(Really good advice, and free legal documents. What else could you as for?)
So. People tell me there’s a right way to do things. Ladies, you’re supposed to live with your parents until you find a nice man, settle down, get married, and move into his house.
Oh, what? You didn’t get the memo?
Uh, ME EITHER.
And here’s the thing, I could write a very long post on my personal feelings about marriage but I’ll spare you that happy experience and say this: There is nothing wrong with getting and/or being married. Marriage is fine.
As a woman (and let’s face it, a non-traditionalist), there just a few minor details that come along with marriage which set my teeth on edge– namely engagements, weddings, name changing, and being defined by generic social conventions.
But none of that is to say I don’t want a binding and committed relationship, and all the things that come along with it, like, oh say, owning a home together. My aunt tells me you have to either get married or be single because that’s just the way it’s done. But, oh hey! look at me over here having my cake and eating it too.
So the first thing I’m saying here is, kids, do whatever the hell you want… there are no rules. BUT, that also doesn’t mean you should go do something stupid. Like buying a house together.
Just kidding. It’s not stupid, but there are things you need to do to, as we say, cover your ass. People sometimes don’t do these things because it’s unromantic, or an uncomfortable conversation to have. If you are one of these people, you might as well go away now because I only give good, practical, straightforward advice here. I have no patience for wishy-washy shit. Shoo.
If you want to make a good, strong, smart decision for yourself, read on. I’m not an expert, but I am an unmarried woman with not-insignificant personal assets who owns a home with a man who rolls his eyes at me so much he can hardly walk straight anymore. I’ve also spent a lot of time searching down articles, advice, and legal documents, and it was such a goddamn pain in the ass I felt it was necessary to share it here for the next poor soul that googles “unmarried couple buying house.”
Step 1: Is it a good decision?
Here’s the thing. Everything is a risk these days. I walked out of the house yesterday and got peed on by a squirrel. I mean you just never know, right?
But I would say this, if one of you is looking for a commitment and the other won’t give it, so you’re thinking you’ll buy a house together to wear their resistance down? I’m just going to go ahead and say Bad. Idea.
Other signs it might be a bad idea?
- If one you has really bad credit but wants to buy a house and is pressuring the other one of you into it.
- If you’re not sure you want to be together for a really long time
- If one of you has ever borrowed money from the other and not paid it back, misses car or bill payments, or refuses to let the other party see their credit report.
- If you can’t afford the mortgage payment on your own.
But hey, it’s your life.
Step 2: You’re gonna do it. Now what?*
DO NOT EVER SIGN A MORTGAGE IF YOUR NAME IS NOT ON THE DEED OF THE HOUSE.
That’s just plain dumb. You sign a mortgage and you are responsible for the whole thing, even if the other person never pays a cent. So you could end up paying 100k for a house you don’t own, and there isn’t shit you can do about it if your name isn’t on the deed.
Need to get your name on the deed of the house? MysteryMan already had the house in his name so all we needed to do was file a quit-claim deed. A lawyer will charge you a lot of money for this ($200), but you can actually fill out and print one off through legaldocs.com for like $6, or you can have the one we used for free. (Check out the document list below.)
The big deal here is whether or not you list yourself on the deed as Joint Tennants or Tennants in Common. Freeadvice.com says:
Joint Tenancy: property owned by two or more people at the same time in equal shares; typically referred to as the four unities (unity of time, title, interest and possession vesting in each joint tenant). Each joint tenant has an undivided right to possess the whole property and a proportionate right of equal ownership interest. When one joint tenant dies, his/her interest automatically vests in the surviving joint tenant(s) by operation of law. Words in the deed such as “John and Mary, as joint tenants with right of survivorship and not as tenants in common” establishes title in joint tenancy. Not all the states allow this form of property ownership.
Tenants in Common: property owned by two or more persons at the same time. The proportionate interests and right to possess and enjoy the property between the tenants in common do not have to be equal. Upon death, the decedent’ s interest passes to his/her heirs named in the will who then become new tenants in common with the surviving tenants in common. Words in the deed such as “Peter, Paul, John and Mary as tenants in common” establishes tenancy in common.
You can read the full article here.
You fill in “Joint Tenants” or “Tenants in Common”, names, addresses, blah, blah, blah, and then file it with your County Register… it costs like $20. Congratulations you’re ass is half-way covered.
Step 3: You’re not done yet… *
So you’re covered on the mortgage, but what about the rest of it? Who pays the gas bill? Buys groceries? What happens if, god forbid, things don’t work out?
This is my favorite document, the Nonmarital Cohabitation Agreement (aka “Living Together” Agreement). I really think even people who get married should have to do this… it’s like customizing your lives together.
You can put anything you want in these babies, but at minimum you want to figure out who pays for what, what is joint property and what seperately held, and what happens to the lot of it if you decide nonmarital cohabitiation is not for you. I’m also including things like, how many times I’d like to be taken out to dinner per month, and a stipulation about granite countertops. Um. Just kidding MysteryMan.
(We’re still hammering out the details.)
Again, you can go to a lawyer for these, but I put the one I found that can be customized at the end of this post just in case you want to use it for reference.
Step 4: Other documents you should have.*
- Last Will & Testament- “Inheritance laws often penalize unmarried couples, sometimes in ways it is impossible to avoid. Some say that even if you’re young or poor, one of the most valuable purposes of a will is that it allows you to name an executor, the person who will empty your drawers and find your old love letters. If you don’t want that task falling to your mom or your adult children, you need a will”
- General Durable Power of Attorney- “Gives the designated person the authority to manage your property and finances if you are unable to do so.”
- Durable Power of Attorney – Heathcare – Ditto above, but for making medical decisions.
*DISCLAIMER: Let’s just be clear here. I’m not an attorney, and there’s no reason you should take legal advice from me. I found all my legal advice online, and seriously? Can you really trust anything you read on the internet? No. You should probably spend a lot of money on a lawyer… but if you don’t and it doesn’t work out for you Don’t. Blame. Me.
Free Documents you may find useful… I did:
All kinds of advice from unmarried.org– Excellent resource.
An article from the Wall Street Journal real estate archives.
Unwed buying from Bankrate.com
Now go forth fellow non-traditionalists, and prosper.