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Buy as BF/GF?

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Posted On: 07/06/2011

QUESTION:

My girlfriend and I are thinking of buying a home while the rates are low. We've been together two years, and I get feedback from friends that it's wise to invest in a home, just not as boyfriend and girlfriend. My friends worry about what happens if our relationship ends, how the home will be divided, who has what rights, etc? Is buying together a smart move or not?

ANSWER:

First, is now the time to buy real estate? Prices are certainly lower in most markets than they have been in the past, figures from the National Association of Realtors show that in the first quarter values fell in 118 of 153 metro areas. Whether we have hit bottom is unknown, there are no guarantees. Because real estate is a localized commodity, your best bet is to speak with area real estate brokers. Ask about such trends as population and job growth and what's happening with local rentals and vacancies. Consider foreclosures; they may be available at a substantial discount. However, because of paperwork and title issues get advice from a local attorney before buying.

Second, in terms of mortgage financing, it's hard to see that rates and terms will get much better. As this is written loan rates are near historic lows.

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Third, marriage provides many financial and legal advantages. If you and your girlfriend want to get married, that's great - but it should be great even if a home purchase is not in the picture. If you both elect to buy before getting married then you need to speak with a local attorney or legal clinic. You should have a written agreement between you that addresses such issues as the interest held by each party, your financial obligation, how profits will be split, what happens if one of you wants to sell and the other wants to keep the property, etc.

Peter G. Miller is the author of The Common-Sense Mortgage and a veteran real estate columnist. Have a question? Please write to peter@ctwfeatures.com.

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