Should unmarried couple buy house together?

Posted: May 19, 2012

Q. We are an unmarried couple who are in the process of buying our first home. My credit is not so hot, so my friend will be assuming the mortgage while I put up the 20 percent down payment and half of the closing costs. We intend to share equally all mortgage, taxes, insurance, repairs, etc. What is the best way for us to take title to the house? What will happen if we marry at some future time?

A. You missed what is perhaps the most important question of all: What happens if you choose to break up? For this, you should see a lawyer whose specialty is family law. You can then consider all of the possibilities for the dissolution of the joint ownership. However, joint ownership is very tricky unless you are married or in a business partnership. As a result, I cannot recommend it except in those situations. You should consider the possibility of her owning the property with your contributions to be considered as rent. Here, too, a lawyer is essential. I hope you take the time to consider all these possibilities together with others if you choose a form of co-ownership. Will you want rights of survivorship? What happens if one of you loses a job or becomes ill or disabled? There are no easy answers to your question.

Write Harry Gross c/o the Daily News, 400 N. Broad St., Philadelphia, PA 19130. Harry urges all his readers to give blood — contact the American Red Cross at 1-800-Red Cross.

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