Originally appeared in Your Tango, Article published in August 2015 and reposted in February 2017.
Save yourself a lot of heartache by avoiding the new trend of millennial couples who are buying homes together before they’re married. A recent study by Coldwell Banker found that “about one in four married couples younger than 35 bought their first home together before they actually tied the knot.” Although more and more couples are making this enormous financial commitment, how smart is it really? Even if setting up house is on your bucket list, here are three reasons not to buy a home with your honey before you’re married:
1. No marriage contract means no home contract. The major difference between dating and being married is a commitment to one another for life, contractually. It is truly, “Signed, sealed, delivered — I’m yours!” Without that marriage contract, financial arrangements are murky and messy. In fact, a New York Times article reports that “real estate lawyers say that there are more complications for unmarried property owners who part ways than there are for married property owners who divorce — and a less clear process for resolving them.” By default, our laws are suited for married couples acquiring assets,” says Luigi Rosabianca, a real estate lawyer in Manhattan. If you are not willing to commit to each other for life yet, then entering into a financial commitment — like buying a home together — is a bad move right now.
2. You will be married to your partner’s credit. When unmarried couples enter into a financial contract — like a home purchase — both credit scores are affected by the success of that joint agreement. If your boyfriend decides he’s done with the relationship, his credit is now attached to you because you share a mortgage. Getting his name off of the mortgage can be a major legal battle and more difficult than getting that sofa-sleeper up the stairs. According to Realtor.com, if one party defaults on the loan, it affects each borrower’s credit score negatively and could lead to foreclosure, which drops your credit score by 100-300 points and negatively affects it for seven years.
3. Your breakup will be even more complicated. If you think breaking up is hard, try it with a home-sized asset right in the middle of it. Your heart is broken, your dreams are shattered, and now you have to decide: Who stays and who goes? Who gets what furniture? Do you have to split the proceeds of the sale? How will you be reimbursed if home improvements like new sod, sprinkler system, surround sound, or paint are already invested? Dr. Thomas Bradbury a PBS relationship expert reports, “Partners in cohabiting relationships … report higher levels of aggression in their relationships and more problems resolving disagreements.” Now that your relationship is over, your unresolved disagreements have a price tag attached. There have even been cases of cohabitating couples suing each other over back payments and mental distress damages.
We want your relationship to last for the ages — longer than a 30-year mortgage — so buck the trend and delay your home purchase until you’re officially husband and wife. Then, you can celebrate your commitment to your marriage, your future, and your home with “his and hers” monogrammed mugs for your new breakfast bar.
What do you think about getting a mortgage before a marriage? Leave a comment below.