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Buying a home with your valentine

  1. 12 February 2018
  2. By Andi Michael

With the average time to save a deposit as a singleton at 11 years and three months, it’s no surprise people are coupling up to get on the ladder. But what questions should you ask your sweetheart before you take the plunge?

It can make a lot of sense to buy a home with a partner. Two lots of savings can reduce the time and cost of buying a property, and for many, it’s the only way they’ll ever own a home. 

Buying your first home is seen as a rite of passage, just like marriage or choosing to have children can be. But with the average age of a first time buyer at 33 and rising, is it possible couples are rushing in to buy with the wrong person?

Buying a home together is a huge commitment, and if things don't go to plan then changing over the name on a mortgage, arranging a buy out or having to sell the property if you can’t afford it alone can be costly and stressful.

Whilst you’re feeling all dreamy with your darling, picturing what the garden will look like or how much shorter your commute will be, we think you should consider these few points:

Have you lived together before?

No, those two weeks on holiday in Malaga don’t count. Have you had to share a space day-to-day, adapting to each other’s schedules, sharing washing up and laundry duties, splitting the bills? Have you got used to each other’s space, noise, habits?
Whilst not so long ago it was expected that couples would never have co-habited before marrying and buying a home, in the modern world it’s a big gamble when you don’t know how to share a space.
If you’re going straight for buying, take a short term let as a ‘practice run’ whilst you’re looking. It may feel like a waste of money, but you’ll thank us.

Are you on the same page about finances?

If you’re saving away every spare penny for a deposit but your partner is spending left, right and centre, or worse, drowning in debt, your attempts to buy a property are going to be more difficult.
Money is one of the number one stresses on a relationship, and a home is likely to be the biggest purchase you ever make.

Saving for a deposit

Talk about money, create a savings plan and make sure you’re both committed to owning a home. Getting a deposit together often requires some sacrifice – you both need to be on board. If one is sacrificing more than the other, resentment will brew.
Have a look at our ‘Starting Saving’ guide for how to begin saving your deposit. Discuss what changes you’re each willing to make to get the home you want.

How the property is split

Be sure to discuss whether you aim to put an equal amount into the deposit pot. If one of you earns more than the other, you may want to put an agreement in place that makes clear what percentage ownership of the property you’ll have. Or perhaps one partner can pay more into the mortgage when you get to that point.

Affording a mortgage

Often people forget to consider whether their annual income will let them afford a mortgage. By combining your income you’re likely to have access to more properties, but it’s important to know what’s in your price range. The rule of thumb most lenders go by is to multiply your combined income by 4.5 – that’s probably around the maximum mortgage lenders will be willing to lend you. Add that together with the deposit you're saving, and that's your maximum budget.
Once you’ve worked out this number and looked at some properties online, you may find you need to adapt your expectations. Or you may need to make a plan to increase your income in the near future.

Checking your accounts

Lenders are more careful about how they check mortgage applicants these days. They won’t just apply the x4.5 rule, but are likely to look at up to 6 months of bank statements. How you deal with your money on a monthly basis will show how responsible you are. If all your transactions show expensive nights out, constantly dipping into your overdraft until payday or generally spending beyond your means, banks are less likely to trust you.
Lenders tend to ‘stress test’ potential customers by checking they could continue to pay their mortgage if inflation or other costs caused payments to increase. Making sure you always have a little extra in your account can make you look more responsible.

Discuss debts

No one wants to talk about debt, but a huge chunk of the population are in it. Whether it’s credit cards, loans or overdrafts, if you or your partner are dealing with debt and you want to buy a home, it’s time to discuss it (you'll be pleased to hear that as long as you started university after 1998, your student loan does not affect your credit score).
Mortgage lenders are going to lend you a huge amount of money – they don’t want to do that if you already have debts. As such, it’s time to put a plan into place to pay off any debts you can, build up your credit score and support each other on the journey.
Tip: If you’re working hard to save, plan some (low cost) ‘treats’ in along the way so you don’t feel too hard done by!


Do you want the same sort of property?

If you’re dreaming of a countryside retreat with exposed bricks and a large garden, and your partner’s thinking of a city centre modern apartment with glass furnishings, you’re going to have a problem.

Work out what kind of things you both agree on and focus on location, as that will determine what kind of properties are available.
Ask your partner what home means to them. Whether it’s the style and type of building, the furniture you put into in, or being near friends and family, you’ll be able to work together to define what you want your home to be.
Remember that there are lots of opportunities out there to help you get onto the ladder. They may be right for you, or they may not.
Be aware that if you’re using Help to Buy schemes, only new build properties will apply. You can also check if you’re eligible for Shared Ownership or any other schemes in your area.

Are you willing to compromise?

May as well start now, love is all about compromise.
This doesn’t mean giving up your dream home, but just as you need to consider which factors are sticking points with your property searching, consider which ones you’d be willing to compromise on for your partner.
If you want a big garden, but they need parking in order to get to work, are you going to say ‘no’ to a property that is otherwise perfect? Find those points that are important to both of you, those that are completely necessary, and the ones that have a little more wiggle room.
Remember, for most people, their first home isn’t their ‘forever’ home. You can afford to compromise a little on the things you want but don’t necessarily need. However, if your compromise is going to leave you with a very long commute, high costs that you’ll struggle to pay, or will otherwise bring you grief, consider how you’ll feel about your home in a year’s time.

Do you have a back up plan?

No one wants to think about what might happen if their relationship ends, but when buying a home, it seems prudent to be aware of the risks.
If you break up, would you sell the property and split the money? Are you equally putting into the deposit, and paying the mortgage? Will both your names be on the property? If one of you wanted to take over the mortgage, could they afford to buy the other out and pay the mortgage?
These don’t have to be full plans but having this conversation with your other half will mean you’re both on the same page and can actually make you feel closer about your shared future.
No one ever intends to treat their partner badly, but it’s always worth getting an agreement in place if you’re not married, to secure your property in the case of a break up. Often people think they’re covered by a ‘common law marriage’ or because they have both been paying the mortgage, but it can be more complicated than that.

Planning for the future?

Are you picking a home that you can grow into with your other half? Whilst your first home is unlikely to be the only home you ever live in, it should be suitable for your short term plans so you can live in it for at least a few years. Assuming you’ve had a chat about the future, you need to pick a property that can provide you with what you need.
If you’ve discussed having children, picking a home that is family friendly, or could easily be converted, is a good idea. Often upsizing to a property with another bedroom is expensive, whereas choosing somewhere that has the space to be extended can save you moving costs and hassle.
If one of you wants to work from home, look for opportunities where a small room or nook could work as office space. Alternatively, a property with a small garden could house a shed/office.
Alternatively, if you know you’re likely to want to travel in the next couple of years, choosing a property that would be appealing for short term lets would be a good idea.
You’re choosing a property not only for what you want now, but with the potential to accommodate your dreams later in life. So think long term!

Are you excited?!

Though sometimes the process can feel stressful (and maybe just a little scary) you should be excited at the thought of buying a home with the person you love! Enjoy the process of looking for homes and visiting properties – spend time talking about what you want and how to get it, and enjoy the time together as you move onto the next stage in your journey. You’ll be decorating before you know it!

6 questions to ask your partner before buying a home together:

  • What are the most important things for you buying a home?
  • What do you want from our home in the future?
  • What can we afford to buy?
  • What are you willing to compromise on?
  • Why do you want to buy a home now?
  • What’s our saving plan?
 Updated February 2020

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