First Steps

4 Questions Unmarried Couples Should Consider When Buying a Home

Buying your first home is a big step, and it may be a natural one to take if you’ve recently tied the knot. But what about buying a home with your significant other when you’re unmarried?

Owning a home together can add a new dimension to your relationship, but there are some important legal and financial issues to consider before you commit. Here are the most important questions unmarried couples should consider on the path to home ownership.

1. What’s your credit score?

Discussing credit scores is a key step when buying your first home, particularly if you plan to apply for a mortgage together. Lenders will check both of your credit scores to determine whether to approve you for a home loan and on what terms. Sharing your credit scores before you begin shopping for a home loan can help you answer the next question.

2. Will we both be on the mortgage?

Unless you’re sitting on a huge pile of cash, you’ll likely need a loan when buying your first home. Together, you’ll have to decide whether to apply for a joint mortgage or whether it makes more sense for one of you to fly solo on the loan application. For instance, if one of you has a poor credit score or a high debt-to-income ratio, the other may stand a better chance of getting a mortgage at favorable terms by applying for a loan under their name alone.

3. How will we split home ownership costs?

Buying your first home means planning ahead for certain costs. Before you officially sign off on a mortgage, that includes:

  • Appraisal fees
  • Home inspection fees
  • Down payment
  • Closing costs

Once you own the home, there are the ongoing costs to consider. Monthly mortgage payments are likely to be the largest expenses, but you also have to factor in repairs, maintenance and upkeep, as well as property taxes and homeowner’s insurance if those aren’t escrowed into your mortgage payments.

Unmarried couples should consider having a discussion about how they’re going to share these before and after costs. For some couples, that means a 50/50 split, but others may choose to divvy up expenses differently if they have different incomes. Talking it over early on in the homebuying process may ensure that it’s something you can both afford, in the short and long-term.

4. What happens if the relationship ends?

You may be planning on a happily ever after, but it’s wise to have a contingency plan in case the relationship doesn’t work out. Having a written agreement that spells out who maintains ownership of the house and responsibility for the mortgage if you break up may help avoid legal headaches later.

Unmarried couples should take care when titling the home. The property can be in one person’s name only, held as joint tenants, or titled as tenants in common. Agreeing on how to title the property may give both of you reassurance if a worst-case scenario happens.

Ready to start your home buying journey together? Read this post to figure out how much you can afford to spend on a home.

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