If you and your +1 have decided to purchase a home together, it is important to have these 4 discussions BEFORE you submit that first offer, so that you start off the on the same page and have more fun during the buying process!
Discussion #1 - Wants vs Needs
The first conversation your and your partner need to have is about your wants vs your needs. This includes the basics such as number of bedrooms and bathrooms, garage, etc but you should also discuss the more in depth features of a home that make a direct impact on your lifestyle. Here are some of the questions to ask each other:
- What is the minimum square footage we need to feel comfortable?
- Where will we spend the most amount of time in the home?
- How far of a commute are you willing to have?
A trick that I like to use for this discussion is to speak in terms of range, setting minimums and maximums. So instead of just being 15 minutes from work, it is 10-25 minutes.
Keep in mind this hard honest truth though the perfect home doesnt exist. Homes are like shopping at the thrift store... they are previously owned and will have flaws. You and your partner will need to determine where you will draw your hard lines. Dont sell yourself short, but dont have a million dollar home in mind on a $300,000 budget.
Discussion #2 - Splitting Costs
The next conversation that you will need to have is how you would like to split costs. Having this discussion up front can change the way that you and your partner look at homes, so it is important to talk about before seeing homes vs when you are signing the dotted line.
Most often couples will choose the 50/50 split route but I have often seen couples split according to their take home pay, so that the impact of payment is equal for both you and your partner. One method of calculating this is to combine your incomes, then divide the higher income by the total for the percentage the higher income should contribute.
For example, if you make $50,000 a year and your partner makes $75,000 a year, you would add $50,000 and $75,000 for a total of $125,000. Then you would divide $75,000 by $125,000 for a total of 0.6. If you multiply that by 100 you will get the percentage. In this case its 60%. So your partner would cover 60% of the mortgage and you would cover 40%.
Also, keep in mind the other expenses that come with home ownership. Utilities, annual home maintenance, and new items that you will have to buy such as a lawnmower or snow blower.
Discussion #3 - Ideal Timeline
The third discussion to have is your ideal timeline. Not only your ideal closing date to move into your new home, but also the long term plan. Are you buying the forever home or a starter home? On average people live in a home for 5-7 years, so dont be afraid to begin at the starter home level and then move up.
Discussion # 4 - HOW you plan to compromise
Finally, the most important conversation to have with your partner before buying a home is HOW you will compromise.
- Will you try to meet in the middle?
- Does one partner have final say in a specific feature of the home?
The key to this conversation is openness and honesty. It will most likely be uncomfortable, because you will often have to give a little but you will also get a little. Be in the right mental mood to check your own flaws. It is ok to compromise in real time, but making sure you are on the same page before seeing homes can save you energy and disappointments.
In my next article I will share how long a couple should meet with a realtor before buying a home. You want to have a professional on your side when you find the right home and write an offer!