Editor's Note: As published in The Washington Blade
Can I buying a home with a friend or partner? While it may not be your first thought, the answer is “yes.” Property can be purchased by a variety of different buyers—an individual, a business entity, a married couple, and even friends or partners who are not married.
When non-married people purchase real property together — from a title perspective — the big question you have to plan for is “what happens if one of the owner’s dies?” Do the co-owners want their heirs to inherit the property? Do the co-owners want to ensure that the surviving owner inherits the property? When purchasing with a friend or partner, co-owners should have this discussion before settlement and let the title company handling the transaction know how they would like to hold title to the property so that in the event one of you passes your wishes for the property are carried out.
To that end, there are several ways that you can hold title.
Tenants by the Entirety: You can only take title as tenants by the entirety if you are in a marriage that is recognized by your state. If one spouse dies the other spouse automatically retains the interest in the property. There is no need to probate the will to make this happen.
Joint Tenants with the Right of Survivorship: This is similar to tenants by the entirety in that the surviving owner(s) receives the ownership rights of the owner that died. You can take title this way with more than two people. Each person’s interest in the property reverts to the surviving owner(s) until there is one person who holds 100 percent. Even if there is a will that names an heir, the interest in the property goes to the surviving owner(s). If you want to make sure that the person you own the property with retains your interest in the property upon your death, this is the way to hold title.
Tenants in Common: If you take title as tenants by the entirety each person owes a percentage of the property. The percentages do not have to be equal and you can have as many co-owners as you wish. If a co-owner dies his percentage of the property goes to his heirs not the co-owners. If you want to make sure that your heirs receive your interest in the property upon your death this is the way to hold title.
Limited Liability Company (LLC): If you and a friend are purchasing property as an investment to do a rehab and then re-sell or to hold as a rental, you may want to take title as an entity. The easiest entity to form and maintain is an LLC. The amount of liability protection varies by state. The LLC can have as many members as you wish with each holding a percentage of the LLC. The percentages do not need to be equal. The LLC’s Operating Agreement should outline what happens if a member wants to sell his percentage of the LLC or if a member dies. But remember, when you take title as an entity you do not personally own the property. The entity does, this is why taking title this way may be best for investment properties and not your principal residence.
Having a conversation before you take title to a property is very important. This does not preclude you from having other written agreements in place like, a cohabitation agreement, prenuptial agreement, a will, or business partnership agreement. Discussion before can avoid tough conversations later.
Sherri Anne Green is an award-winning Realtor with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. Focusing on custom, data-driven marketing and client service, she provides impeccable service tailored to her clients’ unique situation. Reach her at 202-798-1288, firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook or on Instagram.
Deirdre P. Brown, J.D. is a settlement agent with Dupont Title Group, LLC. Reach her via CloseWithDee.com.