one day, among friends, we were going to buy something together, we were going to crown our buddies there, and it was going to be a hassle!” Says Sarah Blanchette, 35, straight away, referring to the famous Quebec television series in which four single mothers live together in the same building.
In the summer of 2022, they embarked on the project instinctively, after Martine decided to leave her accommodation and Mariève left the suburbs to return to town.
“We had little hope of finding something that would meet our criteria,” explains Sarah, who is a director of filming locations. “We absolutely had to find three free apartments of similar sizes and that is not common in Montreal.”
After only three visits, it’s the crush: a 1910 triplex on three floors in the heart of Rosemont at $950,000. Height of joy: it is possible to circulate on the three floors, as the former owner occupied the entire building.
“It was an emotional purchase,” admits Sarah. “Everything happened very quickly and for my part, I would have been inclined to wait at least a year before embarking on such a big project. But when you have a great opportunity like that, you seize it.”
Exciting and scary at the same time
A project of this magnitude is enough to test even the strongest couples. Imagine if a third person comes to the decision-making table.
“You have to be transparent from the start,” says Sarah Blanchette. “We went with the financial capabilities of each so we did not put the same down payment, but we decided to share the mortgage equally as our homes have the same volume.”
In doing so, the three owners are more dependent on each other in the event of financial difficulties, but also in the event of the resale of the building or even death.
To this end, the three owners have taken out life insurance to protect each other in the event of death and to avoid bequeathing debts to the sisters. These decisions were made following “uncomfortable” but “necessary” conversations.
“It’s exciting and scary at the same time,” admits Mariève Proulx, a 37-year-old singer. “Normally, when you buy with another person, it is not too complicated if there is separation. One buys, the other sells. Except that here, we are three. If there is one who wants to leave, it is more complicated.
Mariève does not hide that shopping with her friends is “scary”. “You ask yourself: ‘After all this, are we going to remain friends?’ We need to talk. A lot,” she advises.
For Martine, a 37-year-old communications project manager, this type of project has its share of challenges, but has facilitated her return to Montreal as an owner.
“When I got back to Montreal, I shopped around a bit and I saw it going from 4 1⁄2 to half a million. Buying a triplex reduces costs, allows you to have a courtyard and a common space. It’s a lot of advantages,” she explains, before adding that it is “essential” to have a good financial cushion to deal with the unexpected.
Buying for three involves constant communication to avoid irritants, but also to avoid unpleasant surprises. In particular, it is essential to determine from the outset what is paid at three and what is not.
The three women have written down an agreement that includes certain rules regarding the division of expenses: those that give value to the block in the event of resale are common, while those that concern personal or aesthetic choices are individual.
“For example, Martine and Mariève decided to have their floor sanded when they arrived and we considered that it was an aesthetic choice”, quotes Sarah for example.
This formula is not without its pitfalls, since certain categories of expenditure are not “sliced with a knife”. Hence the importance of ensuring that you are always “on the same wavelength”, adds Sarah.
Not only beautiful
Buying a 1910 building also means facing several surprises that may not have been noted during pre-purchase visits. It is also work of several months to fit out each apartment properly, including the construction of a kitchen per floor and a laundry room, in particular.
Sarah regrets that at present, a large number of properties are sold without legal warranty. This mention, often used in the case of older buildings, releases the owner from any responsibility in the event of defects related to the building.
“In hindsight, I would have brought in a contractor to inspect the general condition of the house, such as the electrical and plumbing. We had several surprises when taking possession, including water damage.
Balance of power
In symbolism, the number “3” rhymes with strength and balance. For Sarah, Mariève and Martine, the fact of being three in this project is a sign of solidity.
“When one was discouraged or very stressed when making important decisions, the other two were there to reassure and vice versa. The forces are well balanced,” explains Martine.
The owners were able to count on a lot of help and the contact of good workers for the duration of the work. “We each have our strengths and each a network. In this case, it’s increased tenfold by three!” adds Sarah.
Being three single women in a triplex also makes people want to help them and have a “capital of sympathy”, they say, laughing.
For Sarah, buying with friends – and not with a life partner – was obvious.
“My friendships are the longest and healthiest in my life. When my parents heard about this project, they found it worrying. It was a little strange for them to buy with friends rather than buying with a lover. But for me, the risks it represents are the same.”
For Martine, it is quite simply “another conception of life in relation”.
“We are three single girls who eat dinner and watch TV together. It’s another form of family that we are building and it’s very precious, ”she says, all smiles.
The 6 best advice from Sarah, Martine and Marieve:
- Surround yourself well and call on the specialists who can support us in each stage of the project: real estate and mortgage broker, insurance broker, handyman, general contractor, etc.
- Don’t be afraid of uncomfortable discussions.
- Take out life insurance as early as possible: age and state of health affect premiums.
- Take your time to shop for a property that meets your needs.
- Plan renovations based on everyone’s ability to pay.
- Plan a meeting time each month and communicate the irritants well.