It’s June – a prime time for weddings! Countless hours go into planning that picture-perfect summer ceremony you’ve always dreamed about, but preparation for the ensuing marriage matters even more. Before you plan to say, “I do,” conversations about finances and expectations about living together in an apartment, condo or home can save you priceless amounts of time - and arguments - plus lots of money in the long run.
To Rent or To Buy Together?
Money touches every part of our lives and is a major contributor to decisions about where you will call home. As a result, financial conversations are beneficial, however challenging they may be before marriage. How can you determine whether it’s wiser to rent an apartment or buy a condo, townhome or house if you don’t know one another’s true financial situations? While it’s not advised to merge bank accounts before marriage, merging them after any legal name change is a significant step toward getting on the same page about money.
When it’s time to decide your next living situation together, play the long game. There is no shame in renting an apartment rather than owning a home. In fact, a Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau housing data notes that more U.S. households are headed by renters than at any point since 1965. This gives you more flexibility as you figure out life together. Plus, the longer you wait to buy a house, the more time you have to save for a down payment. You’ll also have a better opportunity to figure out budgeting together and tackle any built-up debt such as student loans without the stress of home ownership.
Scott Kedersha, who works full time leading married and pre-marital couples in Dallas, Texas, tackles relationship topics like this daily during his sessions. He has counseled hundreds of couples through a class on finances, communication, in-laws, expectations and other relational areas. After seeing many couples face common challenges, he advises: “Do not assume that you will continue to make a certain amount of income and receive the same raises or bonuses every year because you never know what may happen.”
In other words, be careful about continually raising your standard of living as a couple just because one (or both) of you receives a raise. Kedersha also reminds newlyweds: “Once you purchase a home, you become your own landlord, and you are responsible for paying for the broken A/C unit, other repairs, taxes and insurance.” If you’re not ready to take that on as a couple, an apartment provides a less risky option.
Chances are that either one or both of you may already live in an apartment before starting your new chapter of living together. As a result, you will need to determine whether you will live in your place, your new spouse’s place or find a new place. You’ll want to determine if either of your current residences meet all of the expectations of the other person. This would include factors such as commute times to work, livable space and pet accommodations.
If neither of your places makes the cut and you think renting a new apartment is your best option, you have an exciting opportunity as a couple to start with a clean slate. However, there are some key things to do before making the move.
- Inventory current belongings: Before cramming boxes upon boxes in a new apartment, take time to decide what each of you will keep, throw away or donate before combining households.
- Create boundaries: If you are used to your friends and family coming by whenever they please, it’s time to set some boundaries with them to respect your significant other.
- Buy some things together: While there is no need to sell all of your things and buy everything together, search for some items to make your new residence showcase a style that you both agree on.
Becoming One Household
A marriage takes two people from different families and upbringings and merges them into a new unit, working together from the ground up. Each person brings a different background, experience and expectation about the way things should go. Some friction is unavoidable, but there are ways to build healthy communication practices into your relationship that will benefit you for years down the road.
“We tend to shy away from challenging and difficult conversations,” says Kedersha. “However, those tough conversations provide a way to grow closer together. You will have differences and feel differently about certain things, so you’ve got to see resolving conflict as not something to run away from but something to run to. You’ll discover how it allows you to build your relationship and actually deal with your differences.”
Some questions to ask one another:
- How much household work around the apartment will each person do?
- What role will television play in our home?
- How will we spend money toward our apartment?
- What are expectations regarding cleanliness?
- Will we go to bed angry at one another?
Once you’ve had financial and expectations conversations with your special someone and discussed where you want to live as a couple, reach out to one of our many leasing experts to find a studio, one-, two- or three-bedroom apartment that best fits your needs - as a couple.
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