8 Questions to Ask Your Partner Before You Buy a House Together

If money is one the top things couples fight about, and buying a home is one of the most expensive things a couple will spend money on, it makes sense that cosigning on to homeownership is not a topic to be taken lightly. Don’t be fooled by the house-buying TV shows that inevitably bring head-butting couples to a tidy compromise in 30 quick minutes. The reality is that you should engage in many serious, detailed, and honest discussions about your wants and needs, including those based on the following questions:

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1. Does buying a home make good financial sense right now? Homeownership is generally considered to be a good investment move, but it’s not always right for everyone at every time and in every situation. Take a look at your budget, your lifestyle, your plans, the housing market, and the rental market to see if purchasing a home is really the best decision at this point.

2. Which is more important: space or location? It’s often the case that for the same amount of money you must choose between a better location (good schools, nicer neighborhood, proximity to conveniences, etc.) or more/better square footage. Yes, neighborhoods can improve and houses can be enlarged and renovated, but are those things likely to happen while you’re in the home? Figure out which quality you value more as a couple, and then be realistic about how that should frame your housing search.

3. Are you in it for the long run? Buying a starter home you plan to sell again in a few years is a lot different than purchasing a forever home you picture yourself growing old in. Ask yourselves how long you plan to live in a particular home, and let that guide how you prioritize things like its location, square footage, special features, and cost, both now and in the future.

4. Who will make repairs/renovations? If you anticipate making major changes and/or a lot of repairs during the time you live in the home, be sure you’re on the same page about who will be doing the work. Are you a DIY couple who’s excited about building sweat equity and acquiring skills as you go, or will you need to budget for a team of contractors? Are the types of projects you’re considering small, manageable, and/or relatively inexpensive (e.g., updating ugly light fixtures or cleaning up the landscaping) or are they large, complicated, and pricey (e.g., redoing the kitchen or adding another bathroom)? There’s no one right answer here, just one right answer for you as a couple.

5. Who will do regular maintenance? Similar to the repairs/renovations question above, couples will be happier in the long run if they choose a house having kept in mind who will be in charge of things like yard work and housework. Do you have the time and/or desire to mow a vast expanse of lawn, or vacuum many rooms of carpeted floors? If not, will you buy a house with a smaller yard and less square footage, or will you make room in the budget to outsource these jobs? Talk about your expectations to cut down on problems later.   

6. Are you going to have [more] kids? Keeping the little ones in mind should be a major influence in the search for a home. Think about things like schools, the neighborhood, and the house’s space and features, both how they are now and how they might be in five, 10, 15 or more years. Unless you’re planning to sell the house relatively soon, remember also that kids grow and their needs change, so you’ll want a house that can adapt.

7. Whose space is it anyway? Yes, you’re a couple, and yes, you’re buying a home together, and yes, you should compromise to find a space that works for both of you. BUT. Will one of you be spending more time in the house, or using it for a particular purpose? Maybe the person who telecommutes or stays home with the kids should get more say in how the house works for him/her. Maybe someone has a job or hobby with special requirements (like garage or yard space) that should take priority. Be honest about who needs what and why.

8. How will owning a home impact your quality of life? Maybe homeownership means you’ll have less time/money to travel and that you spend weekends making repairs instead of going to the movies. But maybe it also means you can finally throw the giant pool parties you’ve always wanted, and you now have the space to have another baby. Buying a home can change your quality of life for the better or worse, but it’s mostly a combination of the two, depending on what you value. Take a look at all the pros and cons and see how everything shakes out in the end.        

What conversations have you and your partner had about buying a home together?

For more advice on buying your own place, check out Allstate’s guide for first-time homebuyers.

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