May 28, 2024
Mortgage

Juggling finances of marriage and home ownership


Planning a wedding and buying a home are two expensive milestones in adult life. Couples with both of these goals may wonder just how they’ll pay for it all.

While some couples may be fine keeping the wedding small (or skipping it altogether) in order to save for a house, others have their hearts set on something grander and will need to find a way to make the most of their budget.

When deciding whether to prioritize buying a house or having a wedding first, “the better financial decision is to save for a down payment” says Haley Sacks, a Brooklyn-based content creator known online as Mrs. Dow Jones. “A house is forever, and a wedding is one day.” Still, she concedes that the choices are emotional as well as practical.

By setting smart budgeting strategies and leveraging the wedding to support homebuying goals, couples can go after these dual dreams.

When planning for the big day, couples can start by refining their list of priorities to avoid getting starry-eyed and upsold on less important expenditures that can eat into their ability to save for a down payment on a house.

So if they’re foodies, for example, “they’re going to spend a large chunk of their budget to make sure guests have an amazing meal experience,” says Brittny Drye, founder and editor-in-chief of the wedding magazine Love Inc. in New York City. That means they may need to make serious concessions elsewhere.

Alvin Carlos, a certified financial planner and managing partner at District Capital Management in Washington, D.C., says that catering for 100 guests alone could easily cost $15,000. That’s nearly half of the median down payment on a single-family home or condo in the second quarter of 2023, according to Attom, a provider of real estate data.

For our foodie couple, flowers, music and other features might get a much smaller slice of the budget. But if they identified their priorities from the beginning, trading some of the wedding frills for an investment in a home wouldn’t feel like a big sacrifice.

Saving for a home takes time. But depending on factors like the type of mortgage, desired monthly payment and the location of the home, couples may be closer to an adequate down payment than they think.

For example, buyers can purchase a house with less than 20% down, though they’ll have to pay mortgage insurance and may have a higher rate. In fact, from July 2022 to June 2023, the typical down payment was 8% for first-time buyers and 19% for repeat buyers, according to the National Association of Realtors. Qualified borrowers can put down as little as 3% of the purchase price for conventional mortgages.

Your home shopping budget will be determined by the monthly mortgage payment you can comfortably afford. Remember to factor in costs like property taxes, mortgage insurance and the general expenses of maintaining a home. Housing expenses ideally shouldn’t exceed 28% of a buyer’s pre-tax income, while all combined debts (including housing) shouldn’t go above 36%.

“When saving for a house down payment, you want to be almost militaristic about it,” Carlos says. Once a couple has determined how much they can save for their goals each month, he recommends that they open a joint high-yield savings account and automate transfers from their checking accounts.

High-yield savings accounts earn higher-than-average interest on deposits and are typically offered by online banks that don’t bear the same expenses as brick-and-mortar lenders.

According to an October survey by The Knot and Zillow Home Loans, the share of couples including “home funds” on their wedding registry has increased by 55% since 2018. Nearly 20% of couples currently registered through The Knot ask for down payment assistance.

“Don’t let the fear of being tacky hold you back,” says Michelle Martinez, host of The Big Wedding Planning Podcast in El Dorado Hills, California. “Be practical. You can totally crowdfund.” She points to sites like Honeyfund, a platform for creating customized registries for financial gifts. Beyond the “home down payment” option (with a recommended contribution of $150), couples can also register for more specific home needs like “appliance fund” ($100) or “paint fund” ($25).

Planning a wedding and buying a home are among the first major financial goals that many partners will set together. By collaborating on priorities and savings strategies, couples can work toward their new financial happily-ever-after.



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