This is an honest question every couple needs to ask before signing on the dotted line.
Many years ago, I worked as a regional design consultant for clients building custom homes. This career opened my eyes to the realities of home-ownership, and all the decisions that come with it. One thing that shocked me were how many unmarried couples wanted to put their name on a mortgage before saying ‘I do.’ Obviously everyone has the right to do what they want in their relationship and with their own money.
Given the process of purchasing a home — let alone building one — takes time I remember more unmarried couples trying to back out of the deal. I’ll never forget one couple who were together for over a decade and excited to purchase a home. Rather than focus on a wedding they knew would eventually happen, the pair wanted to build the perfect home close to their jobs (both worked in D.C.). Seeing as custom homes take some time to erect, their happiness evolved into hate and disgust. By the time the house was just about complete, my company received word from their builder they were trying to get out of their contract. Lord only know if they were able to and how much money they lost in the process.
Perhaps this is the reason why I decided not to purchase a home with someone who wasn’t my husband. Then again, the divorce rate is so high, the mister and I might end up ‘consciously uncoupling’ anyway.
The truth of the matter is home ownership is available to anyone who can afford both the down payment and monthly note. Unmarried millennial couples in particular are more likely to buy a home together before walking down the aisle. Some industry professionals believe many do so before their nuptials to make sure they’re ready for the next step in life. Others want to capitalize on current prices while they’re still affordable.
As you would expect with such a hefty purchase, the idea of marriage is put on the back burner. Kudos to you if you’re able to drop money on a home and turn around and finance a wedding. There might need to be something that needs to give.
Even though my husband and I lived together prior to getting married, we didn’t want to make any significant joint investments until we got hitched. Heaven forbid something happened where we didn’t work out, we wanted as little legal tape to deal with as possible. Owning a home together isn’t as simple as breaking a lease and shouldn’t be entered into lightly.
Experts are pretty quick to point out that non-married couples do not have the same protection as a husband and a wife. For starters, there’s little to no estate-planning protection. “By default, our laws are suited for married couples acquiring assets,” Luigi Rosablanca, a real estate lawyer tells The New York Times.
Those interested in purchasing property together and aren’t married are strongly encouraged to speak with a lawyer before doing so. You should get as much professional advice as possible — like how to define the title to the property (e.g. tenants in common, joint tenants), and how to file property and co-habitation agreements should things turn sour. Kudos to you if you’re able to get everything in your name as the person who holds the title is typically the one with all the cards.
Would you purchase a home with someone who wasn’t your spouse?