Navigating home ownership before or after the wedding

Given the fact that marriage equality is the law of the land, some lesbian and gay couples are entering the exciting and unpredictable world of wedded home ownership.

Whether before or after the nuptials, the purchase of a home often signifies commitment, trust, and a hope for permanence. It gives us the chance to create our own sense of home—a safe haven that reflects our personalities and values. But whichever route you choose, there are some very important guidelines to keep in mind when delving into a joint home purchase.

Be transparent about your financial situation. Money issues can often involve feelings of shame, envy, guilt, and inadequacy. But now is the time to take the honesty plunge! Mortgage loan applications ask for both of you to disclose assets and liabilities, credit and work histories, past addresses, salaries, and much more. Since both of your finances will impact your ability to be approved for a mortgage, you need to be totally open with one another.

Evaluate your current and future financial situation. Given the fact that home ownership and all that it entails is expensive, it’s imperative that you openly discuss every aspect of your financial situation, as well as your financial goals in a specific and realistic way. Be sure to include issues such as: Current income and future career plans, current and future expenses, debt, investments, and retirement goals.

Evaluate the stability of your relationship. It seems like a given that if you’re considering purchasing a home together that your relationship is emotionally sound and healthy. However, more times than you would think, couples that are in conflict or lacking intimacy, are often drawn to the fantasy of home ownership to mend their ailing relationship. Beware! Purchasing a home can be a very stressful experience and adding stress to an already fragile relationship can make it blow up. Above all, just be honest with yourself and with your partner and ask, “Is this truly the best time for us to buy a home?”

Once you decide that the time is right to buy a home together, you can follow the next steps:

Find a real estate agent/broker. An excellent agent or broker will guide you through all of the necessary steps. They will be responsive to your needs and should be accessible even during “off hours”. Be sure to choose someone with whom you feel comfortable and who knows about your relationship.

Seek pre-approval for a mortgage loan. In addition to receiving a pre-approval letter, your lender will also let you know how much you need to put down in closing costs. Having all of this in place before you look for a home will prevent disappointment.

Find a real estate attorney. Especially if you are unmarried, make an appointment with a real estate attorney to help you with a legal agreement. The more clarity you have, the better prepared you will be for worst-case scenarios.

Learn the language of real estate together. If this is your first purchase, you may be confused by all of the new words and concepts. However, learning it as a couple, whether married or unmarried, will only strengthen your bond and help you feel empowered in negotiating the transaction.

Have fun. Keep a “buying our first house” journal, get a sketchbook and draw pictures of your dream home, watch HGTV shows together, and explore real estate websites. Dream it and make it happen.