Buying a Home with a Non-Spouse

Real Estate Advisor: September 2017
When multiple people participate in a home purchase, they may not be married. They might be in a legal domestic partnership, committed relationship, common law marriage, or even strictly business partners. When it comes to buying a home with someone you’re not married to, there are things to take into consideration before making the very big decision of buying the home. Also, it’s important to check state and local laws as some states and towns have laws that prohibit unmarried couples from buying property together.
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Share Financial Information

Sharing financial information is a big must when it comes to buying property with anyone (whether married or not). Financial information includes everything from income/salary, all debt (any current loans, student loan debt, car loans, etc.), credit scores, retirement accounts and any other income that might not be from a regular job. You have to be completely upfront about all finances, especially if you plan on applying for a mortgage loan. When applying for a mortgage loan, married couples have an advantage; they may be able to use the better credit history/credit score to apply for a loan; for couples that are not married, the mortgage lender will treat each person as an individual, meaning the lower of the two scores will take precedence when it comes to the terms of the loan.

Discuss and Plan Who Pays What

Buying a home is a big financial decision, and requires a sound understanding of who will be responsible for what. This includes paying any mortgage payments, household bills, property taxes, etc. If you’re purchasing a property with someone you’re not legally married to, it’s important to spell out and have a firm written ‘contract’ regarding who pays for what or how much. Before you buy, you need to agree on how much each person is going to contribute to the down payment, how much equity percentage each person will have in the property, and what each person will contribute to the mortgage, taxes, utilities, maintenance and anything else that may come up.

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Have a Joint Bank Account

While joining bank accounts with the person you buy a home with isn’t a necessity, it is a good idea to have a shared account in which each person deposits their share of the home costs. When it comes to paying a mortgage, there are easier ways to pay beyond writing a check. With the advent of online banking and automatic withdrawal, you can set up the mortgage payment to come out of a joint account on the same day each month, making the mortgage payment easy and stress-free. With a shared account, any money for household bills, property improvements, taxes and anything else that may be considered important can come out of the joint account.

Credit Surprises

For buyers applying for a mortgage loan, maintaining the same level of credit between being approved and the final closing is extremely important for a successful transaction. A person’s credit can be impacted by anything: changing jobs, getting a new credit card, closing a credit card, falling behind on payments, and even adding additional debt through large purchases. Surprises when it comes to a buyer’s credit can be a deal breaker for the lender; to prevent issues, a buyer can contact the lender ahead of closing to discuss any surprises that may have come up and come to a solution. The best way to prevent credit surprises: avoid making large financial decisions prior to closing.

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Decide On the Type of Title

When buying a home with someone you’re not married to, there are three different ways to “take title:”

Sole Ownership – This is where only one person’s name is on the title/deed, which means that one person is the only legal owner. Sometimes this choice is a good idea if one partner has poor credit and doesn’t want to be part of the mortgage decision. Other times, the higher-income partner may want to be able to use the house-related tax deductions on his/her taxes. The good news is that if the other person wants to be added to the title later on, there is a process in which to do it.

Joint Tenants – This option is available for those owners that want to have equal shares of the property. Both a benefit and a risk of this type of title is that one partner cannot sell the house without the other partner’s permission. Should one of the partners die, the “right of survivorship” guarantees the other partner inherits the other half of the property. In most states Joint Tenants comes with the right of survivorship, while in others it will need to be specifically stated on the title.

Tenants in Common – This is an option that allows multiple owners of a home/property, and for the owners to possess unequal shares. With this type of title, it is possible for any one of the owners to sell his/her share of the property at any time. Should one party die, that party’s share is left to whomever the party wished – the share doesn’t automatically go to the other owner(s). If this title is chosen, it’s important to get the percentages in writing, as very often the law will assume an equal split of the property.

Whether in a committed relationship, business partners, or buying property with a sibling/friend, property ownership is definitely a possibility. If you have any questions, your agent is able to provide additional guidance on buying a home with a non-spouse.

Why You Should Use a Realtor (Real Estate Advisor – September 2015)

Real Estate Advisor: August 2015
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Why It’s a Smart Move to Use a Real Estate AgentBuying or selling a home seems to be a way of life for a lot of people in today’s world. When you buy, you definitely want to get the most for your money. Many people think they can go it alone when it comes to buying or selling a house, and it’s definitely true that some people are able to handle all the details of buying and selling a home or property, but in reality the real estate process is intricate and requires a lot of knowledge about the local real estate market, contracts, escrow, appraisals and referrals. While some home owners and buyers are in a position to go it alone, for those intimidated by the market or those who don’t have the time or energy to sell or buy a home on their own, here are some reasons why it’s a smart move to use a real estate agent during your next real estate transaction.

Local Expertise

signing - Why You Should Use a Realtor (Real Estate Advisor - September 2015)You’ve lived in an area for some time – but while you may know about local amenities and activities, do you have a lot of knowledge on the local real estate market? Real estate agents know their markets: they know how much homes are selling for, they know what areas are highly desirable and they know which ones are up-and-coming. You can trust an agent to know the local inventory and know how to get the best price for a home or property.

Access

Real estate agents have a number of access points that a regular buyer or seller doesn’t. They have access to listings before they are put in the MLS, and they have access to the homes! Many sellers are only willing to grant access to agents, which means that most buyers going it alone can only access homes during open houses. An agent working for the seller is only going to provide information with the seller’s best interest at heart, so when you go it alone you might be only getting partial information from any questions you may have. Working with an agent will help provide private access to homes, and an agent will be able to get more information from the seller’s agent.

Experience

search - Why You Should Use a Realtor (Real Estate Advisor - September 2015)Buying a home is an intimidating experience – you’re making one of the biggest financial decisions of your life. As a buyer, you want to make sure stress and emotions don’t get the better of you, especially when it comes to making important decisions. Real estate agents know what buyers and sellers go through – they’ve been there, as it’s more than likely they too have made a real estate purchase of their own. While they have personal experience, they also have an experienced rational eye when it comes to the business portion of a real estate transaction. They possess clear judgement, and agents are a seller and buyer’s biggest advocate for a successful negotiation. Real estate agents have the experience, knowledge and acumen to make the process as smooth and stress-free as possible.

Connections

The real estate transaction process requires a number of professionals and services. From a lender, home inspector, contractors and handymen for repairs, lawyers, and a number of other professionals and tradesmen, knowing the right people is beyond important when you want to have a smooth and successful transaction. Real estate agents are in the business, and their past experience has provided them with a number of respectable and dependable contacts and referrals than you’ll find asking friends and family. A ready agent will come prepared with connections and people they are willing to refer because they’ve worked with them in the past and they know their track record. When you choose to work without an agent, you sacrifice the networking that naturally comes with being a real estate agent.

No Cost When Buying

talking - Why You Should Use a Realtor (Real Estate Advisor - September 2015)If you’re searching for a home or property to buy, having an agent is free. An agent’s commission is paid by the seller, but most buyers don’t realize this and entertain the idea of going without a Realtor during their home search. If a seller pays the commission, there is no loss to a buyer to take full advantage of all the services a real estate agent offers. It’s also important to understand that even if you choose to go it alone when buying a home, you do not receive the commission a buyer’s agent would. Commission rates are negotiated before the final sale and are included in the contract, meaning if you don’t use a buyer’s agent, the entire commission is paid to the listing agent.

Documents and Paperwork

Unless you’re working with a brand new agent, most agents know the ins and outs of all the documents and paperwork required for a home sale or purchase because they’ve been through a number of transactions. From finding the comps of your market and drafting a purchase agreement, to contacting any other agents and the title company, a real estate agent will be able to provide help in the forms of knowledge, time and resources during the real estate transaction process. Agents also know the important parts of an offer or contract, especially when it comes to line items that could cost a lot in the end or things that are negotiable. Having an agent that knows the process, the paperwork and the documentation is a valuable asset when it comes to making one of the biggest decisions of your life.

Fast and Easy Updates to Help a Home Sell

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We are smack dab in the middle of home buying season, and while some properties are off the market before they’re even on it, others haven’t had such luck. A great way to boost your home’s selling power is to make small and affordable updates throughout the home. These quick updates and fixes won’t break the bank or a budget, and they will help make your home more inviting to potential buyers and a potential sale.

Spruce Up the Front Door

The front door is one of the first things potential buyers see when viewing your home. Spruce up the front door by touching up paint (either paint over chipped or fading paint, or change the color completely), adding a kick plate, changing out the hardware, or you can replace the door completely. A new front door can add energy efficiency and additional security if you choose a metal door. Making the front door pop not only adds a special touch to your curb appeal, but potential buyers definitely notice a door that’s been taken care of.

Freshen Up the Kitchen

Closeup of Woman Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Kitchens appeal to so many buyers. If you don’t have the budget or time to overhaul your kitchen, don’t panic. If you have nice wood cabinets and don’t have the budget to update them, consider adding a coat of paint to freshen them up. You can also add new hardware (knobs, handles or pulls) to help give cabinets a younger look. You can also change out any outdated countertops, and adding a new faucet to the sink is another way to give a kitchen a new vibe. If you have the time and the budget, consider changing any flooring that is chipped, cracked or broken. Vinyl flooring is economical and affordable, and it’s available in a number of types and styles to suit any kitchen design.

Update Porch Columns

Porch columns are another item buyers see immediately; if you have columns that have chipped paint, are decaying, or don’t match the style of the home, consider updating or replacing them completely. Sand and paint over chips, or update the look with vinyl wraps. If you have the budget to replace the columns, consider fiberglass, which is weather resistant and helps support the weight of the porch roof.

Tidy Up a Bathroom

Brand new modern luxury bathroom interior

 

Bathrooms are another large selling feature of properties, and outdated bathrooms are a top sale killer. Update within reason of your budget and time: replacing the vanity, counter, sink and faucet can be a quick fix that is also budget friendly (some home improvement stores have entire kits available for this). If this doesn’t fit your budget, consider painting the vanity and replacing the hardware and faucet. Other updates that can be done in the bathroom: change out a toilet (you can usually find energy efficient toilets at a local big box store for under $200), update a showerhead, and replace any vanity or overhead lighting for more modern and energy efficient options.

Update a Staircase

Many staircases are located just as you enter a home, which means they are a focal point and something buyers look at and judge the moment they walk into a property. If your staircase has seen better days, take the time to do some small updates. Fix any broken or loose steps and evaluate the railing; refinish a wood staircase, replace a broken railing, change outdated balusters, and, if the stairs are carpeted, clean or replace the carpet.

Jazz Up a Fireplace

Fireplace and Television in Luxury Home

 

Whether it’s gas or wood, many homes have fireplaces, and many buyers love them for their purpose and as focal points. An updated fireplace can say loads about your home, and a great looking fireplace can help a sale. You can paint and transform outdated brick or add ceramic tiles to add color. You also have the option of adding budget-friendly artificial stone veneer or natural stone (if you have the time and money). Mantels are a large part of fireplaces – add, update or replace a mantel with wood, stone or marble. An updated fireplace and mantel can help any home sale.

Light Up the Yard

Lighting can take the exterior of a home from drab to fab. Dark homes don’t pop to buyers, and outdoor lighting can add a ton of appeal. Update any outdated outdoor lighting fixtures, especially those that no longer work or are broken. If you have some extra money to put toward projects, consider adding additional outdoor lighting in the way of a lamppost or path lights, and if you live in a sunny climate you also have the option of solar lights.

Organize a Closet

Wardrobe

 

Buyers will go through cupboards and closets, and a cramped bedroom closet can be an issue with some buyers. A quick and budget-friendly fix is a closet organizer. Organizers come in a variety of options, from wood and plastic-laminate to wire, and most are DIY, which cuts down any installation costs. If your closets are stuffed or poorly organized, buyers will see this and could potentially be turned off by it.

Make an Attic More Usable

Most homes have some kind of attic, whether it be a small crawlspace that’s barely accessible or a large attic area accessed by a staircase. Make sure your attic area is accessible: if it’s not, add a ladder and insulate the door for better energy efficiency. If your attic area is just studs, add a plywood floor to make it more accessible and ready for storage. By adding a couple extra things to an attic area, you’re adding usable space and making your home more marketable to potential buyers.

These fixes are relatively easy, and most shouldn’t break the bank. If you can afford to do some, go for it, but do what is in reason of your time and budget. You want to sell your house, and you don’t want to spend a fortune updating it. Small fixes can be the ticket to a quick sell, or they can help a home that’s been sitting for a while finally get some movement.

 

Taken from Real Estate Advisor – August 2015