22 Sep 2017
Posted in: First Time Buyer
Is there any task quite so relationship-trying as building your first piece of flatpack furniture together? You’ll unpack the pieces with excitement… just before reality sets in and you both remember you’ve never assembled a piece of furniture in your lives. You’ll end up arguing about which of the two slightly wonky screws is needed to slot piece A into section C.
But if you can survive that, it can survive anything. And it’s a good sign you’re ready to buy a home together too (not to mention you’ll be well prepared when it comes to filling it with furniture). There are negotiations and hurdles along the path of every relationship – keep the communication lines open, and know what to expect.
Hopefully you (or your partner) aren’t as complicated as a flatpack manual, so if you’re thinking of buying a home, it’s a good idea to have a good chat first about your priorities and expectations.
So what exactly are the things you should ask yourself, before you make the big move?
Sharing is caring, so make sure to divide storage space either by utility (e.g. who has more stuff) or by fairness (e.g. 50/50). Just make sure you both know what you’re signing up for and one of you isn’t relegated to a couple of shelves while the other person gets the entirety of the only wardrobe.
We accumulate stuff over the years, so a big piece of advice is not to assume the assume the spare room is going to be your personal storage space (which can be a magnet knick-knacks and presents from your in-laws).
Likewise: what are you both going to bring into the house? Are you keeping your antique whatever or his ludicrous sports item? Even if you’ve already been living together, you can’t presume that it’ll be a straight swap where you both get what you want.
If you’re buying a home together, the issue of kids has to come up at some point. You might be firmly in the ‘two kids and a space wagon’ camp, while your partner could be more than happy with one, or none. And that brings in the big question of a garden; do you need a property with a garden, or will a back yard do?
You need to know where you both stand on all of these issues – even if it’s from the pragmatic point of view of how many bedrooms you’ll need and the school catchment area for your new property.
There’s no point in faffing about with this one - sort it out from the offset. Decide “I’ll do [x] chores and they’ll do [y] chores.”
How will you approach dinner time? Will you do a big shop or keep things separate? And just who will be responsible for the clean-up afterwards?
A little messiness isn’t the end of the world, but if their idea of cleaning is idly wiping away their crumbs, then you may need to introduce them to your friend Henry the Hoover.
Swapping out your least favourite chore is a good idea – if you hate ironing and your partner hates doing the washing up – then you might be as well off giving them a veto on that. What wasn’t an issue in a one-bed apartment might become a glaring problem when you move into a house.
And now we get to the tough stuff: money! The trick is to stay honest and open about what you both expect – everyone has been brought up differently and will have different opinions, so it’s about respecting each other’s views and priorities.
If one (or both of you) has a poor credit rating, a prior property in negative equity, or a loan that spiralled out of control or hasn’t been paid off, the mortgage application process will be infinitely more difficult. It’s not impossible, but in the case of a bad loan appearing on your credit rating, you may need to wait five years from payment for it to be removed from your record.
Naturally, this is something you should share upfront!
There is every possibility that one of you will earn more than the other. That person may or may not be more frugal (or may have other responsibilities). As with your credit rating, you’ll need to discuss your savings. Will it be 50/50 with you both contributing the same amount?
You can choose to set up a joint bank account to lodge your savings or you might decide to keep things separate, with the intention of pooling your resources closer to mortgage application time. Lay it all out so there can be no surprises in the future.
You also may need to consider gifts, if one (or both) set of parents are in the position to help with the mortgage.
We’re not just talking décor (though that conversation is absolutely worth having too). Are you keen on a garden or a garage or is a parking space around the front a must?
Is the aspect super important to them, and do they need office space or a spare room for a mini-gym? It’s a good idea to talk about the commute, too. Think of all your options; do either of you have the option of working from home?
If you’re both on similar wages and in secure jobs, this decision is certainly a lot easier, but it can be complicated by things down the line. Think about potentials like starting a family (and one partner’s intention to be a stay-at-home parent), or the not-so-nices like long-term unemployment or illness.
A joint mortgage is one whereby both your incomes are assessed so, broadly speaking, you would want to be on similar salaries.
There are, of course, other options available where the main income earner gets the mortgage in their own name.
You can always apply for a single mortgage first and then move to a joint mortgage in a few years’ time if the second person gets a pay rise or better job. It could even be a chance for you to take out a slightly larger mortgage to carry out some renovations or an extension if you need one. (Here, we’ve covered the topic of joint mortgages in more detail).
There are some hidden costs when it comes to buying a home, so it’s important to keep an eye on your savings and make sure you’re not under estimating the costs of moving in to your new abode. The question of money rears its head in every relationship, especially when you first move in together. You need to be clear from the offset what your expectations are so you can both comfortably afford to live. Will you cover half the mortgage and bills? Will they pay for internet and will you pay for TV channels? Will you pay for all shared expenses from a joint account?
You’ll also need to draw the line on savings – especially if there’s an imbalance in your earnings. If one of you is working hard to save and the other is spending willy-nilly, it could cause a problem.
You’ll factor in a lot of items you need to save for in your first few years in a new house – from decorating, to landscaping, furniture and new appliances. So, you might have saved like demons to get the deposit in order, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to cut loose just yet.
If you find that you and your partner have ticked most (or all) of these boxes, then congrats. You are well on your way towards being ready to buy!
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