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Steps to buying a house as newlyweds

Getting married is an exciting time filled with moments you'll always remember. It’s also the start of many important decisions you'll make as a couple. For many, the next big step is homeownership. Deciding when and where to buy is important, but there are many things to consider during your homebuying journey.

Your first home purchase can be a lot of fun, and it’s the first major financial decision you’ll make together. While it's common for married couples to share financial responsibilities, there are some situations where buying a home under one name makes more sense.

How homebuying as a couple differs from buying a house alone

Buying a home as a couple means you can use both of your incomes when applying for a mortgage. However, it also means that both credit scores, as well as the amount of debt each person has, is also included. As a single borrower, you only need to depend on your income, your personal financial history and your credit score.

While there are many factors that may be included in a mortgage application, lenders place a high value on the following:

  • Credit score: If one person’s credit score is significantly lower than the others, you may have more difficulty qualifying for a mortgage. When you and your spouse both apply, your lender will use the lower of the two credit scores to determine your eligibility.
  • Income: Using the combined income of both spouses means you can usually expect to be eligible for a larger mortgage.
  • Debt to income ratio: Your debt to income ratio considers the amount of your current debt divided by how much pre-tax money you earn each month . If one spouse is carrying a lot of debt, it could lower your mortgage eligibility.

Can a married person get a mortgage without their spouse?

Yes, but there are benefits and drawbacks to this decision. It's important to consider that getting a mortgage without your spouse may mean that only your name will be on the note to the property. Talk to your lender about options for including your spouse’s name on the title or deed.

While it's common for married couples to combine financial responsibilities, it might make more sense to only have one spouse's name on your mortgage. For instance, if you have excellent credit but your spouse has poor credit, you may be eligible for a mortgage alone, but not with your spouse as a co-borrower. It's important for married couples to weigh the benefits against the risks when considering a joint or one-owner mortgage.

In some states, your spouse may need to sign the mortgage even if they’re not on the title to the property.

Joint mortgage vs one owner

When buying a home as a married couple , understanding is required on both sides. After all, it's common for spouses to have radically different financial histories and spending habits. Depending on your personal situation, there are benefits to both joint and individual mortgages.

Benefits of a joint mortgage for newlyweds

Not surprisingly, many newlywed couples don't know everything about their spouse's financial history. One spouse could be in a great position to qualify for a mortgage while the other isn't. Luckily, they can purchase a home they'll live in together.

  • A higher credit score. When both individuals are on the mortgage, the lowest credit score is applied. This could be a problem for couples who have one spouse with poor credit. A one-owner mortgage means only the credit score of the individual on the loan will be used.
  • No waiting. If one spouse is in a good position to qualify for a mortgage and you're ready to buy a home, you don't have to wait for your spouse to rebuild their credit.
  • You live in a community property state. In community property states, both spouse's names must be included on the mortgage, but only one must be included on the note. This can be a benefit for couples who want to borrow money under one name but have equal ownership and responsibility for the property. It's important to note that obtaining an individual mortgage may be more difficult in community property states.

4 steps to buying a home for newlyweds

Buying your first home together is exciting. However, it's important to carefully choose a mortgage that meets your needs both now as well as in the future. These steps can help you get the mortgage that works best for you.

1. Have an honest conversation with your spouse

Newlyweds often know a lot about each other, but finances may not have been a topic thoroughly discussed . Before you visit a lender or fall in love with a home, it's important to understand your financial standing as a couple. Learn these facts before attempting to buy a home.

  • Credit score. If one spouse has a significantly lower credit score, it may make it harder to qualify for a joint mortgage. It's not uncommon for potential borrowers to not know their credit score until it becomes a factor in the loan approval process. Both spouses should check their credit score so they know where they stand.
  • Monthly income. Both incomes will be an important factor in determining how much house you can afford.
  • Financial history and current debts. Student loan debt is common among younger couples. The debt to income ratio is an important factor in determining how much of a mortgage you can afford.
  • Future goals. Both spouses should be on the same page when considering the responsibility of a mortgage. If you plan to move within ten years, are planning a major career change, or plan to live on one income after having children, you need to plan for the impact these decisions will have on your mortgage.

2. Speak with a Home Lending Advisor

Now that you have a clear view of your financial health, a Home Lending Advisor can help you explore your options for joint and one-owner mortgages. They may also be able to share mortgage options you weren't previously aware of before purchasing a home.

3. Get prequalified

If you're ready to shop for a home, getting prequalified will help you narrow down your choices. Prequalification shows sellers you're serious about buying a home. It also helps you determine how much you can afford, so you won't waste time looking at homes outside your budget.

4. Consider your future plans

If you're planning to buy a home that you’ll live in for the foreseeable future, a fixed-rate mortgage is usually your best option. However, some couples have plans to upsize or move to a different area within a few years. If you're planning to move in the near future, you may find that an adjustable-rate mortgage is a better option.

Taking the time to understand your finances and what goes in to purchasing your first home can make a big difference. Speak with a Home Lending Advisor and learn more about your options for buying a home as newlyweds.

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