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Pre-Purchase Considerations
for Unmarried Partners

The Denninger Report  - by Gini Denninger

In a previous article, our topic was single people buying property. An equally important focus, is unmarried couples who plan to buy a home together. Realtors are seeing more unmarried couples coming together to purchase. Some Realtors try to gently inquire if the couple has completely worked out details regarding the property in the unpleasant possibility of a split, but only do so if they feel that the couple is receptive. Other Realtors feel it is none of their business and not part of their job description. I fall into the former category since I want my clients to be educated and proactive in home ownership. That includes considerations about selling the property in the future. Hopefully I will be called to sell their home because the couple is up-grading, not splitting! The intent of this article is not to scare unmarried couples from buying a home, but to encourage them to be prepared for the future as best as they can.

No one goes into a committed relationship expecting the worst, and some feel addressing that possibility actually jinxes the relationship. But Realtors, all too often, see the end result of when the worst actually happens. As a Realtor, I have had clients who were desperate to be rid a property they had bought with a former partner. Once the breakup occurred, the house became one of the major obstacles to severing all ties to the other person. Additionally, in the process, one party often becomes severely harmed financially, as a result.

So what to do? If buying a property with a partner, how does a person protect themselves? Anthony LaFay, Esq. of LaFay, Bryne & Lafay on W. Main St. in Rochester gave some very succinct advice: “Approach the buy as a business deal first”. No matter how committed a couple is, this is rule #1. He explained that people do not come to him until they are in a troubled situation and many times, it’s too late to help them. If prospective buyers take a few steps at the start, they can go a long way to helping themselves and each other in preventing the headaches involved in separating financially, should a break-up occur without the protections offered by marriage.

In making the decision to buy a home together, so many questions arise and must be looked at closely. What if the incomes are unequal? Is ownership of the house unequal if expenses are not equally shared? Who puts down the down payment? Who gets what part of the cost of down payment when the house is sold? Whose credit gets used, if not both? What are the contingency plans if illness occurs to one partner, or they die? What if they split up, the house has to be sold, and it sells at a loss? Who absorbs the financial fall out? What if the house is sold at a profit? Who gets what? What if a split occurs and one partner wants to keep the house? Can the other be forced to pay? Notice, in the end, most questions center around finances.

Read Part 2 >>

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