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What Unmarried Couples Should Know About Buying a Home Together

Published April 28, 2020

Buying a house, especially in the Portland area, can be a smart investment. More unwedded couples than ever before are opting to purchase a home together—a decision that, should the couple eventually break up, carries its own murky legal implications. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 8.5 million unmarried heterosexual couples living together in 2018, and a total of 18 million unwed couples (both same- and opposite-sex) sharing a residence in 2016. While a good portion of these couples rent their living space, many unmarried couples are choosing to purchase a house together. So, what are the legal implications of this decision? Let’s take a look.

Documentation is Key

While Oregon law is fairly straightforward about how the division of assets, such as a home, is handled when a married couple divorces or separates, there are no clear guidelines about what happens to a co-owned residence when an unwed couple breaks up. Legal experts recommend that unmarried couples who intend to purchase a house together take the time to draft their own cohabitation property agreement. This document can include information such as the percentage of the property that each individual owns, the payment responsibility, the buyout agreement, how the dispute process will be handled, and more. It’s helpful to meet with an attorney to put this cohabitation property agreement in place as soon as possible, especially while the happy couple is still able to communicate well. Having this document finalized and prepared well before things turn sour will make the distribution process proceed more smoothly.

Creating an Exit Strategy

Even the happiest couples may eventually find themselves heading towards separation. This realization can be emotionally difficult, and the break-up can be even more challenging when there is a shared asset, such as a house, involved. If both partners are listed on the deed and there has been no cohabitation property agreement put in place, one person can buy out the other person, or they can decide to sell the home. However, selling the house when your relationship goes south is not exactly simple—it may sit on the market for quite some time, and you will still have to pay a significant amount of money in a broker commission and closing costs.


For more information about cohabitation agreements for unmarried couples, reach out to Lee Tyler Family Law, P.C. today by calling (503) 233-8868.

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