They say buying a house together tests a couple’s relationship like no other. It’s undoubtedly true because many factors come into play when it comes to real estate, and little challenges can become difficult problems in a relationship later on. If you both share the same preferences, then it shouldn’t be too difficult. But if one is swooning over a sophisticated Victorian house which the other really hates, it can make the couple at odds with each other, which could result in a blame game that nobody will benefit from.
Before you start arguing about who gets which room or what color of paint to use, addressing the most important things right from the start will help you avoid getting into a squabble during your house-hunting. It will also keep your trusted real estate agent from becoming a referee in your personal match. Resolving these issues firsthand will help you meet both of your preferences and decide on the house that you can both envision yourselves living in.
‘Where should we buy?’
As real estate agents and experts always say: real estate is all about location, location, location. It especially becomes crucial for couples when they are deciding to settle down. Many couples disagree on where they want to buy their first home (or even their third!) because location affects many aspects — your commute times, a good school district, proximity to your friends and families, and so on. There’s also the fact that the neighborhood has a large impact on the home’s value. Couples could be torn whether they should choose a good location and if it’s worth the money. One may focus on the neighborhood while the other may worry more about the potential mortgage payment.
The verdict: Before deciding to settle down, sit down with your partner and settle your choice of location first. You could create a neighborhood wishlist, which features each area’s pros and cons. If there are areas that you both like, narrow down your top choices and drive through the neighborhood a few times to really get to know the area.
However, once you start touring homes, you and your partner should have a compromise just in case one falls in love with a particular property that the other doesn’t quite prefer. The type of home and style can also be a factor, but it’s wiser to agree on your desired location first before anything else.
‘How long do we plan to live there?’
It’s important to count your future goals in the house-hunting process and see if you and your partner are both on the same page. It will help you make a better decision on the best type of home and mortgage option for both of you.
The verdict: Have a frank but sincere conversation with your partner to determine whether you have similar goals and commitment. Are you both happy with your careers that you see stability in the coming years? Then a 30-year mortgage with a fixed rate will be the most sensible choice. But if one of you have to move in the near future because of a possible job change, or maybe plans to move closer to your family or in-laws, you should consider other options. Rather than a fixed-rate mortgage, there’s an adjustable-rate mortgage option that offers lower interest rates for a fixed period. Talking about these things ahead of time will help you come up with better financial decisions related to your potential property.
‘How much can we afford?’
Knowing how much you can afford is probably one of the most crucial topics couples should discuss before buying a home. After all, only you and your partner know how your finances will work out on a monthly basis and how much money you can truly put in a mortgage while still living comfortably.
The verdict: Decide on a price range for how much house you can afford by talking to a mortgage lender and your real estate agent. There are couples who base their price range on only one income, just in case one becomes unemployed or needs to quit their job to look after the kids. It’s important to assess your financial stability by anticipating all the costs associated with homeownership, your possible future income, as well as your potential family expenses, to be able to choose a mortgage with monthly payments that you and your partner can afford.
‘Should we buy a fixer-upper or a move-in ready home?’
Choosing a home to buy is like selecting a long-time partner — you have to be very careful and wise in making that big decision. There are times when couples could be at odds between choosing a move-in-ready home or a fixer-upper. One could see a move-in ready home as more practical despite the considerably higher price, while the other wants the latter so they could add their own touches to really call it their home. This may become a real challenge later on when the couple is already checking out potential properties.
The verdict: Again, you and your significant other should consider your long-term plans and clearly define what is acceptable for a fixer-upper. Carefully assess what repairs are you willing to make, what tasks will require you to get professional help, and whether those repairs will be worth the money and effort. Perhaps you can make an exception if the house is in a good location and the DIY tasks are minimal. Your realtor will suggest what could be best for you, but it’s important that you already know what you really want and when can you make an exception.