couple buying a house

Back in the day, marriage and buying a house might’ve come hand-in-hand—followed, perhaps, by a baby carriage. But, back in the day was a different ballgame—everyone ate roast chicken every night, for one thing, no one had student loans, “apartment furniture” wasn’t an entire design genre… ok, I’m done. Anyway, this is the modern age, and buying a home isn’t the “next logical step” for many newly married couples. It can be daunting to some, and downright impossible or unappealing to others.

But you’re in the camp that’s thinking about buying a house, yet not entirely convinced you and your spouse are ready for that kind of commitment (hey, I get it, you just committed to lifelong loyalty and love!), keep reading for a little more direction.

You’re ready if wedding planning—and paying—wasn’t too painful.

Planning a wedding is a great test-drive for marriage. It teaches couples endless life lessons in the realms of teamwork, financial literacy, compromise, stress management—the works. And while no one would suggest you have to love planning a wedding together in order to function well together during your marriage (newsflash: wedding planning can be sucky and the two of you are allowed to look back and realize you hated it!), it’s important that you walked away from it feeling like you collaborated intelligently, played fair, and covered the costs within your original plan. If yes: You’re probably ready to take the next step and embark on buying a house (which will employ a lot of those same life lessons you learned while wedding planning: compromise, teamwork, stress and deadline management, etc.!). If some things could have gone better—like one of you never considered the other when decisions had to be made, or if you blew your budget or barely saved—maybe hold off on home-buying until the two of you have had more practice. It could mean that you’re just not there yet in those areas—and that’s ok!

You’re ready if you’re comfortable talking money together.

I’m an open book about finances, and my now-husband was a little shier in that department when we started getting serious. It took a while for him to open up (and some encouragement from me!), and it wasn’t till we were both on the same page about how much we made, what we were willing to contribute to our shared finances, and what our goals were for our future, that we started making larger purchases, like vacations and yes, a wedding, together. Like marriage, buying a house is a serious commitment, one that requires total transparency from both partners. If you’re still cagey about what you make and/or spend, or simply not ready to get into the nitty gritty—like revealing your credit score to your spouse—the time isn’t right yet to buy a home together. Because once you get into the buying process, there are no secrets!

You’re ready if you’re ready to settle down.

“Settling down” doesn’t have to mean “snuff whatever light is left inside of you, buy a minivan, and give up,” by the way. Settling down literally means… dropping all of your earthly possessions in one place for a while, and growing some roots. Becoming part of a community. Maybe having some kids—or a garden, whatever! It’s simply a less temporary way of living than an apartment offers, with more responsibility (e.g., no landlord to fix things, no lease you can skip out on if you want to take off). You’ll likely lose money if you up and sell a home you bought only a few years prior. Find out where you and your spouse stand on this matter, because it’s a big one. Sure you can still travel often and live a wild and free life with a home you own, and sure you can grow roots living in a home you don’t own. But there is something decidedly more “settled” about owning a home. This can make you feel amazingly established, or amazingly trapped—follow your gut before you decide to buy.

You’re ready if you’ve got the money.

Duh! Nothing strains a relationship quite like debt, and no couple should knowingly walk into debt together in the name of owning a home. Your first home together should be something you can afford, not struggle to meet the payments on every month (and fight over inevitably while trying to do so). If you’re financially drained from the wedding, one or both of you is still on school and/or saddled with student debt, neither of you has much in the way of savings, or you’re not quite where you want to be salary-wise, hold off on buying—you’ll be glad you did. And just because a home loan offers you a certain amount doesn’t necessarily mean you should spend it all—experts recommend that the total cost of your mortgage interest and principal, any HOA fees, insurance and taxes shouldn’t surpass 28 percent of your total income. Run the numbers and, if you’ve got it, go for it—if not, hold off and start saving. You’ll be amazed by what can change over the course of a few years when you’ve got a goal in mind (and a partner to help out!).

You’re ready if you have the same big goals.  

Some couples have it all planned out: Have a kid, start a college savings plan, go to Disney every three years, buy a new car every five. If that sounds like you and your spouse, owning rather than renting your home is a smart investment, because it’s exactly that: an investment that’s building equity, rather than a rental that’s throwing your cash away to a landlord every month. An owned home is an anchor point that can help make all of these other life milestones a little bit easier to work toward. If you and your spouse are still figuring it all out, taking it day-by-day, and living in the moment, temporary living sounds like a good match till you’ve got your goals plotted out.

You’re ready if you need some space.

Rentals can be small. Cramped. Extremely… shared. Which is all well and good when you’re dating your partner and simply cannot get enough of one another, but somewhere along the three-year mark (for us, anyway?), the shine of constant togetherness begins to wear off and the two of you begin to rediscover the value in alone time, independence, having your own spaces. This does not mean you’re falling out of love, it means you’re human—and rentals have a way of forcing humans to be very close, very constantly. If you’re feeling like it’s time you add a little more square footage to your lives (for your man cave, for your crafting corner, for your sanity…) buying a house is probably your best bet. While some rentals can truly be spacious (I hear that’s a thing outside New York City?), condos and houses tend to offer lots more, plus bonuses like outdoor areas, basements, garages—room for stuff, room for friends, room for the lives the two of you deserve to carry on with even as you continue to live together. If you’re both still digging the close-quarters vibe, and get freaked out by the idea of losing one another to the siren song of a split-level, feel free to carry on! (And maybe write book on relationships because you’re doin’ something extremely right.)