Are you thinking of buying a home with a partner to whom you’re not married? I’m not going to lie, when we bought our first home, my wife and I weren’t married. We were in love, engaged, found a great deal on a foreclosure, got a 0% down USDA loan, and it’s been happily ever after. But how many stories of purchasing a home with someone you’re not married to come with a happy ending?
In the last 12 months, 3 of our mortgage clients in Brunswick, Georgia and the surrounding areas have had their homeownership go bad due to breakups with an unmarried partner. When you rely on a partner to help you make the monthly mortgage payments, losing that partner can be a significant detriment to your finances. It can potentially even end in foreclosure.
When you’re married, you have a legally binding contract accepted in the eyes of the law. Divorce attorneys and judges use that law to help separate assets, make rules on who gets what, and finalize the divorce. With an unmarried partner, there is no such legal precedent to help make those decisions.
In each of these 3 cases, no attorney would help the parties involved because they truly had no legal foundation to rely upon. In these three instances, one couple had to sell their property under duress, one broke up with her partner and was put into a financial situation that became nearly emotionally unbearable for her, and the third couple contemplated dividing up the house and living in different sides.
These situations are fairly common, so how do you manage the risk if you feel truly confident in your partnership? I asked this question to attorney Britt Smith of McQuigg, Smith, & Cory, on Saint Simons Island. Here’s what he had to say:
- Speak with an attorney, preferably before entering into a Purchase and Sale Agreement, to discuss the legal aspects of purchasing and owning a property with a significant other
- Consider entering an agreement that provides for the monetary contribution of both parties for the expenses, maintenance, and upkeep of the property
- Ensure the agreement contemplates the division of the proceeds upon the sale of the property and the ramifications of a possible separation of the parties
The smart thing to do in this situation is consult with an attorney, consider drawing up a legal agreement before you purchase, and make sure you are very comfortable with your loved one before you enter into a 30 year contract to pay back a mortgage on you home. A legal agreement is also a good idea if your forming a partnership to purchase an investment property.
If you need advice on this, please consider consulting with attorney Britt Smith to make a legal plan for your purchase. He can be reached at 912-638-1174 and on his firm’s website at www.msclawga.com.