We’ve all heard that few things can test a new relationship like going on a trip together, but what about buying a home together? With all the stresses and potential delays and pitfalls involved with the home buying process it is no surprise that this is another minefield for even the strongest, most committed relationships.
If only there was some sort of checklist you can use to make sure your relationship is ready before taking the plunge. Thankfully, says Tony Clarke, Rawson Property Group MD, there is.
Ticking most of these six points is a good indication that you’re ready to settle down.
#1 You’re already living together
This might cause raised eyebrows from more traditional folk, but one of the best ways to see if you’re ready to own a property together is to live together first. If you buy a home together, you’re going to be constantly in each other’s space, so you need to be sure you can deal with all their little habits in full, daily glory.
If you’ve lived together happily for at least a year or two, you can be fairly confident that you’ll survive a more long-term commitment. If a weekend away leaves you ready to tear your hair out, however, you might want to give yourselves a little more time before buying property.
#2 You’re 100% committed
Commitment comes in many forms, and while you certainly don’t need to be halfway down the aisle to buy a home with your partner, you do need to be secure in your future together. If things don’t work out, you can, of course, choose to sell, but this generally results in a poor return on your investment.
“Timing is important with property sales, and selling within 5 years of purchase does tend to eat into any growth your investment has had. It’s far better not to commit to a purchase if your relationship isn’t 100% rock steady.”
#3 You both have a stable income
One of the main reasons couples buy property together is to take advantage of having two sources of income – twice the affordability with half the risk (from the bank’s perspective). This is only true if both partners have a stable source of income, though.
As a couple, you may have a little bit more wiggle room if something goes wrong, but it’s unlikely that one party will be able to shoulder the full monthly bond repayments for long. According to Clarke, its far better to wait until you’re both confident that your careers are on a positive trajectory before signing up for a joint financial commitment that could limit your financial and professional flexibility.
#4 You want the same things
Compromise is healthy, but there’s only so much compromise you can do and still keep everyone happy. If you can’t decide on man cave or a craft room, suburb or city, apartment or house, it is probably best to think twice about making a joint purchase.
Top tip: Draw up separate ‘must have’ and ‘nice to have’ lists that detail exactly what you hope to find in a property. If your lists are totally different, you may need to take some time to consider whether you’re on the same page for your planned future.
Clarke also recommends chatting about responsibilities like who will take care of the pool or maintain the garden. You might both love the idea of a manicured lawn, but if neither of you is willing to mow it, it could become a sore point in your relationship.
#5 You stick together under pressure
Homeownership has its fair share of benefits and securities, but it also comes with challenges which have a habit of showing up at the worst of times. Rising interest rates, unexpected maintenance issues, security scares or even décor disasters can all put a strain on a relationship. You definitely need to be able to work as a team and support each other during crises if you’re going to be successful co-owners.
#6 You don’t let romance cloud your judgement
We all want our own version of “happily ever after”, but smart couples realise that life has no guarantees. No matter how strong and wonderful your relationship is today, you need to protect yourself against the possibility that it might not always be that way.
“Nobody likes to plan for worst case scenarios, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry,” says Clarke. “It’s a simple process to get your conveyancing attorney to draw up a contract that outlines each person’s contributions to the investment and ensures a fair division of the asset if the relationship ends. It might not be romantic, but it is the responsible thing to do, and it’s a good way to make sure your decisions are being made with your head and not your heart.”