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How to buy a home with a friend or —gasp—live-in lover (+ the awkward convos to have long before)

Don't fret. This is common. Unmarried couples were nearly 10% of all homebuyers in 2020. That number is likely to keep increasing. But there are questions to ask each other, awkward or difficult conversations to have, and plans to agree on (and get in writing when applicable) before diving in on a search.

It’s best to be fully transparent with each other during this process. Lay it all out on the table. Listen to understand, not respond. Take breaks when needed. Text me with questions. And also, don’t forget I have a great team of real estate attorneys and lenders who will help with any specific or detailed legal or mortgage questions when it’s time. I’m here to point you in the right direction with any and all property needs.


  • Who is applying for the mortgage? (whose name/credit will be checked when purchasing and named on mortgage documents? all of you together? just one?)

  • What is the payment commitment for house payments? (who is putting $ towards payments each month? how much is each person paying? what are those numbers based on? do you all agree that is fair?)

  • What happens if one party doesn’t fulfill their obligation?

  • Who will pay utility bills? (water, gas, electric, cable/internet, etc)

  • What is the plan for minor repairs? Major repairs?

  • What is the plan if one of you need to move away? (think: new job, long-term family emergency, split up, etc)

  • What would happen to any newly acquired assets if split? (think: fancy light fixtures or furniture)

  • How will you legally share ownership? There are lots of options: Sole ownership, Joint tenancy, and Tenants in common. See the overview of each below. Try to familiarize yourself with all options and plan to chat this through with your designated Real Estate Attorney long before closing day. They are the ones who set up the legal documents that prove ownership (“the title” or deed document) and this is their specialty.

  • How will you decide when it's time to sell? Which one of you will reach out to Katie Himmel, licensed real estate agent from @properties to get it listed? [total wink emoji]


There are so many more 'questions to ask' on my buyer-client questionnaire, which I can send your way when you're ready, but these are the biggies below that are often more of a sticking point over the 'little things' that may come up when hunting.

  • How much are you comfortable spending on a home? (max budget, the amount you want to try to get pre-approved for)

  • What is your target budget? (the amount you actually envision writing an offer for)

  • What is the max you'd pay per month? What is your target monthly payment?

  • How much are you comfortable spending each month on that home?

    • Monthly payments typically include:

      • loan principle

      • interest

      • taxes

      • homeowners insurance

      • HOA fees, if applicable. In the Chicago area, HOA fees are typically only needed for condos, but I have seen a few exceptions. HOA fees get collected from all owners and put towards shared property expenses like maintenance, common insurance, water bills from the city, snow removal, and a bit extra to set aside for future building repairs and maintenance projects. (Side note: ask me about Special Assessments if you aren't familiar)

      • And, in your monthly budget, don't forget to include some money set aside for repairs and routine maintenance items (that garbage disposal is just waaaaaiting to die at the worst moment ever at like 2 a.m. when you have company coming tomorrow - don't fret here either. I know emergency plumbers and handypeople who can help)


Sole ownership. Only one name is recorded on the deed, and that person has all the rights and responsibilities of ownership.

  • Pro: Sole ownership may yield tax savings if your incomes are drastically different. And, if your partner has bad credit, applying for a home loan in your name only may help with approval. Remember, however, that ownership rights are determined by names on the deed, not the mortgage.

  • Con: If the relationship ends and you’re not on the title, you’ll risk walking away with nothing, even if you contributed money to the purchase or mortgage payments.

Joint tenancy. Each person owns 50% of the property. If a tenant dies, their share automatically transfers to the other joint tenant.

  • Pro: Joint tenants enjoy the right of survivorship, so you won’t have to worry about fighting estates or relatives for the house in case of your partner’s death.

  • Con: An unfriendly breakup could spell trouble, especially if one partner can’t or won’t buy the other out.

Tenants in common. Allows unequal ownership, so you could own a 75% stake while your partner owns 25%.

  • Pro: Ownership shares can be tailored to match financial contributions; if you paid more toward the down payment, you can own a larger percentage.

  • Con: If one tenant dies, the other has no automatic rights to that person's share of the property unless named in a will or living trust.

Trusts and other options. There are other options available if none of the more common ways seem to make sense for your situation. Talk to your real estate or estate planning attorney for help.

NOTE: If things change in the future (like legal marriage, split up, buy-out, etc) you can revise your legal ownership paperwork (aka ‘deed’ or 'the title') with something called a ‘quitclaim deed’ - It’s a fairly easy paperwork process that gets filed with the county. Just ask for help getting in the right direction if that time comes.

Reference links & other great resources:

When in doubt, reach out for help or ask a real estate or estate planning attorney for help. Let me know if you need a referral for either of those.

Always here for questions or to point you in the right direction:

Katie Himmel


Real Estate Broker


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