Buying a home with your significant other can be a wonderful bonding experience, but it also has the potential to put a lot of strain on your relationship. Fortunately, there is power in knowing. If you and your loved one can navigate some of the issues and come up with compromises before the search begins, you just may forego many of the hardships other home buyers go through.
Money, money, money
The fear of the financial burden of a buying home is the number one cause of stress and disagreements for couples buying a home together. So the first thing to do is to minimize potential arguments and strain on the relationship and get settled on a maximum budget (and get it in ink). Applying for a preapproved loan is one of the best ways to prevent the stress and put a governor on spending. A mortgage calculator on a website is not the same thing as a preapproved loan. Get a couple of different offers, so you know you are getting the best rates and options.
Because where you live is a big part of daily living, it can be easy to sacrifice your budget for what appears to be the right home. But, if you go over your budget, the two of you will be “house poor,” and that will end up putting a great deal of strain on your relationship. Have those tough conversations now, so you don’t have to have any knock down, drag outs in the middle of the home buying process. Get your budget defined, and stick with it.
The needs versus the wants
Make a list of wants together. Once you have completed the list of everything you want, then go ahead and circle the items on the list that could be considered needs for the two of you. This may lead to some heated discussions, but keep in mind that each of you needs to value one anothers’ priorities. Because you are two different people raised two different ways, you will find that some of your partner’s priorities seem more like wants, and vice versa. But start this process with an open-mind, a loving mind, and a mind that is open to compromise. As humans, people are much more likely to compromise when they know the other side respects their viewpoints, tries to understand them, and is doing their best to meet them in the middle.
Location, location, location
We all know this is a major factor in buying a home. Hopefully you and your significant other are on the same page with where you want to live, but have you discussed what happens if you can’t afford to live there. It’s a good idea to have Plan B and Plan C in case Plan A is just out of your price range when you factor in your other wish list items. Keep in mind that a not as nice or big home in a great location can yield a higher rate of return on investment than a home that has everything you want and is in great condition in a not so great neighborhood. Make a list of areas that you could see living in together so your realtor can give you a lot of options in the neighborhoods you love.
Determine what size of home you want, and what size of home you need. Everyone would love an extra bedroom and bath for when their aunt from India ever comes to visit. But, think about the cost per year for that extra bedroom or half bath versus the cost of a hotel when she makes the trip over. If you can’t afford the extra space, think about how you could creatively fix up the basement into an extra room on occasion. The most important thing is that you have enough room to live comfortably and happily while you are in the home.
Research has shown that more women than men like a more cozy, traditional home while more men than women are drawn to a more modern aesthetic. Discuss with each other your likes and dislikes. Determine if there are any deal breakers; e.g. the kitchen still has the avocado green double oven in the kitchen and one absolutely loves the retro feel where as the other person wouldn’t step foot in a kitchen like that. Discuss those major loves and dislikes before hand, but also, while you are looking at homes, keep an open-mind. The key is to not automatically dismiss each others’ likes and dislikes, instead spend some time pondering whether or not you could get used to the style were it in the right price range and in the right location.
The remodeling conundrum
Determine whether or not you are willing to remodel. Remodeling is almost always tough on a relationship but especially difficult if you are going to be living in the home while it is in reconstruction. But, even if you aren’t going to be living amongst the dust and rubble, it can be stressful based on budget and time. Have a lengthy discussion about whether or not either of you is up for remodeling and how much time each of you is willing to wait or put into the remodeling if you are DIYers.
Get your thoughts and plans in writing and share them with your trusted and vetted real estate agent. This will help the agent to find just the right houses for you and save you a lot of time and energy looking at homes that will never get your approval. And remember, as they say, best laid plans… Even if you have discussed everything; you have Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C; and you are on the same page, a different scenario may arise during your home search… a scenario for which you have no plan. But don’t worry because now you and your loved one have the tools (after all you created Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C), and mutual respect to work through every aspect of that new scenario and come to a compromise, ultimately leading to a new home you will love being in together.