Buying a home is a huge decision for anyone, but buying your first home together is a significant step in your life journey as a couple. Not only are you facing the financial commitment of purchasing your first home, you are also choosing the space that will contain your new, and perhaps growing, family.
The process of buying a home together begins long before you begin shopping for a mortgage loan. There are a number of questions and issues to be addressed before financing is even a consideration. While star-struck lovers might go into buying their first home with romantic thoughts of painting walls and decorating together, the reality often proves more prosaic. Will you keep his furniture or hers, or combine the two households? Will the decorating style reflect her modern tastes or his preference for country-style whimsy? Who gets to choose the curtains and the carpets, and will that hideous chair that one hates and the other adores find a place in the shared space?
Before shopping for a new home, it is important for couples to take an inventory of not only their possessions, but also their personal preferences when it comes to living space. Communication is essential at this juncture. Taking the time to sit down and make lists of the features each imagines in their ideal “dream home” will spark conversation. Maybe she has always wanted a spiral staircase. Perhaps he adores cathedral style ceilings! Initially, the lists might include far-reaching ideas like a balcony with a slide to the living room. Obviously budget and practicality will dictate which features you actually end up shopping for in your search for a home, but the list gives you a starting place for discussion and helps narrow down what sort of home would best suit both your needs and desires. Recognizing and respecting each others’ preferences is an important step toward learning one of the most critical relationship skills: compromise.
Next, couples need to take an honest and lengthy look at their financial situation. Loans for buying a home are based on income, credit history and the debt to income ratio. Now is the time for full disclosure. It is important to assess income versus debt and savings, to get a realistic idea of just how big a home your budget will support. Overreaching, and buying a larger home than is truly affordable is a common mistake for first-time homebuyers. With the shaky economy and less-than-stellar job market, it’s best not to count on an increase in future income. Instead, look at homes within your means. Balance possible future needs (like space for a nursery) against what you need, and can afford, now.
Buying the first home is a big step for any couple. The process can be complicated and difficult, but it is a great opportunity for you and your beloved to practice valuable communications and teamwork skills that will build your relationship. After all, you are not just buying a house; you are choosing to create a home together that will play a big part in your family life for years to come.