Buying a home is an exciting new chapter in your lives together as a couple. It’s where you get to put down roots, find a place to call home and build years of memories together. But finding that perfect place to settle down together is also a major process—one that requires some serious research and planning.
From the home search to financing, finding a realtor, creating your prenup, and everything in between, there’s a lot to learn! So, follow us down the page to discover what you and your partner need to keep in mind as you search for your dream home.
Decide What Type of Home You Want
Not all houses are created equal, and not every house on the market is going to be a fit for your family’s needs and wants. Set aside some time to have conversations about what you both desire in a home before you jump into the home-buying process. Here are a few things to consider when choosing a property type.
House, Condo, or Townhouse?
Whether you’re searching for a house, a condo, or a townhouse, it’s important to consider the characteristics of each property type.
- Houses typically offer the most space—perfect for growing families and couples who love spending time out in the yard. On the other hand, they require the most upkeep and are typically more expensive than condos and townhouses.
- Condos and townhomes are usually less expensive and easier to maintain than a detached home, but are also on the smaller side. And while you’ll enjoy the convenience of your yard work being done for you, you might also have to abide by HOA rules and pay monthly fees.
Urban, Suburban, or Rural?
The neighborhood you choose to live in is just as important as the home itself. After all, you can change a lot of things about a building, but you can’t change its location! So, take plenty of time to discuss what type of environment you want to call home before you start looking at what’s on the market.
If you like living in the heart of all the action, urban homes might be the perfect fit. Downtown condos and townhomes allow you to be within walking distance of all your favorite spots and eliminate the commute into town. On the flip side, urban living can make it hard to get away from the hectic nature of the city, including traffic and noise.
On the flip side, suburban and rural homes offer more privacy, peace, and quiet, but are farther away from city conveniences. If you want to spend your weekends on the patio and don’t mind a drive, this might be the perfect type of property for you!
But remember, it’s not just about how close you are to the grocery store or if you can walk to work. The type of neighborhood you live in can affect everything from property values and school rankings to the amount of crime in the area—and those factors will be important as you start a family together.
Discuss Money Early
The last thing you want is to find yourself in a bidding war, or worse, buying a home that’s much more expensive than what you can afford. That’s why it’s so important for you and your partner to discuss finances before you start looking at properties.
Ask questions like:
- What are our financial goals?
- Do we have any outstanding debt (student loans, credit card debt) that may affect our ability to meet those goals?
- How much money do we need available each month after meeting other financial obligations?
- What investments do we have now?
- Do these investments help us reach our long-term goals or hinder them?
Because this type of direct conversation might be uncomfortable at first—and potentially even scary—it helps if both people come armed with information. Having your financial information on hand will ensure the conversation is led by fact rather than emotion when talking through any opposing viewpoints that might come up.
Choose the Right Real Estate Agent
The right real estate agent will help you navigate every step of the home buying process. From the initial search to all the fine details at closing, you’ll want an experienced agent who’s an expert on the local market on your side from the start.
While choosing an agent might seem like an overwhelming decision, finding someone who is honest, trustworthy, and experienced doesn’t have to be difficult. Look for an agent that has a good reputation within the community—and one who is responsive to your needs. Recommendations from family and friends who recently bought a home are a great place to start. A good listener will help make sure that your home buying experience goes smoothly from start to finish!
Explore Home Financing Options
Your house is probably the biggest financial investment you’ll ever make. So, when you’re in the market for a new home, it’s important to consider all of your financing options. Here are a couple of the most common types of home loans:
Conventional Mortgage Loan: This type of loan is provided by a bank or other financial institution. They have low-interest rates and usually have 15- or 30-year terms. To secure this type of loan, you’ll need to prove that you have the income to pay the loan back and have about 20% available as a down payment.
Conventional loans also have strict guidelines about how much money can be borrowed based on factors such as your credit score, debt-to-income ratio, years at your current job, and months unemployed in the past year, so keep an eye out for these requirements before applying!
FHA Loan: An FHA loan is insured by HUD (Housing & Urban Development), which means it does not require collateral from clients with bad credit scores or little experience buying property before. However, you must meet certain criteria like, having verifiable employment history to qualify.
FHA loans usually come with lower monthly payments compared to conventional ones, but may cost more upfront due to extra fees required during the closing process. They also typically have higher interest rates during the repayment period – though rates vary greatly depending on circumstances such as the length of term desired and the amount financed.
Protect Your Investment in Your Prenup
Prenuptial agreements help protect any financial assets that you and your partner bring to the table. But when you’re purchasing a home, some of those individual assets may go towards the down payment of your property. Thankfully, a prenup can ensure those assets remain Separate Property.
How? Well, all of your assets (along with your debts) must be disclosed upfront. Then, you and your partner have the ability to list those assets as Separate Property in the agreement, ensuring that they won’t become considered Marital Property after you tie the knot.
You can also add a real estate recapture clause to your agreement. That means if you both financially contribute to real estate by purchasing property or investing in renovations above the stated threshold, the money will be returned ( or “recaptured”) as separate property.
We hope this guide has encouraged you to take your time and do some upfront planning before going out to look at homes. It’s important to remember that buying a home is an exciting step in your lives together, but also a big commitment! If you make sure the two of you are on the same page regarding budget and priorities before looking at homes, it will be much easier for both of you! Happy house hunting!
Julia Rodgers is HelloPrenup’s CEO and Co-Founder. She is a Massachusetts family law attorney and true believer in the value of prenuptial agreements. HelloPrenup was created with the goal of automating the prenup process, making it more collaborative, time efficient and cost effective. Julia believes that a healthy marriage is one in which couples can openly communicate about finances and life goals. You can read more about us here Questions? Reach out to Julia directly at [email protected].