Should You Buy a Home With a Partner?

buy a homeWhen cohabitating, should you buy a home with your partner when you move in together, or keep it noncommittal with a rental? The answer varies from couple to couple.

Cohabitation casualty Rina Welsch, a musician in Columbus, Ohio, spent four years unraveling the tangled mess of having bought a home with her then-boyfriend, Paul, a struggling small business owner.

"It was worse than a divorce because psychologically we had never committed to that," says Welsch. "When the place wouldn't sell we had this terrible break up on our hands and a bad business deal going on at the same time!"

For an unmarried couple buying a home together, Welsch's tale is a cautionary one. However, for every Welsch, there is a Bradley Cooper/Renee Zellwegger story with a $4 million Pacific Palisades home and a happy ending two years later.

So which is it, rent or buy? By answering the following questions together, you can figure out what's best for you:
1. Are you committed to each other?

Sometimes people stay unmarried because they don't feel like planning an expensive party, don't believe in marriage or just haven't gotten around to getting married. That doesn't make them any less committed to each other than if they had tied the knot.

If you and your partner have already agreed that you are in it for the long haul, then buying a home together doesn't have too many pitfalls. In fact, co-owning a home can even lower both of your taxes.

"Each of the unwed partners would receive an individual credit on taxation of the profits," says Gary Dunn, a real estate lawyer in Garden City, N.Y., "however I would caution that any tax ramifications should be discussed with an accountant."

2. Did you find your dream house, but not your dream partner?

Sometimes timing plays a role in the question of buying vs. renting. The truth is, you really like your partner, you just aren't ready to bring the government or God into it. But that perfect fixer-upper in the most up-and-coming neighborhood in your city is not going to fixer-up itself! So what do you do?

"The best protection an unwed couple can have in the event of a breakup is to purchase the property as Tenants in Common," says Dunn. "This way if they want to sell or if they breakup
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each party owns 100 percent of a 50 percent interest in the property." In other words, if you are certain you can't buy the property by yourself (and have looked into having a close family member cosign a loan for you) ,look at this purchase as a business investment.

3. What if you've got the bank and he's got the drill?

You might find yourself in a relationship that seems destined to co-own a home together. You have the capital to buy the place, and he has the skills to lay the best hardwood floors in the county! How can you both stay protected? With a contract, of course.

Whatever you do, put everything in writing. This isn't going to be a case for Judge Judy for $5,000 in unpaid construction fees and a broken heart. Because you and your partner have agreed to forgo the marriage contract, make sure you take the agreement over your home and who owns what percentage of it very seriously.

4. What happens if the worst happens?

So, what if your happy cohabitation falls apart? Even through clenched teeth and angry glares, if you and your former-partner made your purchase as Tenants in Common, a decision can be made for you.

"If [two people] can't agree to sell the property they can always petition the court to Partition the property," says Dunn.

Break ups can happen to anyone. You will survive it if it happens to you. And so will the fate of your co-owned house. And if Angie and Brad, Matthew and Camilla, and Goldie and Kurt can co-own (not to mention co-parent) why can't you?

Rina Welsch and her ex finally sold their home and moved on. She admits that breakups are tough no matter what. But the experience of having to become co-landlords with her ex isn't an one she wants to relive. Although she admits that sometimes falling in love makes it hard to remember old pain.

"I wouldn't do it again," she insists, "unless, you know, I did..."

Joselin Linder is co-author of The Good Girl's Guide to Living in Sin and Game-Based Marketing.

These AOL Real Estateguides can help, whether you're in the market to buy, rent or sell:
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