Common general reasons that a couple may want to buy a house under one name are ensuring that lenders only consider the spouse that has better financials or ensuring that one spouse has full ownership of the house.
The general process for buying a house is the same whether you’re a single buyer or a married couple. You’ll need to understand how much house you can afford, review your mortgage and financing options, and then choose a real estate agent to help you through the process of searching for and buying a home.
There are some special considerations for married couples, though. For example, applying for a mortgage under one name could help you get better mortgage rates, and putting both names on a house’s deed may not be the best option for everyone.
Buying a house under one name can refer to two different things: taking out a mortgage under one person's name or putting only one spouse's name on the title deed.
In most states, a married couple can apply for mortgages, pay for a house, and title a house under the name of just one spouse. That also means it's technically possible to buy a house without your spouse and without them knowing.
The key exception is in community property states, which consider both spouses equally on a mortgage application and for home ownership — regardless of the married couple’s wishes. (We discuss community property states and marital property in a later section.)
In certain cases, having one spouse take out the mortgage loan, and/or one spouse's name on the title, can be a good option for a couple.
Unless you're making a cash offer on a house, most people need to take out mortgage, so the first step for couples will be to decide whether to put one or both names on the mortgage loan application. This usually comes down to your personal financial situation.
Getting married doesn’t affect your credit score, so if one spouse has a much stronger credit history or much less debt, you might get better loan options by using just that spouse’s name. This could include cases where one spouse has high debt but low or inconsistent income (like if they’re self-employed and payments are irregular).
Even if one spouse is on the mortgage loan, you can still put both spouses on the deed, ensuring they both own the property.
A deed is the physical document that shows who owns the title, or the legal right to the property. (Learn more in depth about title vs deed). Having the title, which proves ownership interest, reflect a married person's name is what will matter for spouses if they ever come to disagreements about who owns what, such as in divorce proceedings.
Many married couples choose to own their homes jointly and have the deed reflect both spouse's ownership. Reasons you may want to put a house under both of your names include:
Looking to buy a house? Orchard can help simplify the process, especially if you need to sell and buy at the same time. Get started.
You can add a spouse (or someone else) to the deed when you buy a house, or even later down the road. However, if you opt to do this and still have a mortgage, it’s possible your mortgage lender will require all people on the title to be responsible for the mortgage.
Speak with your mortgage lender to see if you can add a spouse to the deed, but not the mortgage. If it is possible, then using a quitclaim deed is likely your cheapest option to get your spouse on the title.
If you’re trying to add someone to the deed to make ownership easier to transfer after you die, you may also want to consider putting your house in a trust or using a transfer-on-death deed if your state allows them.
It is possible to remove someone from your deed, regardless of whether you’re getting a divorce or simply want to change who owns the house. If title owners (people named on the deed) agree to remove someone, then the easiest and cheapest option is usually to use a quitclaim deed.
The documents for quitclaim deeds are often available for free online, but state laws vary so check your local laws to find notarization rules and where exactly you need to file the deed. Living in community property states will also make it difficult to remove a spouse’s ownership of the home, so it’s best to seek legal advice for your situation.
States generally operate as either common law or community property states. In common law states, which is most states, ownership of a property belongs to whomever bought it. So if one spouse buys a house under their own name, they completely own that house. Applying alone during the mortgage process will also mean the lender only considers the applying spouse’s financial situation.
In the dozen states that have community property laws, any property purchased by a married couple is equally owned by the spouses. Importantly, even if only one spouse is applying for a mortgage, community property law can allow a lender to consider the financials of both spouses - incomes, debts, credit scores, etc. -during mortgage underwriting. Both spouses will also ultimately co-own the property, so having one spouse try to buy or claim sole ownership of a house may not be possible.
Community property laws don’t affect property purchased by two individuals before marriage. A house purchased before marriage will still belong to the person who purchased it. (However, rules can get tricky around death, with a surviving spouse usually having rights to the property even if it was purchased solely by the deceased spouse.) Speak with a lawyer if you want to buy or own property apart from your spouse or prevent a spouse from getting your property after you die.
There are currently 9 community property states:
There are also 3 states that allow you to opt in to community property law:
Not all community property states will recognize domestic partners the same way they would a spouse, but California, Nevada, and Washington may depending on your situation.
If you're buying a house while married but separated, there are important considerations to keep in mind:
Navigating the home buying process while married but separated can be complex, so it's essential to seek guidance from legal, financial, and emotional professionals to make informed decisions that protect your interests.
Here are even more answers to your questions about navigating the homebuying process with your spouse.
While being married can have certain advantages when buying a house, like increased financial stability and shared responsibilities, it ultimately depends on your specific situation. Factors like credit scores, income, and individual debt can influence the decision and can even help increase your buying power. You should assess your financial goals, discuss your options as a couple, and consult with a financial advisor or real estate professional to determine what is best for you.
If you have bad credit, it can potentially affect your ability as a couple to secure a mortgage or impact the terms and interest rates offered to you. Lenders typically consider both partners' credit scores when assessing mortgage applications. If one spouse has bad credit, it could lead to higher interest rates or even denial of the loan. However, if the spouse with good credit can qualify for the mortgage independently, it may be possible to proceed with the purchase. Consulting with a mortgage lender or financial advisor will help you understand the specific implications of your credit situation.
Being married can impact the home buying process by providing combined income, shared financial responsibility, joint ownership, and potential tax benefits. These factors can increase your borrowing capacity, allow you to afford a more expensive home, share the financial burden, and provide legal rights and protection as a couple.
It is possible for only one spouse to be on the mortgage, especially if the other spouse has bad credit or lower income. However, it's important to consider the implications of this decision. Only the spouse on the mortgage will be legally responsible for the loan, and their credit will be primarily considered during the application process. This arrangement may limit the non-borrowing spouse's rights and protection in case of divorce or other legal matters. It's advisable to consult with a lawyer or financial advisor to understand the potential consequences and explore alternatives.
When you list with Orchard, we’ll get your home show-ready and make repairs to increase your home’s value at no upfront cost.
Orchard guarantees your home will sell, so you can buy your next one worry-free.
We provide peace of mind that your home will sell, plus list your home on the market to maximize your earnings.
Use our home sale calculator to estimate your net proceeds.
Our Home Advisors are experienced local agents who know how to sell for top dollar and help win your dream home.
All Orchard Home Advisors are experienced agents who know your local market inside and out. Request a consult today.
Did you know cash offers are 4x more likely to be chosen by a seller? Let us help you make one on your next home.
Get the most accurate free home valuation — in minutes
Orchard Home Loans shops the market to find your best rates.
A cash offer is 4x more likely to be chosen by a seller. Get qualified today.
Make a cash offer now, and Orchard will sell your old home after you move.
Tell us your must-haves to see personalized home recommendations that meet your criteria.