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I do, and they don’t; what to do when conflict arises while buying or selling property with your partner.

Selling or buying a home is hard enough, but there’s another layer of complexity while trying to navigate the process as a couple.

Selling or buying a home is hard enough as an individual, but there’s another layer of complexity while trying to navigate the process as a couple. In fact, a number of recent overseas studies revealed many people consider selling and buying a property more stressful than being made redundant, getting divorced or going bankrupt.

Many relationship experts agree it can be one of the biggest stressors a couple can face, including Equal Exes founder and CEO Bridgette Jackson. She says a number of issues can affect a partnership, including disagreement over which real estate agent to pick, and conflict over how much to sell your property for.

“Right at the moment, people’s homes are not worth as much as they were in the past, and obviously it's very difficult for people in terms of their memories and an emotional attachment.”

“So valuing differently is a big one.”

Jackson says another bone of contention can stem from deciding how much to spend on renovations before listing your home.

“What I see a lot is one person taking the lead on what needs to be done, and they can begin to feel resentful because the other party is not pulling their weight. Then there’s also the argument about how much money to spend.”

When it comes to buying, Jackson says financial and emotional stressors weigh heavily on couples. It’s pressure that is further compounded by poor communication.

“It's important there's transparency, and you both understand each other's circumstances. So dealing with the elephants in the room, really.”

Complications can also arise if one person contributes more towards the house deposit, or mortgage repayments.

Jackson says there are a few simple things that can be done to help smooth over any conflict that arises when you’re buying or selling.

1 - Communicate early

Jackson says it's extremely important to have frank and open conversations early in the buying and selling process. That includes asking hard questions about your relationship, and what you want from your home and living arrangements.

“Asking things like what is the house going to look like? What are we going to spend? Will we be entertaining people and what are our lives going to look like after 5, 10 or even 20 years?”

“These questions aren’t about creating doubts in your head about whether you're in the right relationship, it's about moving forward and how you can work as a partnership.”

Jackson developed 60 questions to ask your future spouse before getting into a relationship, and says the ones that address finances, parenting and dependents are also useful when navigating the property market together.

2 - Communicate cleanly

Jackson says being able to communicate and share emotions is vital, and it’s important to do it in a way that makes your partner feel heard and understood.

“People exhibit good communication when they pay attention and listen, ask questions, validate their partners thoughts and feelings through acknowledgement, and avoid raising their voice, using insults or acting in a passive aggressive way.”

**3 - Make a spreadsheet **

Jackson says avoiding conflict can be as easy as making a spreadsheet to break down all the costs associated with buying or selling. This could include what the costs are, and who is doing what, and when.

“You can collectively agree on pricing once you’ve gathered two or three quotes. That can really help to avoid unnecessary arguments and stress.”

4 - Scenario planning

New homes have a way of changing life’s routines, and there’s often no way to know how until you’re in them. Jackson says one way to avoid conflict down the track, is to scenario plan with your spouse.

“Asking questions like how do we feel about taking care of a massive lawn, or that hilltop house is gorgeous, but what about carrying the groceries up three levels of stairs?”.

Scenario building around a slow sale process, or what your options are if your home doesn't sell are also important.

5 - Decide on your ownership structure

If you’re buying a home with your partner, Jackson says it’s important to consider the ownership structure of the property, especially if one person is contributing more towards the deposit or mortgage repayments.

Joint tenancy, gives both parties an equal stake in the property. Tenancy in common gives each owner a distinct share in the property, which is divided however they request and caters to differing levels of contribution.

A Property Sharing Agreement is a document that’s commonly signed up at the same time as purchasing your property as Tenants in Common, and details which parties are going to pay for what outgoings, expenses and maintenance.

“All too often it is very difficult for parties to agree on what is fair further down the track, once a dispute has arisen.”

6 - Get a pre or post nup

Jackson says a prenup doesn’t mean someone doesn’t trust their partner. Instead, it means they’re invested in long-term success.

“Contracting out agreements, sometimes called Section 21 agreements or ‘prenups’ and ‘postnups’, are legal agreements drawn up to account for changes that someone cannot foresee or anticipate.”

A prenup allows partners entering a marriage to negotiate the division of assets and debt in the event of separation or death. A postnup is the same thing for those who are already married, or in a de-facto or civil union.

Jackson says both can provide:

● Asset protection

● Financial fairness

● Confidence and independence

7 - Get help

Lastly, Jackson says if you reach an impasse, it might be time to call in the experts, and sooner rather than later.

“Get that advice, whether that's from a mortgage broker, accountant, financial advisor, a really good real estate agent or even a couples counselor and psychologist.”

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