Buying a House with Your Spouse: The Joys and the Perils

by TTMK on August 11, 2014 · 6 comments

buying a house with spouseThe following post is from staff writer Melissa Batai

Most of us, since we were young, have envisioned owning a home. It’s a rite of passage to adulthood.

You likely romanticized what style house you wanted in what locale before you even started your home search. If you were buying the home by yourself, you’d simply buy the one you wanted. However, when you’re looking with a spouse, the buying process can become a lot more complicated.

When Everything Goes Well

Ideally, you and your spouse would agree on what you’re looking for in a house and would agree on the house you’d like to buy. Luckily, that happened for my husband and me. We just became first time homebuyers and knew that we wanted an open floor plan with a nice, big backyard for the kids to play in. We looked at 15 homes, and there was only one that we both fell in love with. That was the home we bought.

I recognize that our home buying experience went more smoothly than many couples. Buying a house is a huge financial commitment, so you want to buy a house that you love. Difficulties arise when you and your spouse can’t agree on the same house.

When Couples Can’t Agree

My friends, Brad and Becky, had a completely different experience. Becky wanted to live in a subdivision so the kids would have plenty of other kids to play with. Brad, on the other hand, wanted to live in the country so he’d have plenty of room to ride his ATV.

Becky wanted a large kitchen and luxurious master suite. Brad wanted a large garage and preferably a pole barn in back where he could do his work and spend time working on cars.

Because they couldn’t come to an agreement, their home search took nearly 9 months!

How to Meet in the Middle

Surprisingly, meeting in the middle does not have to be that difficult. Jim Cox, a realtor who’s been in the business for 18 years, states, “If buyers engage an agent thoroughly with the area where they’re looking, the agent can often help locate a compromise property that satisfies both partners’ key preferences.” He adds, “‘I’m a good listener. And if both people really know what they want, I can usually find it for them very quickly, even if they don’t agree'” (Los Angeles Times).

The trick is to know exactly what you want. What features are non-negotiable? Maybe you want a big kitchen, but you don’t have to have a large master bath. Maybe you want four bedrooms, but you don’t have to have the pool that’s also on your “want” list.

Ideally, a couple will sit down and write down all the features they want in a house. Then they should number the features in order of most to least important.

Just as important, each person should determine how much they’re willing to spend on a house. Knowing the cap a couple is willing to spend is important both when finding houses to look at and when placing and offer and responding to a counter offer.

My Questions for You

If you’re a homeowner, how smooth was the home buying process for you? Did you and your spouse agree?

If not, how did you finally resolve your differences?

What advice would you give to a couple who can’t agree when looking for a home?

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Kevin @ Growing Family Benefits August 11, 2014 at 7:55 am

A home buying decision may be the first big decision a married couple needs to make together. My wife and I difficulty agreeing. I wanted a short commute to work. She wanted a big house further from where I worked. We ended up going with the big house.

A compromise would have been a much better decision. My advice is to make sure the needs of both people are clearly communicated and understood, and don’t allow one person to sacrifice in order to maintain peace in the relationship.

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Emily @ evolvingPF August 13, 2014 at 12:17 pm

I laughed out loud when I read that 9 months was considered to be a long time to buy! My in-laws were looking for a house for over 20 years (obviously not very hard, though).

My husband and I haven’t bought a house yet or even started looking. I hope that our relationship and communication will be solid enough by the time we do that we’ll be able to agree or compromise! For me it’s location location location – school district and ability to live car-free whenever possible. :)

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Kasia August 14, 2014 at 5:59 am

We’re renting at the moment but even trying to find a suitable property for rent we needed to compromise. For him it was important to have a garage and a backyard, while for me it was a decent sized kitchen, had an en-suite and was walking distance to a park. We managed to find one that fit the bill and was within our budget. Renting a house has given us the opportunity to discover what we want and don’t want in a property and this will help us when we’re purchasing our own home which will hopefully happen in the next couple of years.

I think it’s important to sit down and discuss both of your needs and wants. A marriage is a partnership and both parties need to be satisfied with the outcome. Needs come first, wants come second and both need to fit into the budget. Open communication is key.

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Suburban Finance August 14, 2014 at 7:47 am

I think it’s important to sit down and decide which features are necessary and which ones are actually on the ‘want’ list, because even if you have a significant other, sometimes you also have to compromise with yourself. If I go with all my wants I’ll probably have to build a new house haha.

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Untemplater August 17, 2014 at 4:53 pm

I love watching the banter between couples on HGTV when they are deciding between which homes to buy/rent. It’s funny how some couples have totally different wants from each other, but one person is always more compromising than the other. Homes are such a personal investment that it’s hard to find a “perfect” one. Something/someone’s gotta give.

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Poor Student August 20, 2014 at 9:52 am

It’s important to compromise in a relationship — isn’t that one of ‘perks’ being in one ? ;) Being a homeowner is a big decision especially if both you are first time homeowners. Think about the future — the features that still will be needed by then should be in the ‘must’ list, but things that are only nice to have at the moment shouldn’t be a priority. Nevertheless it’s great if you can get the ‘most perfect’ house though.

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