Tips for Unmarried Couples Buying a House

For unmarried couples, the excitement of buying a home can be tinged with a bit of uncertainty. Fear not! With some careful planning and knowledge , you can navigate the process smoothly and build a secure nest together.

Understanding Title Ownership: You Say Yours, I Say Ours

One of the key differences unmarried couples face compared to married couples is the lack of automatic legal protections. This is especially true when it comes to ownership of the property. Here, you’ll need to decide how you want to hold the title, essentially determining how you own the house:

  • Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship: This is the simplest option. Both partners own the property equally, and if one partner passes away, the other automatically inherits their share. This avoids probate, a lengthy and costly legal process that determines how assets are distributed after death. Sounds perfect, right? Well, it’s important to understand that both partners have equal rights to the property, meaning either can sell their share without the other’s consent.
  • Tenancy in Common: This option offers more flexibility. Each partner can own a different percentage of the property, based on their down payment contribution, for example. You can also designate who inherits your share upon death through a will. This might be useful if one partner contributes significantly more financially. However, tenancy in common does not include the right of survivorship. If one partner dies without a will, their share may go to their legal heirs, which could potentially be someone other than your partner.

Choosing the Right Title:

Deciding how to hold title depends on your specific circumstances and long-term goals. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Financial Contribution: Did one partner contribute a larger down payment? Tenancy in Common allows you to reflect that contribution in ownership percentages.
  • Future Plans: Do you plan to have children or get married in the future? Joint tenancy with right of survivorship might be simpler, but discuss how future life changes could impact your decision.

Remember, this is a crucial decision. Consulting with a local real estate attorney is highly recommended. They can explain the legal implications of each option within the context of your state’s laws and help you choose the title structure that best suits your needs.

The Mortgage Maze: Two Hearts, One (or Two) Mortgages?

Getting pre-approved for a mortgage is an essential first step in the home-buying journey. However, as an unmarried couple, there are some additional things to keep in mind:

  • Joint Mortgage Eligibility: Both your credit scores, income, and debt-to-income ratios will be considered to determine your borrowing power.
    • Credit Scores: The lower of your two credit scores will often affect the loan terms you qualify for, including the interest rate. Discussing credit improvement strategies and working towards a healthier credit score together can be beneficial.
    • Income Verification: Combined income determines the maximum loan amount you can qualify for.
    • Debt-to-Income Ratio: This ratio shows the lender how much debt you carry compared to your income. A lower ratio (typically below 36%) indicates a better ability to manage mortgage payments.
  • Applying for a Mortgage as Unmarried Partners: Be transparent with the lender about your relationship status. This could affect the loan agreement. Have all necessary documents ready, such as proof of income, employment verification, and identification for both partners.

Beyond the Bricks and Mortar: Protecting Your Nest Egg

While love is the foundation of any relationship, legal agreements can provide much-needed peace of mind. Consider these two options:

  • Cohabitation Agreement: This outlines who owns what assets and how finances will be handled if the relationship ends. It can address things like furniture, appliances, and even shared bank accounts.
  • Property Agreement: Similar to a prenuptial agreement, this specifies each partner’s financial contribution to the property and how it should be divided upon separation or death. This can be particularly important if one partner contributes significantly more financially towards the down payment or renovations.

These agreements can prevent disagreements and potential legal battles down the road. Remember, a real estate attorney can help draft these documents properly to ensure they are legally binding.

    This post has explored the key considerations for unmarried couples buying a house, from understanding title ownership and navigating the mortgage process to implementing legal protections like cohabitation agreements and property agreements. Remember, seeking guidance from a real estate attorney is invaluable throughout the journey.

    So, are you ready to turn your dream of homeownership into a reality? Contact us today! We can help you navigate the process from start to finish, ensuring a smooth and stress-free experience. Let’s build your dream home together, on a foundation of love, planning, and legal security.


    Trunk & Treat 2023

    Join us and some of our favorite clients and friends for this unique Halloween event, held on Sunday before 👻 Halloween 💀.

    When: Sunday, October 29, 2023 from 1 to 3pm

    Where: Parking at Keller Williams Madison West, 555 Zor Shrine Pl #100, Madison, WI 53719

    What: Food 🌮 & ice cream 🍦 truck + lemonade stand 🍋

    Bounce 🛝 houses & games 🎯

    Children’s jewelry 💍 and clothing 🧢 vendors

    And of course, plenty of Trick or Tricking candy 🍬!

    No RSVP needed, just stop by!

    Bring along family and friends!


    Let’s bake cookies

    Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies


    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
    • In a bowl, mix the butter and sugar together for about 2 minutes.
    • Add egg, peppermint extract and beat well, until light and fluffy.
    • Sift flour, salt, cocoa powder, baking soda and powder gradually over the wet ingredients, mixing as you go, until well combined.
    • Add chocolate chips and lightly stir in with a mixing spoon.
    • Chill the dough in the freezer for 10 minutes while the oven finishes heating.
    • Form the dough into small balls (heaping 1 Tbsp) and place 1.5 inches apart on an un-greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Press the tops down and then top with a few more chocolate chips for more flavor.
    • Bake for about 10 minutes. The edges should start to dry but the tops should still be slightly soft looking.
    • Set on the cookie sheet for a few minutes more but sprinkle crushed candy cane on right away.
    • Transfer to a cooling rack to rest until completely cooled.
    • Store in an airtight container to keep fresh for up to a few days or freeze for several weeks.

    Ingredient list

    • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • 1 large egg
    • 1/4 tsp natural peppermint extract
    • 1 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
    • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 1/4 tsp baking powder
    • 1 candy cane, finely crushed
    • 1/3 cup dark, bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips

    Spring Home

    First warm days of season are upon us, and with this, it feels good just going outside after long months of cabin fever.

    Take a walk around your house, backyard, and garden, and check on everything after the winter season. This is the perfect time to make take care of small maintenance tasks and catch problems before they affect value of your home and turn into expensive fixes.

    Check full list of small and easy tasks below!


    4 tips to moving with pets

    I mentioned before we moved several times in a short period of time. Our two cats moved with us. It was never easy on us, but it was even harder on them – cats are creatures of habits. Dogs also do not take well to long trip and commotion of the move. Here are four tips we tested over the years, hopefully they will help you – and your pet.

    1. Pack and clean one room in old home first, for example spare bedroom. Keep you pets, in their crates, with favorite toy, in this room. This way they will be in relative quiet. Other options, for more anxious pets, is to have them stay with a friend or even board your pet for a packing day.
    2. Pack a set of basic pet supplies: pet food, favorite bowl, water bowl or fountain, litter box and litter for cats, leash for dogs, couple of favorite toys. Keep it handy with you in your car, make it easy to reach the stash when you arrive on site so you can unpack and set up spot for your pet in your new home.
    3. It goes without saying, but have your pets travel with you in the car. I strongly recommend having any pet in crate, to avoid distractions while driving. Additionally, have the crate facing you and so your pet is able to listen conversation or just be aware of your presence during the trip. Some pets might prefer to have crate covered with blanket. Remember about securing the crate with seat belts.
    4. When in new location, set your pet up in one quiet room while you unpack. Keep it there for a day or two, and get accustomed to a new place. I suggest setting up your bedroom, if your pet is allowed to sleep with you, then your presence at night will also help ease them.

    Do you have any of you tested any tips or tricks to make it easier for your pets to get through move? Share them in comments below.


    4 Reasons you need your CMA (not one is…

    CMA or Comparative Market Analysis shows you what is the current value of your home, or how much money would a potential buyer pay to buy it in the current real estate market.

    The value of your home changes with time, and is dependent on many factors. It is influenced by all the maintenance you do to inside or outside – or you do not do. Any upgrades, like kitchen remodel or new floors/carpets will influence house value. The value also depends on popularity of your neighborhood and how good are the schools in this area.

    This is why it is so important to check your Comparative Market Analysis or your home value at least once a year, just like you would your Credit Score.

    You might not be thinking about selling your house just now. There are several other reasons to stay current on ever changing value of your home. Here are just a few:

    1. To refinance to take advantage of low rates or just decrease your monthly payment
    2. To take advantage of your Home Equity Loan and do this maintenance project you have been postponing
    3. Update your home insurance policy to make sure it covers whole value of your house
    4. Dispute your property taxes in rare instances your home value decreased below the assessment

    Would you like to receive your own, complimentary CMA? Contact us today.


    How many bedrooms?

    How much of a house do you need? When you start looking for your place, the first question you need to answer is how many bedrooms and bathrooms do you want or need. The question sounds simply only on the surface. There are few philosophies you can use to help you to the final number.

    Now and in the future

    One approach is very logical, but requires planning ahead. Consider how many years you plan to stay in the house? Will your kids still live at home at that time? Will you have more children? Can siblings share a room? Will you parents would want to move in, to help take care of the kids – or be taken care of? This should give you a good idea how many bedrooms do you need. Add a guest bedroom or an office if you plan to work from home or host relatives dropping by with a visit.

    Each one their own

    Another approach asks you to do simple math. Count a room per person you expect to live in the house, and add one bedroom for guests. This risks too many spaces (it counts for example two bedrooms for a couple) and paying to heat and light unused space – it will also add to your property tax. However, it will come handy if the house you select will not have a dedicated space for a home office, typically located off the main entrance – or a non-conforming bedroom to be turned into an office. A non-conforming bedroom is a room without a closet and window or with window that is higher than 4 feet high above the floor.

    Resell approach

    The third one considers resale value, and essentially suggests to get a so called “cookie-cutter” house of 3 bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms. Those houses are also easier to rent if you decide to turn it into source of income in the future. Above 4 bedrooms, it’s considered luxury home, which might be harder to sell in the future.

    A bit about bathrooms

    That is a whole topic by itself. It all boils down to personal preference, where you want to have bathrooms, and how many you think your family lifestyle will require. If you entertain often, half bathroom by the living room is extremely useful. It provides privacy for the rest of the house and is convenient for the whole family.

    At least one bathroom per livable level is a must. At the same time, if a level contains only family or living room-kitchen area, half bath will do. Beyond that, the decision is really down to your personal preference. It becomes popular for each bedroom to have its own bathroom. Sometimes you have cute Jack-and-Jill bathrooms for adjoining bedroom, very practical solution. Again, typical house will have 2.5 bath, and for most families, it should be perfect.

    Reality check

    Next, the number of rooms itself does not determine the size of the house. The rooms can be bigger, a good idea if you want siblings of similar age share the room. If the bedrooms are smaller, each kid can have its own space without adding too much to the whole house.

    Make a decision based on what you think appropriate number of rooms will serve you best – and than consider the square footage you can actually afford. For affordability, use the rule of thumb for value of the house to be at 3 time your annual household income. Depending on the average prices of square footage in the area you are moving to (check our Community pages for prices around Madison, WI), you should be able to quickly calculate what you can afford. With that, give us a call or send us an email (click here for contact information), we can take it from here!


    Appreciate your teachers

    This morning Iza asked me a question – “Which one of your teachers do you remember the most?” To my blank stare she added “It’s Teachers Appreciation Week, you should write something about one of yours”.

    Over my career I was subject to countless (one could argue futile) attempts to educate me by tens if not hundreds of different teachers. Most of them I could not remember for the life of me. But I do remember a handful. Those few that somehow stayed with me through the rest of my life. Coincidentally those are the same teachers that at the time I severely disliked and were at the very bottom of my ‘favorite teachers’ list.

    Like my Polish language teacher, who in her, what seemed to us 90s, but in reality probably 50s, was so strict on any grammar and spelling mistakes that we were scared to even get in that room. But who also surprised me by praising my unusual approach to an essay she assigned us to write. She taught me that I shouldn’t worry about independent thinking.

    Or my math teacher who insisted to treat us as adults throughout our high school, allowing us to choose whether we wanted out parents to even talk to him (and you’ve probably guessed it, my parents were never bothered having to come to school for any reason) with all the good and bad that can only come from that.

    And last but not least, my English teacher, who was so adamant that we have to learn foreign language that most of the class became finalist in regional foreign language competition and two spending year in US in exchange program. Comes in handy every day.

    Those were the most dreaded teachers back then. I didn’t like to go to their classes, I disliked the amount of material they had us to learn and despised the discipline…

    Today…. Today I wish all of them were like that.

    This week is Teachers Appreciation Week. Slow down, reflect for a second and say thank you to your favorite ones. And double thank to the rest of them.


    Choosing a school

    Finding the perfect school for your child only adds stress to already complicated process of moving. We split the process into eight easy steps. Tackle one at the time to be sure you make the perfect choice.

    Did you know?

    There are five types of schools in USA:

    • Public
    • Magnet public
    • Charter
    • Private secular
    • Private religious
    1. Try to select desired school and neighborhood combo together. You are not guaranteed a spot in your selected school, and you might not be able to afford a house in your desired neighborhood. Pick at least one backup school and neighborhood location.
    2. When choosing school take into consideration your child’s learning style (lecture vs hands on?), special needs (languages? advanced placement? support of learning disabilities?) and interests, like languages, theater or sports. Make “must have” and “nice have” lists to help make comparisons and narrow down choices.
    3. Consult your child’s current teachers. Ask them for suggestions and recommendations. Talk about your their learning style and recommended school environment (for example large or small school).
    4. Consider your needs as parents. Would other parents share your values? Do you want to have volunteering opportunities or would you rather have full support for working parents? How will your commute look like, is there a space to drop off and pick up up your child comfortably? Does school offer school bus, and is there a distance limit on where you can live to use the bus?

    Rankings of schools in Madison, WI area

    1. Consult sites like Great Schools or for current rankings of schools. Read the final note, but consider how the note was obtained, what where the criteria.
    2. Check school district’s website. While the quality of those sites vary greatly from district to district, you still be able to read the updates and study the events. Check our Community pages, we provided links to that place school districts.
    3. Look up prospective teachers’ web sites. It will allow you to learn about their personalities, teaching styles and types of project they assign.
    4. Visit the school if at all possible. Get the feel for friendliness of staff and other parents, how teachers and children’s interact, how does facilities look and feel for you.
    5. Connect with other parents. Gauge their opinion about school, facilities, teachers and other students.

    Movers for Moms charity drive

    This spring, Madison area Keller Williams agents partnered with Two Men and a Truck in supporting Movers for Moms national charity drive. This is 14th year of the program, and 9th of drive across the country.

    Make your mother proud

    During the program, donations are collected to support local women’s and family shelters. The purpose is to provide small gifts for women who are victims of domestic abuse or homelessness. All items will be delivered on Mother’s Day, May 9.

    Two Men and a Truck was started by a mom, has women in key leadership roles across the company, and some of the most successful franchise owners are women. It was natural idea.

    In 2021, The Korwels team will collect donations from two neighborhoods in Sauk City, Wi. We will distribute program fliers on Saturday, April 23 in the afternoon. Items will be collected the following Saturday, May 1 after 3 pm, for delivery to Two Men and a Truck location in Madison.

    Items to donate

    • Nice soaps
    • Hair styling products
    • Shampoo/conditioner
    • Nail polish and other fun toiletries
    • Pillows
    • Blankets
    • Slippers
    • Robes
    • Other items to pamper these women

    You can also donate online though one of Amazon wishlists:

    More details about the program can be found online on Facebook and Twitter.