Home Buying Tips for Couples
By: Jim McKinley – MoneywithJim.org
Purchasing a home together is one of the biggest commitments two people can make. It’s an exciting time where a couple is able to imagine and plan for a future together, and it can be a smart financial decision. Ironically, the process of buying a home can also be a stressful ordeal that results in couples fighting over backsplashes, neighborhoods and crown molding.
When home buying as a couple goes poorly, it can be the start of resentment and lingering unhappiness. But there are things you can do to mitigate your collective stress level and ensure that you don’t spend the first night in your new home in separate rooms because you’ve spent the last few months bickering.
Here are some tips for navigating the home-buying process together.
Learn the art of compromise
Choosing a home is stressful enough as an individual. There are so many decisions to make — which neighborhoods to look in, whether to buy a condominium or a single-family home, pool or no pool, etc. Add a second person’s opinion into the mix and things can turn into a bona fide nightmare.
To avoid this, it’s a good idea for each of you to independently determine what is important to you in a home. Rank them in order of importance. Try to focus on large features and foundational things that you cannot change rather than cosmetic things that you can change. For example, if you want a large backyard, you will have to prioritize this choice now because the opportunity to add land to your property rarely arises. The same goes for the neighborhood and its proximity to community amenities such as quality schools, safe parks or recreational trails. If you want energy-efficiency appliances or you prefer hardwood floors to carpet, you can modify those later.
Once both partners have determined what their priorities are, they can take the two lists and figure out how to reconcile them into one master list that best prioritizes the things that will make you both happy. If there are incompatible desires — say one of you wants to live in the urban core downtown and the other wants to live in the spacious suburbs — you can address those head on and find a compromise.
By thinking independently and gradually working together, a couple can reduce the chances of one partner dominating the conversation and inspiring resentment in the quieter partner. Compromise is a part of any solid relationship, and it’s equally important during the home-buying process because unless you have unlimited resources you are unlikely to get everything you want in a home. Keeping your mind on what is realistic will save you from being disappointed by what’s on the market and what you can afford.
Don’t bite off more mortgage than you can chew
Too often people let emotions make decisions that should be made rationally. It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of your dream home and convince yourself that you can somehow make that bigger, spacious option work even when it’s outside your budget. Or, worse yet, people don’t know their true budget and think they can afford more than they can. Both situations lead to headaches and can put a financial and emotional strain on your relationship down the road.
Avoid these headaches by running the numbers. Determine how much you can afford based off your current income level, the size of your down payment and your current monthly expenses. Don’t forget to factor in some of the hidden costs of home ownership including maintenance, property taxes, or additional utilities bills that you might not be paying currently as a renter. Based on these numbers, set a budget price for your future home. Stick to that budget religiously. Don’t let friends, family or real estate agents talk you into getting more than you can afford. Remember to follow the money. It’s always better to go be conservative with your wallet. You can upgrade to a bigger, better home down the road.
Hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst
Buying and moving into a new home together is the start of a new chapter in any relationship. It can be exciting and romantic and full of promise. While those are wonderful feelings to have, couples should remember that the future might have something vastly different in store. Relationships do sometimes end, and joint homeowners should have a plan for happens in the event of a breakup. This is especially important for unmarried couples because prevailing divorce laws in your state won’t apply, making the process messier. Determine the ownership setup and discuss different scenarios to determine what is fair and representative of how you plan on splitting payments, repairs and other costs of living in the home.
Even if you could guarantee that neither of you will ever want to willingly end your relationship, there is also the possibility that one of you may die. Again, what happens in the event of an unplanned death should be written down in order to avoid any confusion among next of kin. Talk to a lawyer or financial planner to determine what offers the best protection for each of you given your individual circumstances.
Being thorough throughout each part of the home-buying process will result in you making better, smarter decisions. That, in turn, leads you and your partner to being less stressed and happier with your new place. Just stay open, honest and realistic, and you two can live happily in your new home.
Photo via Pexels.