Buying a house is one of the most exciting milestones in a couple’s life, but it can also be one of the most stressful. Disclosing credit scores and paying for hidden electrical issues? Not exactly the stuff of romance novels. However, there are a few questions you can ask each other to make the process run more smoothly. Here are six essential things every couple should discuss before taking the plunge.
1. What are our non-negotiables?
First things first, get to work establishing what you simply can’t live without: At least three bedrooms? At least two baths? A quiet road or great school district? Close to work or restaurants? Decide what you won’t compromise on, as well as anything that will be a major red flag. This is the fun part, folks—you’re making your literal dream home wish list!
2. How long are we planning to stay?
Is this your “Nope, never leaving” dream home? Or just a stepping stone to a bigger place? This vision will likely change over time, but laying out your timeline and expectations can help you decide which type of mortgage to apply for. For example, a 30-year fixed might make sense if you plan to stay forever, whereas a seven-year adjustable at a lower rate could be better if you plan to move again soon. Chase makes it easy to find the best rate for any scenario with its online mortgage calculator.
3. Do we want to have kids (or more kids)?
That sleek little 1.5-bedroom condo looks like a dream right now, but what about when you want a baby? And then another baby? All the fees and costs associated with the home purchase might not be worth it if you see yourselves needing more space in the near future. Have an honest, open conversation about how you see your family growing and the kind of space you’ll need to accommodate such growth.
4. How much renovation are we open to?
Understanding each other’s vision for your new home can help alleviate future stress as well as determine what your financial plan should be. While you can imagine the fixer-upper with the gorgeous bay windows (and sagging roof) as your dream home, are you actually willing to foot the bill for that kind of work? And more important, is your partner on the same page? Decide how much renovation you’re comfortable with, and make sure your S.O. is OK with donning a hard hat too.
5. Should we both be on the loan application?
Your debt, salary and credit scores will affect whether you’re granted a loan (and dictate your mortgage rate), so think through what you both bring to the table and decide if it makes sense for both of you to be on the loan. Hint: Depending on the location of the property and the loan type, you may want only one person on the loan. Do your research (a Chase Home Lending Advisor can help) to weigh the pros and cons, and pick a course of action to best position yourselves for approval.
6. How much do we need in our emergency fund?
A rainy-day fund is a necessary cushion for most folks embarking on a home purchase. And while you might be comfortable putting every last dollar into your down payment, your hyper-planner spouse might have a very different figure in mind. Settle on what makes sense for your family, but a good rule is to have enough in the bank to live on for at least six months.