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Buying a Home as an Unmarried Couple

Posted by Emma Parker on November 4, 2021

Sometimes you feel ready to buy a home before you say “I do”. I know because we did! Gone are the days where couples get married before living together. But what’s different about buying a home as an unmarried couple?

Essentially, not much. There are a few factors that you’ll have to take into consideration both before & after buying a home as an unmarried couple. While buying a home is situationally dependent, here are some insights into what the process looks like in a broad sense.

Mortgage & Deeds

First, let’s look at getting pre-approved. When in this initial step to buying a home, the lender will look at both credit & employment history. Once this is done, you may decide that both or only one of you will apply for the mortgage.

The deed is the document that states the ownership interest in the property. One of you, or both of you can be on the deed, regardless of who’s applied for the mortgage.

Let’s say both parties apply for the mortgage & both of your legal names are on the deed. When, and if, you decide to get married & a name is changed, you’ll have to file for a quitclaim deed. This is basically an amendment to the original deed stating that nothing but your name has changed. You’ll do this through an attorney.

If only one person applies for the mortgage, but both parties are on the deed, the promise to repay the loan only falls on the person on the mortgage. No matter the payment agreement you work out privately with your significant other, the person who applies for the mortgage pays.

Changing who is on the mortgage can present difficulties, so be sure that you understand what it means to be on the mortgage & deed from the get-go.

Types of Ownership & Title

This is a bit of a morbid conversation, but a good one to have from the start. It all depends on how you want to hold title in your property. For married couples, it’s assumed that if one party passes, the property goes to the survivor. However, this isn’t the case with unmarried couples.

There are a few different ways that you and your partner can hold title:

  1. Joint Tenancy – this is basically the way it is for married couples. If one of you passes, the other inherits the property in full. It’s easy to remember as a 100% / 100% split.
  2. Tenancy in Common – this is where you both own 50% of the property. If one of you passes, that half goes to their estate.
  3. Partnership – a less common way to hold title. You can dictate exactly what you want to happen if one of you passes. You may decide to sell or split the percentages up differently.

Whatever you choose, understand that you have choices in the unfortunate event that one of you passes or there is a break up.

What Happens When We Get Married?

The two big ticket items you’re going to want to check on are the deed & your taxes.

If you are not on the deed or you want your new name to be stated, you’ll have to file for a quitclaim deed. This is that amendment to the deed I talked about earlier. Just chat with your attorney about starting this process.

For tax purposes, it’s important to talk to your tax professional to learn about the tax breaks you get as a married couple. As an unmarried couple who own a home, you may not get the same tax breaks as when you’re married. Obviously, you want to maximize these for yourself, so don’t miss out!

Should We Wait Until We’re Married to Buy?

That is 100% a personal choice. You have to make the right decision based on your situation! It may seem like the easier route to be considered “one”. However, the bank/ lender still has to verify your separate employments, credits & bank accounts. The main difference is that in ownership, you have choices as an unmarried couple. Whereas a married couple, you choices are assumed for you.

Ultimately, it’s better to do one, then the other, instead of at the same time. You have to be comfortable in your living & financial situation in order to make that decision. I’ve seen both sides. I have couples who want to wait to use some of their wedding gifts as part of their down payment & closing costs. On the flip side, I have couples who find it financially important for them to stop renting ASAP and buy. It just depends on timing & what’s important to you!

Bottom Line

Buying a home as an unmarried couple is possible! Sometimes it makes more financial sense to buy first. For personal reasons, maybe you want to be married first. Whatever the case, you have options! Just make sure to understand what it means for you to buy as an unmarried or married couple. Both are major life decisions & you want to make sure that you’re ready for them! Understanding what it means for you & your situation is important.

If you’re in the process of making this decision, let’s chat! I’ve had personal experience, as have most of my clients, in this area. I’d be happy to chat with you about what the timeline & process will look like for you!


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