8 Rules for Couples Before Buying a Home

Everything you need to consider before purchasing that first home as a couple.


Photo by Adele Portait Photogarphy

Buying your first home together can be an exciting opportunity to make your dreams come true — or a stress-filled journey into the unknown. Will you come out on the other side as happy homeowners, or will the search leave you miserable and alone?

Here are some tips to help keep your relationship on steady ground while avoiding costly mistakes.

1. Make sure you’re on the same page

Chances are that you and your partner have different ideas about the home you should buy. One of you might want a home in the suburbs, while the other is picturing a swank urban retreat. (Trulia even created a quiz on the topic.)

You might be up for the challenge of a fixer-upper, but you’re wary of your partner’s DIY skills. You want a large yard for the dog, but he dreads the upkeep. The list of reasons that you can butt heads is seemingly endless.

There are many decisions to make regarding location, style, and condition, so before you begin your search, have a frank discussion about what each of you wants. Make a list of your “must haves” and “nice to haves” so that you can refer back to it when it’s time to evaluate homes during your search. It’s important to understand where you’ll both be willing to compromise.

2. Get your credit ducks in a row

Start by purchasing both of your credit reports and checking for any inaccuracies or negative items.

However, before you start paying off that five-year-old collection account, check with a mortgage professional about what you should and should not pay off or challenge. Often, any activity on an account, even if you are paying off a debt, may have a negative impact on your credit score.

Sharing credit information is often a sensitive matter for couples. Lenders place more weight on the lower-scoring partner, so now is the time to work together to improve your joint credit profile.

3. Take a hard look into your wallet

Prequalification for your mortgage is a must — if you can swing it, it’s worth doing so. Most professional agents won’t even show you a property unless they know exactly what you can afford and that you have a prequalification letter to submit with an offer.

Work with a mortgage professional and learn about the various types of loans available and exactly how much you can borrow. It’s also important to discuss with each other how much of your monthly income you’re comfortable allocating to housing costs. Take the time to calculate the “true” cost of your monthly housing payment so that you can be sure to look at homes you can afford.