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Do you need to be married to buy a house together?

Mark Bristow avatar
Mark Bristow
- 6 min read
Do you need to be married to buy a house together?

The short answer to this question is… no. In Australia, as long as you and your spouse fulfil the mortgage lender’s eligibility criteria, you can buy a property and put both of your names on the title whether you’re married or in a de-facto relationship.

Is there a difference between buying a house as a married couple and buying as a de-facto couple?

Legally, no. If you’ve been living with your partner for three months or more, most lenders will consider you to be in a de-facto relationship when you make your mortgage application.  

Whether you’re married or not, combining your income and expenses may be able to help enhance your borrowing power. This is simply because two combined incomes can make it easier to service higher mortgage repayments than a single income.

How does buying a property as a couple work?

There are two ways to buy a property as a couple, whether you’re married or de-facto: as joint tenants, or as tenants in common.

If you are joint tenants, ownership of the property is split evenly between you. If one partner passes away, ownership of the property will automatically go to the other partner under “right of survivorship”. If joint tenants divorce or split up, they can choose to sever the joint tenancy by agreement, or the joint tenancy can be severed unilaterally by one of the owners.

If you are tenants in common, each of you will own a share in the property. This may be a 50/50 ownership split, or 60/40, 70/30 and so on, often corresponding with the contribution each party plans to make towards the mortgage repayments. This share doesn’t automatically transfer to the other partner if the first partner passes away – it can instead be willed to a third party if the owner chooses. The share can also be sold to a third party, or bought out by the other partner to become the sole owner of the property.

You’ll have to decide for yourself whether buying as joint tenants or tenants in common is the best choice for you and your spouse. A conveyancer or solicitor can provide more legal advice on the best options for your situation.

What happens if you change your name when you get married?

If you choose to change your name after marriage (no, it doesn't change automatically), this shouldn’t affect your plans for home ownership. The name you used to buy the house will remain on the title until it needs to be updated, such as when you refinance your mortgage or sell the property. This may involve contacting your lender and the titles office in your state with evidence of your name change. There may also be some fees involved.

If you already have a mortgage, will your partner be automatically added onto the property title when you get married?

No. Regardless of whether you get married or enter a de-facto relationship, the name(s) on your mortgage and property title won’t change unless you contact the lender and the titles office. This may require you to refinance your home loan, with the mortgage lender now assessing the loan’s serviceability based on both of your incomes and expenses, and the payment of fees.

If a previously-owned property stays in just the one person’s name after marriage, it may be more legally complicated for their partner to claim a share of the property in the event of divorce. Also, ownership of the property also may not automatically transfer to the spouse upon the mortgage-holder’s death, unless specified in their will. Contact a legal professional for more specific advice.   

Should you and your partner buy a property together before living together?

It's possible you may not be able to borrow quite as much money for your home loan if you and your partner are living separately. This is simply because if you aren’t sharing your living expenses, it’s harder for a lender to calculate how much you and your partner may be able to afford in home loan repayments.

There is also the risk to consider that while your relationship may be stable while you’re living apart, living together could complicate things. If you aren’t able to resolve any differences or sources of friction and your relationship breaks down, you’ll then have the added complication of what to do with your mortgage.  

Will getting a mortgage put stress on your relationship and/or marriage?

It’s not a secret that many couples have their most bitter disagreements over money matters. As buying a property together is a significant financial commitment, it can understandably take a toll on your relationship if you aren’t prepared.

For example, if a mortgage is your main expense, then hopefully managing your household budget should run fairly smoothly. But if you’re also paying off credit cards, a car loan, and the personal loan you used to help pay for your wedding, you may find yourself experiencing more mortgage stress than you’re comfortable with.

What to consider before buy a house with your partner:

  • Personal and/or financial goals: Are you buying a forever home together? A fixer-upper? An investment property? Off the plan? Making sure you’re on the same page early on can help to avoid future misunderstandings.
  • Credit history: Do you or your partner have financial skeletons in the closet, such as bankruptcy or bad credit? This could potentially affect how much you could borrow with your joint home loan application.
  • Cost splits: Will each of you be paying equal shares of your mortgage? Will you be keeping your own bank accounts? What percentage are you planning to pay?
  • Guarantors: If you’re getting help to buy your first property, whose Bank of Mum and Dad will you be calling on? And if you were to split up in the future, how would this affect your loan, and relationship with your parents/parents-in-law?
  • Worst-case scenarios: What’s going to happen to your property if you and your partner split up? Or if one (or both) of you passes away?

Remember that professional help is available if you need more advice on the best options for you and your partner. A mortgage broker may be able to help you work out the best home loan choice to suit your needs, and a solicitor and/or conveyancer can provide legal advice on your options regarding your property title.

Disclaimer

This article is over two years old, last updated on March 9, 2022. While RateCity makes best efforts to update every important article regularly, the information in this piece may not be as relevant as it once was. Alternatively, please consider checking recent home loans articles.

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This article was reviewed by Personal Finance Editor Alex Ritchie before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.

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