More than a quarter (27%) of those who bought a home and then split up claim they lost out as proceeds of the sale were not split fairly. Of those, seven in ten (72%) said that their partner received more than their fair share – or that they were not treated fairly. The rest (28%) admitted that they got more than they rightfully deserved.
In the event of a break-up, most people will be reliant on getting their property investment back to finance their future living arrangements. Indeed, 37% say that they had no personal savings whatsoever when they split up with their partner– rising to 46% for women.
Despite this, just 15% say they took out a deed of trust or cohabitation agreement to protect their share, and only 10% had a floating deed or commensurate share deed. Meanwhile, a mere 7% had a property break-up plan clarified as part of a prenuptial agreement.
This means that 68% are left vulnerable if they were to break up with their partner, especially if they put in a larger share of the deposit. A quarter (24%) say they paid the entire deposit and a further 43% said they didn’t split equally. If one partner has put more or all of the deposit, they are vulnerable to losing half that amount if the other partner has contributed to mortgage payments and with the average deposit for a first time buyer in the UK currently standing at £59,000*, this can amount to serious money.
Zoopla’s research reveals that most people are aware of what a huge commitment it is to buy a property with your partner. In fact, 85% of those who have done so claim it’s as big a commitment as marriage, and 62% even say it’s as big a commitment as having children. But there is a huge disconnect when it comes to partners protecting their individual investments.
Despite this, buyers simply are not protecting themselves, with 44% assuming that – because they went into the property 50/50 – they would automatically receive their fair share. But this isn’t the case – especially if marriage or kids are involved. Meanwhile, a third (35%) admitted they didn’t realise this was something they should have in place.
And, in typically British fashion, one in ten (10%) admitted tackling potential break-up conversations when buying a home was just too awkward to handle, saying it didn’t feel right however, couples should be prepared for this to happen.
It appears that many couples prefer to avoid talking about break-ups full stop. Among those who had no legal agreement in place, just 32% said they settled on an informal arrangement – but these don’t hold up in law.
Many people appear to be avoiding any kind of awkward conversation with their partner and aren’t asking each other the basic questions before taking the property plunge. Over a third (36%) had no idea what their partner’s salary was when they purchased a home together, 69% did not know what savings they had and, concerningly, 45% had no idea whether their partner was in any kind of debt.
Behavioural psychologist and author Jo Hemmings believes that it’s natural to want to avoid these conversations. But she’s calling on Brits – alongside Zoopla – to face the awkwardness and speak up: “Money is always an awkward conversation to have. However, couples often end up arguing about finances because they don’t have a clear plan. It’s important to separate your feelings in your relationship from sensible, personal financial planning.
“These conversations rarely happen unless you make a point of it, so schedule in a quiet time to have a transparent conversation about finances, such as who will pay for what and whether paying 50/50 is fair based on your earnings. And most importantly, what would happen with your stake in the property if you split up. Having made key decisions regarding your finances, you will be in a much better place to get on with all the lovely parts of your relationship. And you’ll be ahead of the game in couple goals, as you’re now much less likely to argue about money – the number one issue couples row about.”
Daniel Copley, consumer expert at Zoopla, commented: “Buying a home with your partner is incredibly exciting, but the reality is that break-ups do happen. It’s incredibly important that anyone making this commitment protects their investment. Otherwise, they potentially risk major financial losses in the future. People may assume they’ll come to an amicable agreement, but anyone who’s experienced a messy break-up will know that fairness and reason often go out of the window.
“If you are putting more into the deposit, you could be particularly at risk, as if your partner is contributing to mortgage payments, they could be entitled to half the home. Key conversations to have with your partner when buying a home are how you plan to split the deposit and mortgage (and ensuring this is reflected in proportion of ownership), if you’ll split maintenance costs in line with this, as well as other key finance questions such as if you have any debts.”
For couples navigating the complexities of buying together, Zoopla has teamed up with Jo Hemmings to create a guide on how to have those otherwise ‘awkward’ – but essential – conversations. The first part of the series has been published here for those considering buying together – or for those who already own together – Zoopla’s guide on buying covers key conversations to have and advice on how to protect your own share in a property.