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Do Those Who Buy Together Stay Together? Treating Homeownership as a Relationship Decision

My fiance is a mortgage broker, and recently we decided to combine our two passions (mine = relationship research, his = finances) and share some thoughts that might help couples who are thinking of buying a home together. For more information, blogs and videos on finances, visit the Loewen Group website.

Buying your first home? Chances are this is not only a financial decision, but a relationship decision as well. In Canada, 76% of first time homebuyers made the purchase with a romantic partner.1 Given that financial issues are one of the most common problems in romantic relationships2 – beat out only by balancing work and family obligations and deciding how frequently to have sex – there are several questions couples should ask themselves before deciding to share a mortgage.

Are you both on the same page?

What does owning a home together mean to you and your partner? Perhaps one of you sees it as a relationship commitment whereas the other is thinking about it a financial venture. Partners who let relationship commitment (as opposed to convenience or financial incentives) determine their living situation are often happier in the long run.3,4 Before sharing a mortgage, communicate your expectations to your partner and know your partner’s position.

Do you talk about finances?

If the answer is no, this is something that should change immediately. By purchasing a home together, you are financially connected and should have open, honest conversations about money. Couples who live together are more likely to break-up when there are financial disagreements in the relationship.5 Be proactive and address these issues before you buy a home together. Talk about how you will divide expenses, how much you will save each month, how much you will spend on certain activities, such as eating out and going on vacation, and how much debt you have (and are comfortable having).

Do you have the same financial goals?

Just because you talk about money doesn’t mean you agree on how your money should be spent. Partners should communication about their expectations for how money is going to be managed in the relationship. Take this quiz with your partner to help identify areas that you agree on and those where you differ in your financial goals (note: my score revealed that I am an avoider/spender - my fiance was not surprised). 

If you are buying a home with a romantic partner, treating homeownership as an important relationship decision (and not only a financial one) can help couples avoid some of the financial pitfalls and reap the benefits of owning your own home.

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1Statistics Canada (2008). Young people’s access to home ownership. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/11-008-x/2007005/10314-eng.htm

2Risch, G. S., Riley, L. A., & Lawler, M. G. (2003). Problematic issues in the early years of marriage: Content for premarital education. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 31(3), 253-269.

3Manning, W. D., & Smock, P. J. (2005). Measuring and modeling cohabitation: New perspectives from qualitative data. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67, 989-1002.

4Lindsay, J.M. (2000). An ambiguous commitment: Moving into a cohabiting relationship. Journal of Family Studies, 6, 120-134.

5Dew, J. (2011). Financial issues and relationship outcomes among cohabiting individuals. Family Relations: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Applied Family Studies60(2), 178-190. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3729.2010.00641.x 

Dr. Amy Muise - Sex Musings | Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV

Dr. Muise’s research focuses on sexuality, including the role of sexual motives in maintaining sexual desire in long-term relationships, and sexual well-being. She also studies the relational effects of new media, such as how technology influences dating scripts and the experience of jealousy.

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