Guest Blogger: Natalie Jones
Whether you’re married or not, buying a house together can feel like the biggest commitment of your relationship. After all, you’re financially enmeshing yourselves in a way that a shared checking account just doesn’t do. It’s exciting and scary all at once, but signing the mortgage isn’t the only intimidating part of buying a house. House hunting itself can strain even the best of relationships if you’re not careful.
When you’re buying a house as a couple, the first thing to do is get on the same page about finances. You can’t afford to have any financial secrets. If you have thousands of dollars in unpaid debt that your significant other doesn’t know about, it will come out during mortgage pre-approval and lead to an argument. If there are unpaid debts or accounts in collections on your credit histories, find out what you can do to improve your credit score.
Once you’ve qualified for a mortgage, it’s time to decide how much you want to spend. The amount that you qualified for isn’t necessarily what’s right for your budget. One study from LendingHome showed that half of all home buying disagreements among millennials and Gen Xers stem from differences regarding the right amount of debt to take on. That makes this a necessary conversation. Sit down with your significant other and make a household budget. Once you’ve accounted for all monthly expenses, debt payments, and savings goals, settle on a price range you’d be comfortable paying toward housing each month. Make sure you consider homeownership expenses beyond the mortgage; you’ll also need to factor in utility bills, property taxes, insurance, homeowners association fees, and an emergency fund to cover unexpected repairs. According to reporting from CNBC, these hidden costs of homeownership rack up to average $9,080 every year.
Before you start looking at homes, have a conversation about your wants and needs for a new home. Any home feature that isn’t cheap or easy to change, talk about it — from the kind of neighborhood you want to the type of cabinetry you prefer. The goal is to come up with one single list of agreed-upon wants and needs. If your visions differ, this is the time to come up with a compromise. If you head into house hunting with different dream homes in mind, all you’re going to find is frustration.
While it’s important to have a shared vision for your future home, be prepared to change course if the market demands it. Many first-time buyers overestimate how far their budget will take them. You may have to revisit the discussion if the homes within your budget don’t live up to your dreams.
You should also consider how much time you’re willing to commit to finding a home. Are you going to spend every evening and weekend viewing homes until you’ve found the right one, or do you want to schedule some downtime into your house hunt? Are you willing and able to take off work to jump on the perfect opportunity if competition is high? What’s your deadline for moving? These are all questions to answer before you start contacting selling agents.
Don’t forget to plan for the move: You’re going to have different convictions about the best way to pack boxes and load a moving truck and the right hand signals to use when backing up a box truck. Those minor disagreements are only going to be magnified amidst the stress of moving day, so make a moving plan in advance. Establish a timeline and make a checklist of everything that needs to be done between now and moving day. Assign each task to one person or mark it down as a shared duty to reduce the chances that an important to-do gets overlooked.
Finally, be kind to yourself and each other. Buying a home and moving are stressful tasks and it’s normal for emotions to run high when you’re making major life decisions. If you feel your patience wearing thin or your relationship suffering, step back from house hunting to unwind, spend quality time together, and remind yourselves why you’re on this journey in the first place.
Natalie Jones, together with her husband (Jason), created Homeownerbliss. Since they've bought their home, she has decided to try to help others learn from their experiences. That’s how Homeownerbliss.info was born! She is passionate about making the process of buying a home less scary for first-timers, as well as inspiring homeowners of all stages enjoy the perks of home ownership!
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