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Avoid co-buying

Chris and his ex-fiancé have discussed selling the property, which he figures would net them $4,000 to split evenly. He’s happy to walk away, but his ex-fiancé hopes if they wait two years to sell they’ll be able to get a better price for it. She’s currently occupying the unit alone and they split the mortgage payments.

Ramsey isn’t a fan of the idea of waiting for the home to appreciate in value. “Dude, this is not going to go well if it drags out five years,” he says. “This is not an investment that we maximize.”

Instead of waiting, Ramsey recommends Chris try to convince her to sell now or get a lawyer involved to push the transaction through. He believes this situation validates his mantra of never buying property with someone you’re not married to. In a post on his website, Ramsey says he’s seen many “horror stories” of couples breaking up after they put their names on a joint deed for a house over the course of his 35-year career. He firmly advises against it.

However, others argue that co-buying works for many other couples — and the economic realities of the current housing market sometimes make this strategy unavoidable for some.

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Housing crisis

The supply of housing units being built simply cannot keep up with market demand. And now, the country is facing a deficit of units that some estimates would put in the millions, according to real estate firm Hines. This has contributed to pushing homeownership out of reach for countless Americans.

According to research from Redfin, only 16% of the home listings posted in 2023 could be considered affordable for the typical household. That means the average American on a single income probably doesn’t have access to reasonable housing alone. But dual income households might have a better shot.

Buying a home with a friend or relative is becoming increasingly common. Co-Buy, a platform that facilitates such transactions, estimates that roughly 26.7% of all home purchases in 2023 were completed by co-buyers.

Meanwhile, living together before marriage has become the norm recently, as 76% of marriages between 2015 and 2019 were preceded by a period of cohabitation, according to researchers at Bowling Green State University.

In fact, in some states couples are considered “common-law,” which allows them to access the same benefits as married couples if they meet certain conditions, such as living together for extended periods. Chris’ homestate of Washington isn’t one of these, so his only options are convincing his ex-fiancé to sell or hiring a lawyer to resolve the issue in court.

While Ramsey’s position on the matter might seem extreme to some — especially given the market realities for young people looking to become homeowners — he’s right that buying a home together is a massive commitment. Just like marriage, before pulling the trigger, you should have some serious conversations about money.

Couples thinking about buying together might consider drafting up a cohabitation agreement, an official contract that establishes your rights and responsibilities living together while unmarried. In this document, you’ll establish your mutually agreed-upon obligations to each other if your relationship ever ends or one of you dies. You’ll need to work with an attorney for this, but for some unhappy homeowners like Chris, that’s a far more affordable and still less litigious option.


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About the Author

Vishesh Raisinghani

Vishesh Raisinghani

Freelance Writer

Vishesh Raisinghani is a freelance contributor at MoneyWise. He has been writing about financial markets and economics since 2014 - having covered family offices, private equity, real estate, cryptocurrencies, and tech stocks over that period. His work has appeared in Seeking Alpha, Motley Fool Canada, Motley Fool UK, Mergers & Acquisitions, National Post, Financial Post, and Yahoo Canada.

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