Not many situations can test the strength of your relationship as much as purchasing a home together. To minimize stress, including arguments, you will need to be an efficient team when it comes to the entire home-buying experience. Here are some suggestions to ensure a successful real estate purchase.
Know Your Priorities: Before you even contact a real estate agent, each of you should take a piece of paper and draw your vision of the ideal living space—inside and out. When you’re finished, exchange drawings and talk about each picture:
• Is it a house or a condo?
• Does it have a fenced-in yard for your dog? A pool? A garage?
• What about the neighborhood? Are schools nearby for the child in your future?
• What are your “must-haves”?
If you agree on the priorities, that’s great! If you don’t agree on everything, then see where you can compromise and begin to negotiate. Be respectful! Listen to your partner’s views and validate them. And, if you are nowhere close to being on the same page, then this might not be the time to purchase that home, but rather, a time to work on communication skills.
Be Honest and Realistic: Be truthful with yourself and your partner/spouse about your finances, your concerns, and your needs. During the home-buying process, you will be required to share lots of personal information, especially financial. For example, credit scores, credit history (e.g., bankruptcies, late payments, loan defaults), assets, and liabilities are all fair game. This might bring up issues concerning past relationships that you’ve safely been able to avoid—until now. Be clear that both of you really want to purchase the home and that you are financially capable of doing so. Also, be honest about the state of your relationship. Given the potential amount of stress during this process, relationships need to be solid, not on shaky ground. If you think that buying a new house will help fix your conflict-ridden relationship, think again. It is actually a recipe for disaster!
Talk Openly About Money: This topic continues to be one of the main factors ending relationships. It’s often difficult to know the difference between “my money” and “our money.” Do you share bank accounts, credit cards, and/or auto loans? Discuss your price range and how you will share the mortgage payments. Does the arrangement feel fair to both of you? It’s extremely important to have all of these details resolved prior to buying that new home. Some couples find it helpful to work on their communication skills well before they embark on their real estate journey.
Find a Real Estate Agent: This seems easy enough, right? However, as a lesbian couple, it’s imperative that you choose someone with whom you can be open and develop a rapport. You’re going to be spending lots of time with your agent, and that person will get to know you and your situation quite well. The best way to find an agent is through word-of-mouth referrals. Talk to your friends. Do they know someone who is accessible, empathic, and knowledgeable—especially regarding LGBT-friendly neighborhoods? An excellent agent will show you the ropes; help connect you with a competent attorney, to explain the legal issues; and refer you to a mortgage broker, to help you with pre-approval. Being pre-approved for a loan ensures that when you find the house you love, you will be able to put in a contract right away, without running the risk of losing your dream home.
Finally, remember that this might be the most significant purchase of your life. Be sure that you’re prepared, but don’t forget to have fun!
Dr. Robyn Zeiger is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor with a private practice in Silver Spring, MD. Her clientele includes both individuals and couples. Visit drrobynzeiger.com for more information. Stacey Williams-Zeiger is a Real Estate Agent with RE/MAX Excellence Realty in Silver Spring, MD, and is licensed in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. Visit zeigersales.com for more information.