According to a Pew Research Center analysis of the Current Population Survey, half of unmarried couples who live together are under 35 years old, but a whopping 23 percent are age 50 or older.
People choose to be an unmarried couple in our society for many reasons. Some of these reasons include:
- Philosophical reasons opposed to marriage as an institution
- Political reasons opposed to the state involved in personal business
- In a same sex union that their state does not recognize
- In a relationship that is not yet ready for marriage.
- Not wanting to lose a social security payment for a deceased spouse
As an unmarried couple looking for a home together, there are issues to consider before taking that kind of plunge with each other. Buying a home together is a large step to carefully consider on many levels before going forward.
Let’s take a look at the kinds of questions you need to ask yourself and each other to make sure this is the right step for you as an individual and for you both as a couple.
Plan for Future Disputes
Married or unmarried, relationships come to an end all too often and there are hurt feelings and sometimes animosity from both sides. When this happens, a dream home can become a nightmare battle.
There are laws that legislate how marital property is divided in a separation and divorce, but as an unmarried couple, it is up to you to plan for your future disputes now, before you are embroiled in a nasty court battle with someone you used to love.
One of the ways to handle your own planning is to draw up a cohabitation agreement that states how you will buy and own property separately and as a couple. Your home will be your largest purchase, but items for the house such as washing machines, remodeling expenses, and furniture can also be costly.
Who Will Obtain a Mortgage or Deed of Trust?
Once you’ve determined the type of relationship you have together, it is time to look at how you will pay your mortgage each month.
If one of you has a high credit score and high income and the other has bad credit history and less income, it may make sense to let the one with the best credit score purchase the house while the other individual pays rent. A good credit score allows you to qualify for a lower interest rate and a better payment schedule.
You can apply together and divide up how each will pay their share of the mortgage each month. But keep in mind that if one person loses their job or becomes ill, the other may need to pick up the slack or risk losing the home in foreclosure with resultant credit score drops. These kinds of situations are common and can create resentment in the spouse who is left holding the bag.
You can also choose to take out a mortgage in your name only and add your partner to the deed and just give them part ownership of the house without any payment. However, if the relationship ends, the one who was given ownership in the property still has that ownership. You can’t just take that away without an expensive battle in court that you may not win.
Who Will Legally Own the House?
In Texas, an unmarried couple can choose to hold the title in three different ways.
- One person can own the whole property.
- Both own as joint tenants with rights of survivorship, which means equal ownership and if one dies, the other becomes the property’s full owner.
- Both own as tenants in common: usually for when partners who want to own unequal shares of the property or don’t want their ownership share to automatically transfer to their partner if they die. (2)
If you are considering buying a home as an unmarried couple, think about these issues before making this monumental decision. If things fall apart, you could stand to lose a large amount financially.
In Texas, Common Law Marriage is Marriage
Texas law states that a common law marriage may be proved by evidence that the couple:
- agreed to be married
- after the agreement they lived together in this state as husband and wife
- represented to others that they were married
A valid common law marriage in Texas is where a couple legally is married without getting a marriage license or having a marriage ceremony. Once established, a common law marriage has the same legal effect as a ceremonial marriage.(1)
Look at whether your cohabitation will turn into a common law marriage. Decide whether you both want this or if there are ways to prevent this type of marriage designation.
If you are in a legal situation regarding a deed of trust that is in dispute, concerned about the issues of buying a home as an unmarried couple, or struggling with the fallout of ending a relationship that involves real estate issues, contact a knowledgeable real estate attorney in TX. An experienced attorney will give you the guidance on TX laws that you need to be able to move forward in the most productive way. Let your attorney set you on the path to resolution of your legal issues and toward finding your peace of mind again.
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