Should You Get Married to Get a Mortgage?

Two of the most important and permanent choices you can make in life are buying a home and getting married. In many cases, people make both decisions at about the same time. They decide to marry their partner, then they agree to buy a house in which to live.

But sometimes, those choices can be reversed. Many people find it easier to get a mortgage if they’re legally married. As a result, some people in long-term relationships who want to buy a house will get wed just to make the purchase easier.

If you’re considering tying the knot to make mortgage applications easier, make sure you understand what you’re getting into. Keep reading to learn how marriages can help (and hurt) the home buying process and how to protect yourself and your partner during the process.

Benefits of Buying a Home While Married

When you get married, you and your spouse become a legal unit. That can make it significantly easier to get a mortgage if you meet certain conditions. For example, you could see benefits such as:

  • Combined incomes: When you’re married, you and your partner’s income are automatically considered jointly on your mortgage applications unless you specifically choose otherwise. In two-income households, this can significantly increase the size of the mortgage for which you may be approved.
  • Potential for better credit: If your partner’s credit is better than yours, getting married can make it easier for you to buy a house together. Their higher credit score will be considered on the application and potentially reduce the attention paid to your own lower score. As a result, you may be approved for lower interest rates.
  • Shared ownership: If you buy a house after getting married, the home is considered community property in California. Even if you choose to buy the house in one person’s name, it will still be considered equally owned by both of you. That means you have more flexibility in structuring your purchase than when buying a house as two legally single people.
  • Less paperwork: While you can get a mortgage with your partner without getting married, it takes a lot of paperwork. If you’re married, though, you can trim a significant number of additional forms since the state legally considered you a unit. That means you can spend less time reading legal documents and more time house-hunting.

Drawbacks to Buying a Home While Married

Of course, there are drawbacks to buying a home after being wed, too. Depending on your individual situation, the same considerations that might have been perks can actually make it harder to buy a home after you’re legally wed.

  • Combined debt: Mortgage brokers consider your combined debts just like their combined incomes. If your partner has a significant amount of debt, then marrying them makes it partially yours in the eyes of the banks. If their debt is high enough, it can increase your joint debt-to-income ratio to the point where you can’t sget approved for a mortgage at all.
  • Potential for worse credit: Similarly, if your partner’s credit score is worse than yours, they’ll drag down your application instead of lifting it up. A spouse with a bad credit score is likely to increase the interest rates you’re offered, causing you to spend more on interest every month.
  • Shared ownership: Finally, shared ownership isn’t always a good thing. If you buy a house after you’re married, then you’re both entitled to a share of its worth should you get divorced. Homes can make the divorce process significantly more complicated, especially in California, where housing values are quite high.

Because of these drawbacks, getting married just to buy a home isn’t always a good idea. Still, if you both have solid incomes and good credit, marrying your partner can make it easier to get approved.

How Prenuptial Agreements Make Buying Homes Easier

There’s a solution that gives you all the benefits of marriage for your mortgage application without the drawbacks: a prenuptial agreement.

A prenup is a contract between two people who plan to get married. It lays out expectations and rules that aren’t immediately assumed for other marriages. For example, a prenup can be used to do things like keep your finances separate from your partner’s or retain sole ownership of certain assets.

When it comes to buying a house, you can use a prenuptial agreement to keep all the benefits of your married status on your mortgage application without any of the drawbacks.

Suppose you want to buy a home, but you have significant debt. You can use a prenup to declare that any homes you buy after your marriage will be jointly owned. When you actually buy a house, your partner can apply for the mortgage independently without your debt impacting the approval. Meanwhile, you can trust that the prenup ensures that it’s legally considered joint property.  

On the other hand, if you’re getting married to buy a home, your prenup can help you keep your assets separate in other ways. Your prenup can specify that the money each partner earns remains their sole property. The bank will still consider your joint income when you apply for a mortgage. However, your individual finances remain separate for all intents and purposes outside of the mortgage. Couples who prefer to keep their independence may find this separation valuable in the long term.

Prenuptial Agreements Make Marriages and Mortgages Simpler

When it comes down to it, you don’t need to get legally married just to get a mortgage. However, if you’re already confident you want to get married eventually, tying the knot sooner rather than later can make it easier to buy a home. Putting a solid prenuptial agreement in place can make both your marriage and your mortgage easier to manage.

You can start the process of writing your prenuptial agreement today by scheduling a consultation with qualified prenup lawyers in California. The expert attorneys at Kaspar & Lugay, LLP, will help you write a contract that makes both of you happy.

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Kaspar & Lugay, LLP is a family law firm with offices in Corte Madera, CA; Napa, CA; Walnut Creek, CA; and San Diego, CA. We also represent clients in San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, Pismo Beach, Contra Costa County, and Los Angeles.