We’re engaged, should we buy a house now?

February 20, 2013 · 25 comments

Screen shot 2013-02-20 at Feb 20, 2013, 8.50.46 PM

John Doe writes in…

Ninja! I read your blog everyday, it’s awesome! I recommend it to everyone I talk to… My fiancé and I have been together for 6 years and recently became engaged. We have lived together the last 3 years. We are really interested in buying a house. We are getting married in September. Should we wait until we are married to buy a house? Why?

We are both 24 years old. No credit card debt, 2 car payments that will be paid off within 4 months, and I have student loans I am punching. We live in a small Texas town so housing prices are a little different then what you have in Seattle.

Let me know what you think.

Thanks.

Don’t do it!!!!!

How’s that for telling you what I think? Haha! I guess I should preface this post with the reminder that I love me some Jesus. As a result, I do my best to follow his teachings. Back in October 2009, I wrote a post titled “Leave me alone, I don’t want to live with my girlfriend.

Marriage to me is a pretty big deal. I didn’t want to play the part until I was actually married. That means, even though Girl Ninja and I dated for 4.5 years, we never had sex, slept in the same bed together, went on trips together, etc previous to getting hitched. This also means, I didn’t think it was appropriate for us to start combining our finances until we were legally a family. Her money was her money, and my money was mine, until legally we became one family unit.

Okay, so those are my personal convictions and since I was asked for my opinion I thought I would share them. That said, I don’t live under a rock, and I realize people don’t necessarily value my values. Regardless of my personal moral convictions, I would recommend you hold off buying a home. Here’s why…

  1. The possibility exists that the wedding day never comes. It’s probably a small chance, like not-even-1%, but it’s still a possibility. Until you’ve said “I do.” nothing is official. You’ve waited all this time, another seven months isn’t going to kill you. No one wants to own a home with an ex-fiance.
  2. I don’t foresee house prices or interest rates changing dramatically by fall. Sure prices could go up a bit, or interest rates my raise half a percent or so, but I don’t think there is going to be a huge change. I’m far more concerned about the layout, condition, location of our future house than I am about a 3.5% vs 4% interest rate.
  3. You live in Texas, and as you mentioned, it’s a different market than Seattle. I remember being on business in Houston seeing some AWESOME homes for sale for like $120,000. It boggled my mind. My understanding is the market it also a little more stable than Seattle (not as many ups and downs). If a house bumps up from $120,000 to $126,000 (a 5% spike) in the next year, that will have a negligible effect on your monthly payment.
  4. You still have other debt. Granted it doesn’t sound like it’s an overwhelming amount. But if you wait to buy a house AFTER you’ve paid off your cars (and/or student loans), you should qualify for a larger mortgage. Maybe this would afford you the opportunity to buy a better house in a better neighborhood? I plan on skipping over the “starter home” neighborhoods and buying something we could be happy with for the long-term. Real estate transactions are expensive, so the less of them you have, the more equity you get to keep.
  5. Why do you want to buy a house now so badly? Is there something I’m missing that makes buying today a better decision than buying tomorrow? Try and keep emotions out of the house hunting experience. Wait on a great property. You should be comfortable buying a house two years from now if that’s how long it takes to find a place that meets your standards. I’ve been saving our down payment fund for five years now, it’s been a very slow, methodical, and intentional process.

As I always say when I throw out my two cents, I’m just one person, with one opinion. You have to do what you think is best for you.

Let’s see what some other PDITFers have to say. Would you buy a house with your significant other prior to tying the knot? Why or why not?

{ 25 comments }

1 T'Pol

Relationships are complicated. I would sock away as much money as possible to make a larger down payment in 2-3 years, because I am a debt hater. I paid for my current apartment within a year. (yes, I am crazy by American standards). For my rental property, I have taken out a 36 month loan and I have only 15 months to go on that. I am itching to close that loan but, I cannot afford to be cash short so, I grin and bear it. A house is the only thing for which I would be willing to take a loan out. I cannot imagine having a car debt or a credit card debt. I highly recommend reading “Your Money or Your Life”. That book made complete sense to me.

2 Phoebe

I would recommend waiting to buy a house, but primarily due to your age. At 24 I think flexibility is one of your biggest assets. When I was that age I moved across the country multiple times to pursue job opportunities, and while I was young and had little experience, I had an advantage over older, more settled peers that weren’t willing to make the change.

Now at my ripe old age of 28 :) I’m itching to buy a house, but it still isn’t time. Job landscapes are changing and we still don’t feel ready to commit to a single location, limiting other career opportunities. I would also recommend waiting until the dust settles a bit from getting married. There’s no need to change everything at once and I found the first year of marriage wonderful but also full of growing pains. Like Ninja, I didn’t live with my husband beforehand so perhaps you won’t have such a learning curve since you’ve been living together.

Good luck!

3 dreemsie

I say wait to buy a house too, no need to complicate things anymore than you need to. Planning a wedding is long, hard, and takes a lot of time out. But dont forget its fun! No need to put to much on your plate right now.

Congrats on the engagement!

4 Ryo Vie

Short answer: NO!!!

Longer answer: I didn’t even move in with my wife until we were married and we didn’t buy a house until 3 years into our marriage. My preface, I follow a lot of the Ninja values as well and did not believe in living together before marriage, so there was no way we were buying a house. Even after marraige, we were hesitant.

For now, focus on the wedding and enjoy the blessed day!

5 Meek

First of all congrats on getting engaged. I wish you two all the best. I say hold off on buying a house. Here are my reasons:
1) You guys are young. If the opportunity arises for a new job in a different state for either of you, you don’t want to be held back because you own a home. You can’t unload a house very quickly and renting it out comes with a whole series of it’s own headaches.
2) You guys aren’t married yet. You might have lived together for 3 years but you never know what could happen. I’m not marriage expert or relationship guru but I bet that the first year of marriage comes with all kinds of crazy emotions. Give yourselves a chance to settle into being married first. Once you guys have settled into the marriage you can take the next step of buying a house which comes with it’s own set of emotions.
3) What’s the rush? Buying a home is huge commitment as I’m sure you know. I couldn’t imagine putting myself on some sort of deadline to to buy a house. If you are going to make a large purchase like that you should really search around! People watch house hunters and think that they are going to look a 3 houses and pick one. Even that show doesn’t actually operate that way. Those folks look at numerous houses behind the scenes.

Well there’s my 2 cents! lol

6 Mo D.

I agree with all above; wait until you’re married before you buy your first home… in fact, wait at least a couple of years to get a nice down payment saved, build up that Emergency Fund, etc…

You’ll be hemorraging time and money when planning the wedding; you’re better off waiting before purchasing your first home.

Congrats on your engagement!! :-)

7 Holly

You should wait. In addition to the reasons Ninja points out, there are additional legal protections to real property purchased jointly by a married couple that to not extend to unmarried couples. If you buy real property with your spouse you own it as “Tenants by the Entirety”, which mean you each have an undivided 100% interest in the property. This offers considerable protection from your creditors, I’m a bankruptcy attorney, so I know.
Check it out: http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/tenancy_by_the_entirety

8 Petunia 100

The OP resides in Texas, which is a community property state. As such, Texas does not recognize “tenants by the entirety”.

9 Stephanie

So I am going to offer I slightly different perspective. I also live in Texas and in 2011 my then boyfriend and I bought a house together. I think it was a little rushed and ultimately I probably wouldn’t do it over again. There is just so much money involved and I am not talking about down payment/ closing costs/taxes. It was more the little things that add up by going from 700 sq ft to 2000+ sq ft and going from beatifully landscaped grounds to a yard that won’t mow itself. And you get to pay an extra $300 a month for that privilege lol.

Now I will say that I am not a personal finance horror story. I am now engaged to the then boyfriend (and getting married in May-can’t wait til I’m done with wedding planning). We are not house poor and comfortably make the mortgage payments, but we are also paying for a house in which we regularly use maybe 30% of the space. We don’t plan to have kids for a couple more years, so to me it feels kind of like a waste of money. When buying a house you have to remember that there is a HUGE opportunity cost associated with it.

10 Allie

We did buy a house before we were married, BUT … it was all in my now-husband’s name, and he was the only one of us making payments on it at the time (I didn’t want to live together before we were married, so he got a roommate for a year to help cover the bills). We live in a college town in Texas, and when we bought we planned to be here for a few more years as my husband was going to be working on his master’s and Ph.D, so time frame wasn’t an issue. We found the right “starter” house, the price was right, and we knew we weren’t going to be moving around for a while, so it made sense to buy.
So that’s not really advice, but a different point of view from what others said. :)

11 Cathleen

Ninja, I believe like you do, and I’m behind your perspective 100%. This is the same advice I give my kids and I know you’ll be blessed for the stand you take. Happy house hunting!

12 Chris

I’d say go for it. If you feel like you’re financially sound and ready to buy then go ahead. You already live with your fiancé so that won’t be a big change. If you’re worried about the legalities, get married at the JoP now, and have your actual wedding with family and whatnot later. I really don’t think that marriage should either encourage nor discourage you from making your first purchase. If you’re ready, you’re ready.

13 Michelle

I’m a little different than everyone else here. I’m not religious (sorry, I hope I don’t make anyone mad) and we have been together for almost 7 years and are engaged. To me, marriage wouldn’t change anything so that’s why we aren’t in a rush. If we truly wanted to get married, we would just go to the courthouse, but instead we are planning a big wedding for next year only because I love planning weddings and am excited to pick everything out. We also would have planned this for earlier but we always had something big and life changing going on: my dad passed away, my mother stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from me, his parents moved across the country, I worked full-time through 2 Bachelor degrees and one Masters, etc.

I know many people would say “oh you’re too young,” but we have been through a lot together and have managed for everything to work out great. I don’t regret a thing.

We bought our current house young (at the young age of 20), have combined finances, have been living together since 18, and are currently looking for a second house.

I will say that obviously this doesn’t work for everyone. But I am in a group of 6 close friends (we are all girls) and all 6 of us have houses with our boyfriends/fiances and have all been with them since high school (at least 5 years each).

14 mollyjade

I agree, mostly. We dated eight years before getting married. We actually got married by the state before moving in together, but mostly because I needed to be on my then-fiance’s insurance so I could quit my job and move to the same city as him. As far as I’m concerned, I was happy to join financials with my husband the moment we decided to get married. Having that piece of paper from the state and later another one from our religion is important, but for us the commitment was made the day we agreed to combine forces.

I would postpone buying the house for just a bit though because buying a house and planning a wedding (even a small, simple one) are both really time consuming events with lots of big decisions. Might as well do them one at a time so you can concentrate.

15 Michelle

Thanks! We’re doing them kind of close, we’re fine with that though. Since we’ve already bought one house, we kind of know what goes on. I’m fine with a hectic life haha :)

16 Johnny @ Our Freaking Budget

We went the road you went. Except our dating/engagement was a short eight months, not 4.5 years. We’re now five years into marriage and still unsure about buying a home. Obviously our reasons are different than your questioner. But the answer is the same: wait.

17 Kathryn

Congrats on your engagement! My husband and I bought a house in Alexandria, VA when we were engaged and I had $70,000 in grad school loan debt. We knew we would stay in the Washington DC area for the foreseeable future, we knew how much we were willing to spend, and we wanted to buy a house to suit the needs for our life at that point. We were also in the middle of planning our wedding, and I do not regret the decision to buy a house at all. We knew we wanted to buy and we put a lot of thought into what we wanted and how much we were willing to spend. For me, the argument that you should pay off your car/student loans because then maybe the bank will give you a bigger mortgage isn’t practical– you should know how much house you can buy and don’t let the offer of a bigger mortgage (and more debt) convince you otherwise. I know several people who purchased homes before they got married, and it hasn’t gone south for anyone yet. Good luck!

18 Emily

My two cents: I would not join finances until after the wedding. If one of you can afford the house you want on one salary, by all means, go for it. That way you are not dependent on the other person to make the mortgage payment. Consider charging “rent” and applying that extra money to pay down the mortgage, but make sure the two of you are in a place where if the relationship goes south you can come to an amicable agreement over the division of property. If rent is charged and used towards the “investment” that could provide grounds for a stake in that “investment” in civil court. I would also not pay off the vehicles before buying. If you pay off those debts, it frees up the credit to maximize the house you can buy. But if you get saddled with the mortgage then need to buy a car, you may not qualify for a car loan because your debt is wrapped up in the home.

19 Melinda Gonzalez

Hi, I currently live in Houston, and I actually think buying the house now would be better. Granted, it would be best if you could get the house all in one person’s name if your able to do that. Houston is getting severely overcrowded (due to employment opportunities), and housing prices seem to be going up (but still really cheap compared to other states). Unless of course you move out to the suburb areas like Humble, Katy, or New Caney as it stays fairly cheap out there. If anything happens, I am sure you could sell the house pretty quickly. I have a few friends who just bought houses, and it was hard to find good ones in the area they wanted. One ended up in New Caney and has to drive an hour each way to work, because that was the best they could find. If you want a good house in a DECENT area (LOL, no offense but some really good areas of Houston have gone down) you have to be ready to buy when they become available.

Are you trying to move inside the loop or outside? Either way, good luck with everything!

20 Kris

I’m with Michelle. I’m not religious, so I don’t have those moral convictions. I also bought my first house with my then boyfriend of 5 years when I was 24. We got engaged a year later and have been married for almost 6 years.
The only two reasons I would agree with ninja are on the “paying off loans so you’ll be able to afford a better place” portion and the “you’re young and may move/travel/awesome flexibility” aspect of things. Although we did move out of state, rented our house out, and were thankful for a place to move back into when we came back. If you do buy a place, make sure to look into the resale/rentable aspect of things.

21 KC @ genxfinance

I would agree with Ryo and Emily here. Wait until you’re officially married before you talk about joining finances or buying a house. ;)

22 til debt do us part

Congrats on your engagement! My husband and I bought a house in Alexandria, VA when we were engaged and I had $70,000 in grad school loan debt. We knew we would stay in the Washington DC area for the foreseeable future, we knew how much we were willing to spend, and we wanted to buy a house to suit the needs for our life at that point. We were also in the middle of planning our wedding, and I do not regret the decision to buy a house at all. We knew we wanted to buy and we put a lot of thought into what we wanted and how much we were willing to spend.

23 Jane Savers @ The Money Puzzle

I would say wait to buy until the car payments are done and only if you have a 20% down payment
AND – can continue to make aggresive student debt payments
– have an emergency fund
– establish a car savings account to save to pay cash for your next car

24 Sara

Whoa. I’m somewhat surprised by the majority of responses here, and I feel like it’s somewhat atypical, even for the pf-interested sort. Do you have time, amidst all of the wedding prep, for the home buying process? If so, then why not go for it? If you have convictions about not living together before marriage, then one of you can wait until after the wedding to move in.

25 MelissaZ

My thoughts on Ninja’s points:
1. The possibility exists that the wedding day never comes.
Disagree: We bought a house together when we were engaged (purchased approx 4 months before the wedding). If you’re committed to getting married, owning a house together just encourages you to keep that commitment (if you’ve been together that long, probably not going to change your mind anyway).
2. House prices or interest rates change.
Disagree: I think this would be a reason to buy now. Interest rate changes of half a percent can really add up over a few years.
3. You live in Texas, and as you mentioned, it’s a different market
Neutral: No comment as I’m not familiar with that market.
4. You still have other debt.
Agree: This is a very good point. We’re currently going through the process of buying house number two & having student debt & even the credit cards can make a big difference in what you qualify for. Even though we pay our credit cards off every month, the bank is still required to look at the “monthly payment” that would be associated with the balance (same with student loans, even though they are currently in deferment).
5. Why do you want to buy a house now so badly?
I would suggest getting prequalified & to start looking at houses, but be very picky. You have time before getting married, and paying off debt/saving for a higher down payment will work in your favor, so you don’t need to be in a rush. At the same time though, I wouldn’t not make a purchase offer for the sole reason that you’re not yet married.

And one can share the same values as Ninja & still purchase a house before being married :)

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