When Two Homeowners Fall in Love: What Happens to the Houses?
More and more Americans are buying homes solo — long before a partner, spouse, or marriage is anywhere on the table.
But while owning a home independently is certainly an achievement, it also poses a conundrum once that knot is tied.
Where will you live? What will you do about both mortgage payments? The questions abound.
Fortunately, you’re not without options. While you may have some big decisions to make, there’s no right or wrong answer. In fact, some options might actually give you a good financial foundation to start building your lives on.
Are you entering a two-home marriage? Not sure what to do? Here are your options
1. Keep both.
This is the obvious one. If you can swing both mortgage payments — as well as the upkeep, utilities, and repairs for each house — then feel free to keep both houses. After all, real estate is one of the best long-term investments you can make. Use it to build wealth, and consider the homes your nest eggs for later in life.
It’s an especially great decision if the homes are in different cities — particularly ones you’d want to travel to down the line. Having a vacation home can offer a nice place for some R&R, and it can also save on hotel and lodging costs when you travel.
If you go this route, just make sure to talk through the logistics. You’ll want to have a system for caring for the property you’re not living in (as well as paying all its bills), and you should also discuss whether you’ll share ownership or retain the homes separately. If you choose the former, you’ll need to get your partner added to your deed and vice versa.
2. Sell one of the houses.
You can also sell one of the houses. If one of them is in the city you don’t plan to live in, then it’s pretty easy to decide which one to offload. If they’re in the same town, though, you’ll want to think about a few things — namely the space and amenities you need and the potential profits each home could bring in. You also might consider talking to a local real estate agent for guidance; they might be able to recommend the best course of action for your situation.
If you do opt to sell one of the homes, you’ll need to discuss early on what you’ll do with the profits. Since the home was purchased by just one of you, will the owner keep the profits to themselves? Or will they go into your joint bank account and be shared by both of you? This is a very personal decision, so you’ll want to talk it through long before you list the house (it could be a point of contention later on).
3. Rent one of the properties out.
Another good option? That’d be to rent one of the properties out. You could do this long-term, of course, and rent the home out to a full-time tenant, or you could use it as a short-term rental, and list the property on Airbnb or VRBO.
The latter can be a great way to create passive income, while still retaining the house for your use (if you want to travel there or use it as a vacation home). Just keep in mind that in both cases, you’ll need to have a plan for maintaining the property, as well as cleaning and prepping it between renters. If you’re located in another city or part of the country, you might need to hire a property manager to handle these tasks for you.
4. Sell both and buy a home together.
This can be a good choice if you want a fresh start with your new partner. You can sell both properties, combine the proceeds, and then buy a home together — one that fits your dreams and goals as a couple.
Just make sure you keep market conditions in mind. If the market in your area is particularly hot, it may be hard to find a home — or at least one at an affordable price.
5. Consult a pro.
Sometimes, there’s no clear-cut answer, and you might want to bring in a professional for guidance. This could include a real estate agent, who can advise you on each home’s marketability, potential profits, and long-term value, or a financial advisor, who can help you take a more wealth-based approach. What will help you have a more comfortable retirement? Which decision will net you more cash in the long run? A financial advisor can answer these questions and more.
The bottom line
It can definitely be stressful bringing two homes into a new marriage — especially if you’re tight on funds. Fortunately, there are lots of options at your disposal. Whether you sell a home, rent one of the properties out, or decide to buy a new home, there are many options that can help you come out on top (and maybe make a profit, too).
If you decide to sell both homes and buy one together, don’t forget to get prequalified for your loan first, or consider the Approved to Move™ program to make things as smooth as possible. You can also get in touch with an Embrace Home Loans office in your area for more personalized advice.