3 Things Every Couple Needs to Talk About Before Buying a Home

Buying a home together is a big step for any couple. However, it’s a stressful process that can strain even the strongest relationships. If you want to come out the other side as happy homeowners, these are the three things you have to talk about before the first open house.

1. Your Budget

If you do anything before buying a house together, you need to get on the same page about finances. Whether your finances are combined or separate, buying a house is a financial commitment you’re making together. To do it right, you need to know the intimate details of each other’s finances, including credit scores, monthly income, debts, and savings. This isn’t just about counting your pennies, it’s about agreeing on financial goals as a couple and how home ownership fits into that.

Once your budget is charted out, decide how much you’re willing to spend every year on housing. Include mortgage payments, homeowners insurance, property taxes, HOA fees, and repair bills. Many couples set aside 1 percent of their home’s purchase price for repairs every year, but as The Balance points out, home maintenance expenses aren’t always that straightforward.

When you get pre-approved for a mortgage, don’t be swayed by big numbers. No matter how much you qualify for, stick to the budget you created together.

2. Your Non-Negotiables

For house hunting couples, clashing non-negotiables are a recipe for disaster. Before you start browsing listings or visiting open houses, collaborate on a list of must-have features for your new home. Common non-negotiables are things like neighborhood and school district, commute distance, number of bedrooms, and a backyard. You should also discuss whether you want a move-in ready home or if you’re open to a fixer-upper. While you may have different opinions on cabinet styles or flooring preferences, agreeing on the major characteristics of a home is critical.

Don’t stop with the big questions. Your house hunt will go much more smoothly if you share a vision of your dream home. Consider features like construction style, floor plan, garage size and style, curb appeal, and natural lighting. The goal is to agree on as many features as possible; compromising is necessary so you land on a shared ideal.

3. Your Future

Hopefully you’ll live in your new home for a few years, even if it’s not your forever home. That means it has to fit your current needs and account for the ways your family might grow. This is the time for an open and honest conversation about your plans as a couple. Do you want to have kids (or more kids), adopt pets, or have an aging parent move in? How might your incomes change in the future? Perhaps you’re anticipating a promotion or want to become a one-income family after having children.

If you’re unmarried, you’ll also need to have an uncomfortable conversation about how you’ll handle your shared home if the relationship ends. Decide now if you want to be joint tenants or tenants in common, or if it makes more sense to name one person as the sole owner of the home. Each option has its pros and cons; you can learn the nuances at My Mortgage Insider. Whatever you choose, ensure you record your agreement in writing so it’s clear what happens if you split up.

You have wonderful visions of your future house — what it looks like, how you’ll decorate it, and how your lives will change as you grow together in your home. However, getting to that happy vision requires a lot of work and some tough conversations. But by talking these things through ahead of time, you can spare yourselves a lot of frustration and misunderstanding along the way.

Suzie Wilson is an interior designer with more than 20 years experience. What started as a hobby (and often, a favor to friends) turned into a passion for creating soothing spaces in homes of every size and style. While her goal always includes making homes look beautiful, her true focus is on fashioning them into serene, stress-free environments that inspire tranquility in all who enter. The Ultimate Guide to Prepping Your Home for an Open House is filled with tips, tricks and other advice based on Suzie’s years of experience in interior home design that will set you up for success.