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Forget the Wedding. Unmarried Couples Leap into Homeownership

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By Zoe Eisenberg

Tips for Working with Unmarried Clients

Talk finances first. Unmarried couples are less likely to have shared bank accounts, and are less likely to be well-versed in one another’s finances and spending habits. It’s important that they are comfortable communicating about money, and that they understand the financial process of applying for a mortgage, and how it may be different for them as an unmarried couple.

“Buying without being married absolutely changed the process,” says Shellman. “The process of getting approved for a loan was more challenging because I had little credit at the time. It was very important to me to be on the loan, so I would feel as much an owner of the house as my fiancé. However, because I had little credit, the process of being approved was more difficult. It was recommended on several occasions for Dennis to be on the loan without me, but it was really important to us that we do it together.”

Address priorities. For the unmarried couple, a location near work or a big backyard for entertaining friends may be more important than that extra bedroom for a maybe-baby. If they haven’t done so already, encourage them to hash out their needs versus their wants before beginning the house hunt, and suggest that they look toward the future when deciding what they need in a house. (Maybe that extra bedroom for baby is a good idea after all…)

“These couples aren’t necessarily living together, so unlike a married couple, their housing wants and needs may differ,” says Tran. “We need to determine upfront a clear coming together of minds on what to look for in their home purchase.”

Be patient. “Your buyers might have a common view of what they want in their first home, but it might take some time of getting educated on what is what,” says Tran. “Where they start looking won’t necessarily be where they end up, but where they end up will be exactly what they were looking for!”

*The Coldwell Banker survey dealt exclusively with currently married couples who own homes. It did not include data on overall homeownership rates among millennials.

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