So you’re finally doing it – moving in together.
But while you and your better half prepare for the big commitment, remember it’s more than just about one of you moving in or the two of you merging your stuff. There will be emotions to consider, as well territory and money issues and lots of fair compromise and honest negotiation. You’ll both need to deal with all of this to get to a place where you think less about ‘mine’ and ‘hers’ and more about ‘ours.’
Start with a new place
If one of you needs to move into the other’s place, you can make it work but it takes time for the immigrating partner to feel at home. Ideally it’s best to make a fresh start and find somewhere new where you can learn to live together.
Pooling your resources for a new home will make it more affordable for both of you and it’s a great investment, to boot. If you do decide to buy a home as a couple, remember to start smart by having both your names on the mortgage. Consult a real estate lawyer who can work out all the details.
Negotiating each other’s stuff
If you’re a guy who doesn’t care much about decorating, then lucky for both of you. But even if that’s the case, you’ll still have a favourite chair, books, a Wii, a painting your mom gave you or knick-knacks you think you can’t do without.
Before you move in together, sit down and evaluate what you each own. Worry less about what colours match and more about what you have space for. If you each have a couch and your new condo or house won’t accommodate both, you’ll need to accommodate each other – with patience and logic, not emotion. “My 21-inch TV fits” wins out over “But this is a sick 60-inch LED!”
Shop for new furniture together, even if you hate the idea. Limit the time if you need to but be there to offer your opinion before purchases are made. Once it’s in the house, it’s probably not going back.
After you’ve moved in, don’t throw out her stuff without asking. If it’s something you really hate or that doesn’t fit, try to negotiate it somewhere else – in a spare room, in the basement or onto Craigslist.
If your styles are different, figure out where there’s common ground – do you both love blue, shag rugs, dark wood? Focus on keeping or buying stuff that fits the criteria you share.
Talking about money, honey
Most couples used to marry young and build up assets together. These days, most couples move in and marry later in life, once they’ve already established careers and accumulated savings – or debt.
While merging savings may seem like a romantic notion, you’ll find it easier to keep what you have and open a joint chequing account into which you contribute a percentage of your income for the mortgage plus a joint credit card for other home expenses. You’ll be sharing while still having the freedom to spoil yourself when you want, without having to ask for permission.
Also, remember to keep records for all major purchases. It’s the last thing you want to think about right now but, if you ever have to go your separate ways, receipts make it easier to divvy up your stuff with as little pain as possible.
Whatever you want to do about your stuff, discuss it openly, decide together, then put it in writing. It’ll make it harder for either of you to ‘forget’ what you agreed to later.
For a range of home ownership topics, be sure to visit the RBC Advice Centre.