The Perils of Unwed Partners Buying Property

Real Estate Agent with RE/MAX Professionals, CT 203-206-0754 REB.0759001

The Perils of Unwed Partners Buying Property

So many people have the desire to own property as a way to establish permanency and build a comfortable home with limited outside interference. With a more traditional married couple it is somewhat easy, depending on the state of their finances. For less traditional, non-married couples there may be issues with the purchase because of credit but that’s where the easy part is resolved.

Not all relationships remain harmonious and if there is a separation of the couple, the property held jointly can be a real problem to liquidate. I have recently had two instances where the sale of a home, with a non-traditional couple required extensive legal proceedings before the home was ready to be listed.

The Perils of Unwed Partners Buying Property

Un-wed Younger Couple:  Love blossomed with the couple and they professed their deep devotion to each other and were a couple with children for 10 years, never becoming a legally married couple. One spouse found out about the other’s infidelity and the dissolution of the couple was underway. There was however the matter of the home they lived in as well as the rental property they had purchased during the ‘happy’ period. The wife was the key wage earner and funded the purchases, but the properties were in both names for mortgage. She wanted to sell the homes and move on with her life, but he refused especially as he was collecting the rents from the rental properties and was unemployed. No one was paying the mortgage, however, as neither wanted to cave to the other.

It was necessary for them to get lawyers and go through a ‘divorce’ process to get the sales issue resolved, which also turned into a costly mess. It may not have been much easier had they been married, but the evidence of who had how much and to who was entitlement for majority shares may have been easier to define.

The Perils of Unwed Partners Buying Property

Un-wed Older Couple: People in their twilight years can find comfort in another partner, but don’t want to make a marital commitment for any number of reasons. If one owned a residence, the ownership issue is very well defined. Not always the case when they decide to purchase late in life and are still unwed. The problem will be huge if one dies and heirs of both families may be looking for their equity portion of the home. Unless there is an agreement in writing, a relationship contract, again legal intervention will be required.

This is not to say that unwed partners should not buy real estate, but prior to closing, the equity positions of each partner should be clearly defined and executed in a document just in the event of something happening to one of the partners, or dissolution of the relationship. A moment of caution at the beginning, at a minimum of cost, can save so much money and angst later.

The Perils of Unwed Partners Buying Property


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Re-Blogged 4 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Lora "Leah" Stern 914-772-4528 12/05/2013 05:56 AM
  2. Debbie Reynolds 12/06/2013 09:31 AM
  3. Cheryl Ritchie 12/07/2013 11:27 AM
  4. Winston Heverly 03/02/2014 11:01 AM
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Connie Harvey
Pilkerton Realtors - Brentwood, TN
Realtor - Nashville TN Real Estate

Ed, I don't know why everything has to be so complicated! My 2 brothers bought a condo together to flip. I told them to put it in writing who would do what and pay for what. Did they listen? No. No problems yet,but we'll see.

Dec 05, 2013 10:55 PM #30
Sylvia Jonathan
Coldwell Banker Platinum Properties - Irvine, CA
Broker Associate, SFR

I bring vesting up with any unmarried people who want to buy. Siblings, lovers, friends, children/parents. Many times they have not thought about it, and bringing it on the table prompts them to crystallize the matter.

Dec 05, 2013 11:00 PM #31
Shanna Hall
Real Estate Solutions - Kirkwood, MO
I love selling houses!!!St. Louis, MO 314-703-1311

Last summer I had an unwed couple purchasing a house- 2 weeks before closing the guy found out that his girlfriend was cheating on him...  He called me and wanted to get out of the contract.  I told him to get an attorney since we were past the point of all contingencies...  The attorney told them they had to buy the house.  I spoke to them upfront about buying a house unwed- they assured me that they were solid and getting married in 6 months...

Dec 05, 2013 11:04 PM #32
Hella Mitschke Rothwell
(831) 626-4000 - Honolulu, HI
Hawaii & California Real Estate Broker

Ed: Bad scenerio if two people break up, or get divorced. If both parties don't want to sell, it becomes a nightmare. When you sign up for mortgage, you can't just leave, you still have to pay until it is satisfied even if you have a separate agreement.

Dec 05, 2013 11:20 PM #33
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

Cain & Abel anyone? Partners have to make an effort or expect misery for company

Dec 05, 2013 11:20 PM #34
Ron Buck
The Ron Buck Group - Laguna Niguel, CA
Associate RE Broker at Keller Williams Realty

We have all had these scenarios I am sure. What is sad is that in many cases they are too embarrassed to return my calls and I am not able to help at all.

Dec 05, 2013 11:50 PM #35
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

"What if we don't stay together?" is a question the young and in love don't want to consider. Older people should have more sense after a lifetime of seeing what happens to their friends and family members.

Dec 06, 2013 01:10 AM #36
Mike McCann - Nebraska Farm Land Broker
Mike McCann - Broker, Mach1 Realty Farmland Broker-Auctioneer Serving Rural Nebraska - Kearney, NE
Farm Land For Sale 308-627-3700 or 800-241-3940 lovers opinion...etc.  Dozens of things that can crop up when married, unmarried, friends, siblings, family members, business associates, etc. decide to go different directions.

It is a nasty business sometimes.

Dec 06, 2013 01:32 AM #37
Kunni Biener
First Class Title, Inc. - Rockville, MD

a buy sell agreement is not that hard to have drafted and can prevent some of these issues.  I recommend all unmarried parties buying property together  do this.

Dec 06, 2013 01:45 AM #38
Travis "the SOLD man" Parker; Associate Broker
iXL Real Estate-Wiregrasss\ - Enterprise, AL
email: / cell: 334-494-7846

Amazing what "just a piece of paper" can do in the financial world. I've seen several Military "marriages" for financial gains, but haven't seen what happens when they dissolve the business partnership (aka - marriage).

Dec 06, 2013 02:00 AM #39
Lyn Sims
RE/MAX Suburban - Schaumburg, IL
Schaumburg IL Real Estate

Forgot all the 'details' that could become a problem later. Good post.

Dec 06, 2013 02:26 AM #40
Carolyn Shipp
Source 1 Real Estate - Mineral Wells, TX
Mineral Wells Texas Real Estate

I had a couple start to look, but in the end, the woman decided that she did not want to be in the exact situations talked about.  She said that she had decided she wanted to buy on her own.  Her credit was good and his not so good.  She just told him it would be easier for her to buy and the lender agreed.  He accepted that.  Her main thing was that she didn't want a possible break up to leave her without a place to live, but a mortgage to still pay.

Dec 06, 2013 03:30 AM #41
The Matt & Molly Team
The Matt & Molly Team - Asheville, NC
Moving The Mountains

We deal with this all of the time in Asheville.  If only everyone could remember we are all human....

Dec 06, 2013 03:45 AM #42
Jimmy Faulkner
Florida. Homes Realty & Mortgage - Wantagh, NY
The Best Of St. Augustine

Oh you have to be careful in any partnership. Buying the home in your own name is the best course to take. It makes life easier or have a prenuptial.

Dec 06, 2013 07:46 AM #43
Debbie Reynolds
Platinum Properties - Clarksville, TN
Your Dedicated Clarksville TN Real Estate Agent

AR Santa, This is wise advice at least to let folks know that there are stumbing blocks and though they may be happy and comfortable with their decisions and choices their situations may need to be handled a little differently for their protection. 

Dec 06, 2013 09:27 AM #44
Bill Morrow
Keller Williams of Central PA - Mechanicsburg, PA
Bill Morrow, Associate Broker

A few years back I had this exact scenario acting as an agent for my daughter and her boyfriend.  Being the traditional father I was not overly excited about them purchasing together without the good old marriage commitment.  Fortunately for me my now son in law's credit was a little weak, so my suggestion that my daughter purchase the home and her boyfriend sign a lease with her. It all worked out well as they shared expenses and if there would have been a separation of ways there would not have been any messy litigation.  It all worked out well, but I am still happy that I insisted on that particular arrangement.

Dec 06, 2013 12:07 PM #45
M.C. Dwyer
Century 21 Showcase REALTORs - Felton, CA
Santa Cruz Mountains Property Specialist

Thanks Ed for writing on this important topic.    I suspect many happily unmarried couples are unmarried because they don't want to deal with legal issues which seem so "unromantic".   Yet, if they own property together without an agreement, it can get very messy if there is ever an "unromantic" break up or death!

Dec 07, 2013 04:21 AM #46
Gene Riemenschneider
Home Point Real Estate - Brentwood, CA
Turning Houses into Homes

It is more than just a piece of paper.  Sometimes that piece of paper can get people to stop and think and work out issues too.

Dec 07, 2013 05:46 AM #47
Sharon Parisi
United Real Estate Dallas - Dallas, TX
Dallas Homes

Ed, I love your photo!  This is excellent advice for buyers.  Couples need to contact their attorney(s) for the best solution to their unique situation.  Great post!

Dec 07, 2013 03:59 PM #48
Marnie Matarese
Showing you the best of Sarasota!

Florida is an area in which many retirees and older couples who have no desire to get married purchase home in together.  This is the time when an attorney is a critical part of the transaction, clear lines must be established and although unpleasant, the possibility of a separation must be considered.  An out clause of the ownership of the property that is fair to both people is a must.

Dec 10, 2013 08:31 PM #49
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