Most married couples don’t enter the union with real estate. Typically, two young people, madly in love of course, are fresh out of college and decide to spend the rest of their lives together. First, you need to plan the wedding. Then you need to worry about kids, careers, and buying a house.
But some marriages are different. In many cases, one of the spouses already owns a home. In a few other cases, both spouses own a property. This creates a difficult yet beneficial situation, one loaded with personal preferences, tough choices, and numerous financial impacts.
If you are entering a marriage where both of you own a property, you should be proud! You’re one step ahead in the “game of life”, and likely have a foundation that will provide financial stability as you move forward.
But what should you do with those properties? We can’t make the decision for you, but we can give some perspective.
Getting Married When Both Own a Property: What Are Your Options?
If you both own a home, what can you do to bring your lives together? In most cases, couples will settle on one of three options:
Option 1: Move into One House, Sell the Other
The first option is the most obvious, and, probably, the most simple. Just move into one of the houses and sell the other. With this decision, you really only have one major task: selling one of the properties.
Selling a property, especially a high-quality property in a desirable location, can bring a large cash injection into the marriage. Of course, it depends on the home equity, but selling one of the properties immediately could bring tens, or even hundreds, of thousands of dollars in liquid cash into the new marriage. That’s not a bad start!
There is, of course, the important discussion about which property to sell. For some couples, the decision may seem obvious; perhaps one of the houses is too small or too far from the office and schools. Perhaps one of the houses has a large backyard, plenty of bathrooms, and a large master bedroom, making it perfect for a newly-blended family. Or perhaps one of the properties is in a downtown area preferred by both spouses, making it the right choice for the couple. If all things are even, perhaps one of the properties has a mortgage with a better interest rate.
The decision depends on countless factors, including personal preferences, the specific mortgages, and the properties. But once you decide on which one to sell, this is usually the easiest option.
Option 2: Sell Both and Move into a Larger or Better Property
If neither property is desirable, you may decide to sell both, combine your finances and equity together, and purchase a third property that meets everyone’s needs.
This choice, while ideal for many couples, takes more time and energy than the first option because you now have three major tasks:
1) Selling the first spouse’s property.
2) Selling the second spouse’s property.
3) Finding and purchasing a third home.
You’ll not only be searching for a new home, but you’ll have to prepare, list, and sell two properties. All of this work can be time consuming and frustrating.
In the end, however, this is often the best choice for numerous couples. Many individuals have homes that are ideal for the lifestyle of an unmarried person with no children; a two-bedroom, one-bathroom house or a small downtown condo or townhouse are good examples. Yes, this option takes more effort, but it would seem foolish to stay in a property that does not meet your needs just because it takes time and effort to buy and sell properties. Once complete, you’ll be glad you decided to purchase the right property for the new chapter in your life.
Option 3: Keep Both But Turn One into a Rental
Instead of selling one or both of the properties, the third common option is to keep them both and turn one of the properties into a rental. In this situation, you don’t have to deal with the process of selling, although you will have to transition one of the homes into a rental-ready property.
The benefits of this choice are fairly obvious: you take an asset that you already own (one of the houses) and turn it into something that will provide a steady income throughout the marriage. This income can be used to support a more luxurious lifestyle, private schooling, or a flashy new vehicle for the married couple. The options, of course, are limitless.
With this option, you’ll have to make the choice on which property should become a rental and which one will become your home. Sometimes the choice is easy; if one property is smaller, such as a two-bedroom property, while the other is a larger space that better fits the new marriage, it will likely be an easy choice. But if they are similar, you may have to consider factors such as location; perhaps one is in an area more likely see demand for rental properties.
Other Options and Combinations Exist
There are, of course, other options. There are choices that are a combination or mixture of the choices we outlined above. For example, if you want to turn one of the properties into a rental, you don’t necessarily need to keep the other. You could turn one property into a rental, sell the other spouse’s property, and purchase a third property that better fits the new couple or new family. This would essentially be a combination of all three options we described above.
Another option could be to turn both properties into rentals and purchase a new home. Or you could keep both and use one as a vacation property or second home. There are many options, but it’s up to you and your spouse to make the right decision for your future.
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