The Perils of Unwed Partners Buying Property

Real Estate Agent with Coldwell Banker, 170 N Main Street, New City NY 10956

Every couple in love has problems visualizing a time that they won't "be together" and discussing "what if" scenarios is not something they're keen on doing. But, if they're thinking of buying a home together, Ed Silva does a great job pointing out some of the possible pitfalls.  Unwed partners might do well to remember "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" and to look before they leap.

Original content by Ed Silva 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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Lora "Leah" Stern - Your Rockland County, NY REALTOR of Choice - (914) 772-4528

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Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
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Comments (10)

Roger D. Mucci
Shaken...with a Twist 216.633.2092 - Euclid, OH
Lets shake things up at your home today!

I'm going through something similar with a young couple who rented and are not married.  He moved out and she's still there, but he thinks his name is coming off the lease..............I told him no way, we needed both incomes for them to qualify.

Dec 05, 2013 08:29 AM
Lora "Leah" Stern 914-772-4528
Coldwell Banker, 170 N Main Street, New City NY 10956 - New City, NY
Real Estate Salesperson

Roger - Married or not, when partners or roomates split, there's almost always problems that go with it.  In the case of rentals, I try to have one person assume responsibility for the lease, if possible.   It doesn't always work, but if it does, it cuts down on a host of problems.

Dec 05, 2013 08:35 AM
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

Yeah the clarity just isn't there. Plus there's the " I can leave whenever I want." thing. No really sense of "us" at times. There are exceptions of course.

Dec 05, 2013 09:19 AM
Lora "Leah" Stern 914-772-4528
Coldwell Banker, 170 N Main Street, New City NY 10956 - New City, NY
Real Estate Salesperson

Laura - all part of the disposable society that we live in without too much thought to the consequences.

Dec 05, 2013 11:15 AM
Fred Griffin Tallahassee Real Estate
Fred Griffin Real Estate - Tallahassee, FL
Licensed Florida Real Estate Broker

Lawyer Up before you purchase Real Estate with anybody... ask "What If" you decide to sell your interest

Dec 05, 2013 11:54 AM
Lora "Leah" Stern 914-772-4528
Coldwell Banker, 170 N Main Street, New City NY 10956 - New City, NY
Real Estate Salesperson

Fred - Great advice for anyone that's partnering with someone in the purchase of a home,

Dec 05, 2013 11:58 AM
Joan Cox
House to Home, Inc. - Denver Real Estate - 720-231-6373 - Denver, CO
Denver Real Estate - Selling One Home at a Time

Leah, this was a great re-blog as this happens so much in our industry!    Just had this happen, and both parties called to see if the other could be removed from title!

Dec 07, 2013 12:37 AM
Yolanda Cordova-Gilbert
Richmond, TX


 Great re-blog! When I 1st started in the business I had a transaction like this and we had to buy under the girlfriend and the boyfriends family was gifting the downpayment , we could not put boyfriend on the contract as his credit was awful. This was 9 years ago, happy to say they just sold the home and are now married two beautiful kids and have bought their second home, but I did worry about the transaction. THey do not all work out like this!

Dec 07, 2013 01:59 AM
Nick T Pappas
Assoc. Broker/Broker ABR, CRS, SFR, e-Pro, @Homes Realty Group, @HomesBirmingham & Providence Property Mgmnt, LLC Hun... - Huntsville, AL
Madison & Huntsville Alabama Real Estate Resource

Leah, great post of Ed's to re-blog.  I've had a couple of these over the last few years and so far they've worked out just fine, but I've also heard of others that took quite a different path.

Dec 07, 2013 08:12 AM
Lora "Leah" Stern 914-772-4528
Coldwell Banker, 170 N Main Street, New City NY 10956 - New City, NY
Real Estate Salesperson

Joan - I've had the same happen to me.  The worst is when both are on title but only one is responsible for the mortgage. It's a recipe for disaster.

Yolanda - It's great when things like this work out but so often they don't and then there's nothing but trouble ahead.

Nick - Lucky for you that athey allworked out fine.

Dec 07, 2013 09:16 AM

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