Homebuying dreams can become real for shoppers in unmarried but committed relationships. According to Jessica Lautz, the National Association of REALTORS®’s director of survey research and communication, a report from NAR found that the highest share of first-time buyers who are unmarried couples was in 2017—the highest on record since 1981. Of course, there are significant risks when buying a home with an unmarried partner. But there are precautionary steps your partnered clients can take to ensure they can deal with the posed risks throughout the home planning and shopping together. A recent article in the Seattle Times gives details on three crucial steps:
- Sign a prenup for the home. Renee Bergmann, a real estate attorney and owner of Bergmann Law in Westmont, N.J., says couples must have a conversation about potentially breaking up if they want to be co-homeowners. Using help from a legal professional, she says coupled clients should establish a co-ownership contract before closing day. Do not “wait and see what happens”—without a written agreement, Bergmann says, things could get messy very quickly.
- Choose the right title. Ownership titles are different in various states, but usually these titles include: sole ownership (one person has the full ownership), joint tenancy (a 50-50 split ownership, with one tenant’s share transferring to the other in the case of death), and tenants in common (allows unequal ownership, such as a 75-25 split). All three approaches have pros and cons, but Bergmann says your clients should consider revising the deed to reflect their new legal status, using a “quitclaim deed,” if they decide to get married after buying.
- Leave parents out of it. Younger couples often get their parents involved during the stressful homebuying process and final transaction. But doing so may cause more confusion, so it may be best to leave the parents at home, says Danielle Moy, an agent with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Orland Park, Ill. When parents show uncertainty about the situation, it causes “a bit of an emotional roller coaster when they’re looking at homes,” according to Moy. The chosen home and the final decision will ultimately be left in the clients’ hands, Moy says, so be sure to help your partnered clients become aware of what they can agree on and what they want for their homeowning future.