House Hunting Tips for Couples
Buying a home together is a significant financial commitment that will impact your future. There are several things to consider before taking the plunge with your spouse or partner. To avoid long-term consequences, take your time and know the facts before you buy.
While the financial obligations are significant, there are other considerations to take into account. You’ll be making a joint decision, so each of you needs to get what you want out of the purchase. It’s not always easy to agree, so look at these top house hunting tips for couples.
1. Communicate.Keep the lines of communication open! Buying a house is stressful and sometimes confusing. Being able to address concerns, preferences, and priorities openly will help the process go much smoother. Now is the time to be a team, so make sure you’re listening to each other and expressing your own opinions at the same time.
2. Make a list.
Each of you should make a list of what options and amenities are most important to you, including location, type of home, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, open concept or not, yard size, proximity to services, nearby schools, etc. Once you’ve done that, you can share your lists and see what to prioritize and where you’ll have to compromise.
3. Deal breakers.
Establish where you aren’t willing to compromise. This could include the kind of home you want to purchase- single-family, condo, townhome, multi-family, etc. Other deal breakers could be location or neighborhood. There are many ways to put your stamp on a home, but one thing you can’t change is the location.
4. Pros and cons.
One way to compromise is to create a list of pros and cons for your individual desires. Maybe one of you wants to live near a freeway, and the other does not. Creating your pros and cons can help you see the perspective of your partner.
This is a big one. You’ll need to start with figuring out your budget and what size payment you’re comfortable with. This could be a bone of contention if one of you is more or less risk-averse than the other. Here are some considerations: down payment, monthly payments, and how much you’ll need to spend to make it your own.
6. Nearby amenities.
These questions and priorities can vary significantly between couples. If one of you prefers being near the water and the other wants to be closer to transportation, these priorities may conflict. Other considerations are proximity to shopping, entertainment, and restaurants. Include all these in your wish lists and explore the pros and cons.
While the financial implications and considerations are often implied with married couples, there are some additional considerations for buying a house as an unmarried couple.
Tips For Buying a House as an Unmarried Couple
1. Who will carry the mortgage?
Are you buying the home together in that you’re splitting the down payment, and each will be on the mortgage as full co-owners? If so, you may want to check with your accountant or attorney to ensure you’ve got your bases covered.
2. Type of homeownership on the deed.
Will you be purchasing as joint tenants, tenants in common, or something else? What do these terms mean?
Tenancy in common: here, you and your partner share ownership equally and do not have the right to survivorship. That is, if your partner dies, you do not automatically assume their share of the property.
Joint tenancy, the parties co-own the property equally and enjoy the right of survivorship.
3. Who’s responsible for maintenance, household bills, and upgrades?
It seems straightforward to split everything down the middle, but that might not always work. If one of you makes more money than the other, or if you disagree on work to be done, you may want to figure out another way to split costs. If you have children in the future, for example, will one stay home? How will this affect finances and obligations?
Since you aren’t married, you’ll want to protect yourselves from the unfortunate event of a breakup. Unlike a married couple whose joint property is protected by law, you’ll be on your own if you split up. Make sure to address this before signing on the dotted line.
5. Exit strategy.
While you don’t want to think about splitting up, some circumstances could cause this. One of you may get a job transfer or decide they no longer wish to own the home. If a buyout agreement doesn’t work in the circumstance, you should also discuss an exit strategy and make sure it’s in writing. This could involve the sale of the house if the other party isn’t able to buy out the property.
Note: this is not to say unmarried couples are more likely to break up. Not at all. It’s just that they do not have some of the same automatic protections as married people. Just be sure to protect yourself.
While buying a house is exciting, it also comes with a great deal of risk. Preparing yourself for all the possibilities and possible outcomes will help ensure you’re making a good investment.