Four years ago, I bought our house. I know what you’re thinking. But no, this isn’t one of the many times where I type I even though I really mean we. I purchased our house. And it seems like the strangest secret in the world to finally share and celebrate because even though the house was bought in my name, it’s always been ours.
The Hunt is On
Shortly after Mr. P proposed, we decide to look for houses. We weren’t really in a hurry to purchase one, but we had the sense that the market was shifting some. Plus, browsing real estate sites like Zillow has long been a hobby of mine. A sure side effect of too much HGTV.
A few months into the process, we had about given up hope. It seemed like we were
destined doomed to a 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom split-level relic from an era when wood paneling wasn’t just for basements. We did bump up our price range in small increments, but we quickly drew a line in the sand that was far more reasonable than the bank’s fairy tale pre-approval amounts.
And it’s a good thing. Not just because banks don’t actually know best. Not just because signing on for a mortgage at the pre-approval level is a fantastically effective way to find out what house poor means. Not just because I routinely feel like I am drowning in our current six-figure mortgage. But also because it turned out that once we found our house, I bought our house myself.
Why I Bought Our House
I was long familiar with the used car radio pitches promising sales to everyone: good credit, bad credit, no credit, we’ve got a car for you! I had always associated those lines with snake-oil sales pitches, not reality. Sure, I knew my then-fiancé, now-husband had one credit card that he opened on my prompting. What I didn’t realize, though, is that when someone has virtually no credit (insert Mr. P here), it’s much like having bad credit. Because when you don’t have a credit history, your credit score is low. In his case, it was really low compared to mine. And the bank didn’t like that. As with most things, though, they were willing to make it work for a price.
Unwilling to pay an extra .5% or more in interest*, I did something no one in the room expected. I asked the bank to run a new pre-approval for me as the sole buyer. I’d like to tell you someone gasped. The truth is, no one said anything. For a long time.
I had the excellent credit, thanks in part to a virtual lifetime of charging shoes and paying off the balance each month and also in part to my new car payments. I had a year-long teaching contract with a salary that could swing the mortgage payments, at least according to bank’s overly generous guidelines. I even had enough money saved to put 20% down to avoid private mortgage insurance and to dodge having to escrow taxes.
In short, I was kicking all sorts of financial butt. But I never told anyone, at least not really. Exactly four people know that I bought our house. In addition to my parents, there’s the seller and his broker who made sure to tell Mr. P that he’s now “seen it all” at the closing. They were exactly as awful as you’d imagine. So I stayed quiet, unwilling to run across other people who feel the same.
I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that it was incredibly motivating and deeply satisfying to know that I could buy a house. It was a true girl power moment a la the Spice Girls if I’ve ever had one. But I would be wrong to make you think that’s all it was. It was also the first time that I realized just because someone pays for something doesn’t mean they care for it more. This house has always been ours. From that first mortgage payment we split and celebrated (it’s the only time I will ever celebrate six figures of debt) to all of the work that we did together to transform these four walls, we’ve been in it together.
On one hand, I could look at the house and see how financially it’s a bit more mine than it is his. But that’s just on paper. The real truth is, when it comes to blood, sweat, and time, this house is more my husband’s than it will ever be mine.
*Think that’s not much? Run the numbers on a $200k loan over 30 years. It’s A LOT.
So Tell Me…How does money factor into your relationship?
Vicki@Make Smarter Decisions
That’s so interesting – and I own “our” house too. I feel exactly the same way about the blood (literally), sweat and tears though! My husband was not in a place in terms of credit due to divorce. That didn’t make him any less a part of “our house” though. This was a financial transaction – not an emotional one. We make it a home together.
You made my day for sharing this! There are so many ways to contribute to a house. Putting up the money was an accomplishment, sure. But in terms of what makes our house a home, the money doesn’t have much to do with it.
Secret Retirees 2018
We’ll first things first. “Cubs win, Cubs win!” I think it’s great that you signed alone for the house. Once your married it’s just as much his anyway. Good for you to keep your credit up in order for you to get approved for it. It’s all about sharing at this point so what’s yours is his and visa versa. Maybe someday he can buy a car just in his name and you can drive it ;).
Woohoo! And it is all about sharing, isn’t it? 🙂
Matt @ Optimize Your Life
Thanks for sharing, Penny. That’s really interesting. I feel like people are so unwilling to think outside the box with houses that it harms them financially. I read that and thought, “Great financial decision! Good job figuring out all of your options before making a choice!” It is baffling to me that people would be surprised about this, and especially surprised enough to make snide comments.
The dig was definitely at my husband. Like he was letting a woman support him or something. Which is the farthest from the truth. If I didn’t have my husband, the for sale sign would be in the yard TOMORROW.
Wow, that’s an interesting story! How did your husband feel? When I married Mr. G he already owned his condo. Neither of us was aware that we should have at least discussed putting me on the deed. But ditto Secret Retirees – once you’re married it’s just as much his (and mine) anyway. That $250K we cleared on the sale was ours.
You’ve just given me fodder for a post – something we haven’t written about previously. Thanks.
He felt awful. He still feels awful, which is part of why I don’t talk about it in real life. I don’t want him to feel bad, though. He does so much for our house and for us that I could never do. I usually ask him to not read my blog, but I hope he sees this today. Maybe it’ll sink in eventually.
Emily @ JohnJaneDoe
Don’t knock the wood paneling, lol. I’m sure that and our tiny kitchen are why we got our house at the price we did in the neighborhood we wanted. Maybe by the time Little Bit is stuck with selling the house as part of her inheritance, it will be back in style.
I owned my own house coming into my relationship with Jon. When we refinanced everything to buy the house we own (together) now, I just moved the deed into both of our names. Gosh knows he had put enough sweat equity into it by then. And he moved his townhouse into mine.
Gwen @ Fiery Millennials
I will probably come into any relationship with a few rental properties and significant assets on my side. It makes me a bit nervous to be so “on my game” as compared to basically everyone else my age. I will have Mr. Gwen sign a prenup before we get married, but consider everything we do ours. I like to cover my bases 🙂
It’s AWESOME you were able to buy the house with just your name! I got all sorts of funny looks and comments when I was looking to buy my rental property this year. Let’s change all the stereotypes together!
PS Cubs played well last night.
Cheers to changing stereotypes. Props to you, Gwen!
I have a cousin who went the similar route.
I surprisingly got approved fro a mortgage despite only having 1 credit card at the time. I remember it was a hassle because they preferred to see 3 different lines that were at least a year old, and I didn’t even pay for a cell phone bill or anything like that at the time.
That experience taught me to never be in that position again – I probably took it a little too far, considering I now have credit cards with like 15 different issuers.
I have the same fears as Gwen. It’s awkward. And It will always be awkward. But It its what it is.
It’s as awkward as you make it. I got off easy because I wasn’t being judged nearly as harshly as he was (those super jerks at the closing!).
I have to continually remind myself to “play fair and be nice” when it comes to money. We came from two different worlds. My parents, especially my mom, pushed saving. His family didn’t AT ALL. And initially, I always wanted to make it about a “better” way. But I have to remind myself that it’s just a different way.
You are one interesting woman! Love you kicking all financial butts. Our house is actually ours: we both are paying it, may be he is paying more.
Thank you so much, Pellrider! It sounds like you’ve got teamwork working for you as well!
I love this and I’m so glad you are sharing! (I mostly love it because I bought our condo on my own, though we weren’t even dating then.) I think it’s really great too that your husband was able to get past you paying for the whole house yourself. (Oh it sounds like he hasn’t 🙁 But you wouldn’t be in the house without him! Houses are so much work.) Have you guys put your husband on the deed? (I’m asking for estate planning reasons.) I do love your creative problem solving though! And I hope your husband has improved his credit score by now 😉
His credit score is within 20 points of mine. It makes me so mad now. He keeps telling me his goal is to pass me up in the next year. I don’t think that’s possible, but I still get really competitive when he checks it!
People are weird. I know more than one couple where the woman bought the house before the marriage due to man’s divorce, man didn’t have enough credit, woman got a better rate because of being a first time buyer or simply had a better credit rating. The hub’s bought our first home before we were married, second home we bought together. I don’t think either one of us ever considered our home as “belonging” more to one or the other of us because of whose name was on the loan or who made more money…… it’s just OUR house. If people would just do what makes the most financial sense they’d be better off, lol!
P.S. I don’t think it’s necessarily a generational attitude either as I’m almost 60.
I love that, Kim. “Just do what makes the most financial sense.” It sounds so simple, and I suppose it is. We just let society complicate our lives so much for us!
Same. But I didn’t plan it or want it that way. It just got to a point where I had to choose a priority in my life, and I went with the house despite not knowing what the hell would be happening with my marriage. Either way I wanted the house. And now no matter what it is a better financial outcome having bought it alone.
That’s a really interesting take, NZ Muse! We/I definitely wanted the house. We “lost” it the day of our first showing. They accepted an offer less than a half hour before we pulled up with our realtor. The deal ended up falling through a month later and I swooped.
Matt @ The Resume Gap
That’s awesome that you bought the house solo! These are the kinds of money decisions where it’s so easy to let emotions play a role (and it’s totally valid to want to feel fairness and joint responsibility). But if you can work through those things, you can often get a better result from a financial point of view.
I was just discussing a similar topic with a friend who is maintaining separate finances and filing taxes separately from her husband in order to maximize a student loan forgiveness program. It doesn’t quite feel right to them, but it’s the best financial decision.
I know two couples who file separately due to loans and other business setups that I don’t really totally understand (I can barely wrap my head around my taxes and they’re fairly straightforward). I don’t think either couple really likes doing it that way, but the payoff is there. Really important point about separating out emotions! It’s also probably easier for me to say since my emotions were mostly positive. I know this was a tough pill for him to swallow. But honestly, he kicks so much butt in other ways that it didn’t even faze me.
Julie @ Millennial Boss
I put down the money but we are both on the title. We needed my hubs score to improve our interest rate – mine was lower due to age of credit history, so similar situation as you described. Isn’t it crazy how much the bank will approve you for? I remember seeing the number and thinking WOWZA.
The craziest part was how little difference it made when it was just me going through the approval! I thought the number was generous with two incomes. It was absurd with one!
Gary @ Super Saving Tips
I’m jealous. When we bought our home, if my wife could have qualified on her own (great credit, income wasn’t quite there) she would have qualified as a first time home buyer and perhaps gotten a reduced interest rate. Anyway, it makes perfect sense to me that you might buy the house in your name. In marriage, it’s a team effort and if your goal is to pay down your mortgage, then a reduction in rate is worth a few questioning glances.
You rock, Gary! I love your attitude and how you’re always looking to optimize every situation. If we were going to saddle ourselves with a crazy big debt it just made sense to make it smaller if we could.
Maggie @ Northern Expenditure
As a stay at home mom without an income, I made sure I was on that deed… but if I actually had my own income and was capable of supporting myself, the story would have been different. (Or, let’s be honest, if I were male, I probably wouldn’t worry about it.)
Amanda @ centsiblyrich
I’m with Maggie here. We’ve been a one income family for a long time, so though my name is on everything, but I don’t have the income to back up a mortgage. I did buy our last car and put his name on the title, though. We completely share finances, so whatever is his is mine and vice versa. I know this doesn’t work for every couple, but it works well for us.
YES! We are dual income (I make more! One day, I’ll write THAT post!) but I feel very strongly about everything going into and coming out of “one pot”. I get that it isn’t for everyone. But it’s been working really well for us for almost four years!
Our state does the whole “what’s mine is your and what’s yours is mine” when you’re married anyway since we’re both paying for the house. I definitely understand why people want paperwork and even prenups, though!
I, for one, am proud of you for kicking butt and making savvy financial decisions that have had a big impact down the line! And I’m proud of your husband for willing to be a team player in this decision, and not letting his pride get in the way of a better interest rate. I also admire your trust in each other! Good job, Team Penny!
He is a far better person than I am. I’m just the louder voice because of the blog. Well, and maybe I’m sliiiiiightly more talkative than him in real life 😉
Sarah @ Smile & Conquer
We were actually in the same boat when we first bought our place. My bf was still in school so had a low income and not much credit history so it was just me on the mortgage. We just did our renewal this past summer and redid everything in both our names so no more holding that over his head 😉 Obviously kidding, it’s always felt like our home…it was just a matter of timing.
Way to go, Sarah! It’s a really big deal to buy a house yourself. And I think it’s more impressive that you’ve made it such a home together this whole time. It makes me really happy to hear about stories similar to ours.
Hi, Penny! First, congrats to both you and your husband. I love hearing about how couples team up to make their finances work…however that looks.
My husbands’ parents bought our house 12 years ago when my husband was in college, and him and his dad re-did almost the whole interior. Then when they went to sell, the market had crashed and they were significantly underwater. So instead of selling at a loss, they put us on the mortgage, took the tax benefits, and we got a mortgage when we likely wouldn’t have qualified on our own (short credit history).
Two years ago we went to refinance to get them removed, and we qualified based on my income alone. We knew that my husband would be staying home with future children, so we wanted to make sure we weren’t tied to his income in the bank’s mind in any way. Honestly, it didn’t even occur to me that this was super strange…but now your story has opened my eyes!
It never crossed our minds that it makes the house more or less one of ours. Like you said, if I didn’t have him, it’d be up for sale tomorrow! If anything, he feels much more ownership towards it than I because he spent years re-doing nearly every room.
Thanks for trusting us with this story!
Thank you for being so receptive to my story AND for sharing yours! There are so many things that happen behind the scenes every second of a marriage. It’s really bizarre to me the artificial markers of success that society attaches to it. Props to you for qualifying on your own and props to your husband’s family for making the best of an awful market.
It’s great that you were able to buy a house through your own portals! I too have a good enough of a credit score (I don’t know why but it’s been stagnating for the past year even though I pay off the balances in full) and I’m almost confident that I would be able to afford a house today, if I had applied for it.
I’ve been reading a lot of rent vs buy arguments though and I’m fully convinced that buying a house is not for me until way later down the road when I’m about to be married (like you are going to be soon!).
Props to you for setting yourself up to be so successful!
I think you made a really smart move for a lot of reasons. The interest rate was one, but I also think that buying a home with someone who is not (yet) a spouse makes things pretty complicated.
I bought our home because we weren’t married yet, though he definitely helped pick it out and it’s a house that would have had way too much yard for me on my own. We compromised on combining our stuff (two blenders, four wisks, etc.) and donated some of each of ours, and he got to pick out our bedroom decor and living room furniture (he said my old couch was doll furniture and our new stuff leaves my feet dangling in the air, but it is super-comfortable).
So we’ve found ways to make it ours, and the second it was paid off we changed the deed to both our names.
There’s so much more to a house than the name on the mortgage–good for you guys for seeing that and making it work.
That’s awesome! One of my good friends and his wife did the same thing since her credit was better than his. Who cares who’s name is on it if you’re in a committed relationship, it’s a team effort in the end!
OMG, when we bought our first house, they were running the numbers and the gasp wasn’t about Mrs. SSC buying it, it was at my low/bad credit score. Hahahahaha
Literally, the guy running the numbers did a sharp intake of breath, looked straight at Mrs. SSC and said, “Um, you’d be way better off just getting the loan in your name.” Then he motioned her over to the screen and pointed, and another round of sharp intakes of breath occurred. I can’t make this stuff up. She then looked at me and I was like, “I’m fine with it, I know my credit score sucks.”
So, yeah, she had my name on the title, we both paid for it, but she solely had responsibilty for the mortgage. I think if it was my daughter I’d be as apprehensive as her parents were (we weren’t even married at that point – this was July, marriage in Oct). Fortunately, it’s been 8 years now, and when we got our second home, my credit had skyrocketed and we’re both on this one.
But yep, like you, that first one, was all her. 🙂
Yeah, my mom was pretty worried. We bought almost a year before our wedding…but we needed almost that entire time to work on the house. We were down to the underlayment in most rooms. EKKK.
Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life
We did “weird” things with both our mortgages. He bought his place before we were married but we’ve both paid into it since then. I chose to refinance in both our names without changing the title to mine because it would cost unnecessary money and time, when we were just days away from completing our estate plan. The title was going to be transferred to the trust anyway so why pay the fee? I can argue for and against it but in the end, our assets are primarily about ensuring the kid’s care in case we’re ever out of the picture, and if we ever split we’d split the value of everything equally because even if he brought more equity into the partnership (debatable, since I had far more cash assets instead of real estate) there’s no way it would have grown as much as it has without my tending. You should have heard our notary. You could tell he thought I was an absolute idiot for taking on the loan legally when I wasn’t on the title.
Then when I bought the investment property, I bought that solely in my name for the ease of the loan process. Evens things up a bit too, we each have a property in our names.
I don’t know how I’ll handle future real estate but you can be sure I’m only going to do what’s best for us, and to hell with what the common opinion is on the matter. 😉
I love that you bought your house for you two!
As a man, I’m totally for the empowered woman. I’ve even wrote posts such as, “How To Get Your Spouse To Work Longer So You Can Retire Earlier”! It’s kinda a cheeky post, but the point is to really BALANCE the money dynamics between man and woman.
It’s 2016 after all!
Thanks for stopping by, Sam! It’s definitely important to find balance. I thought about that a lot this weekend. Like when he was outside trying to tame more of the forest by the creek in our backyard and wondered if he’d gotten poison ivy. That thing about the for sale sign going up without him is no joke! 🙂