Married Couples Buying A House Under One Name: A Guide

5 Min Read
Updated March 3, 2024
FACT-CHECKED
Written By
Victoria Araj
Line of old brick apartments in New York.

If you’re married or planning to tie the knot and are thinking of buying a house, you’d usually combine your income and credit scores when applying for a mortgage. But you may be wondering if you can buy a house with only one partner’s name on the mortgage.

The short answer is yes. A married couple can apply for a mortgage under only one name. If you’re planning to get a mortgage without your spouse or wondering why a couple would consider this approach, we’ve got answers.

Why Would A Married Couple Buy A House Under Only One Name?

You may decide to leave your spouse off the mortgage for several reasons. Let’s take a look at a few.

One Spouse Has A Low Credit Score

When you buy a house with someone else, mortgage lenders typically use the average credit score of both borrowers.

For example, let’s say you’re applying for a conventional loan. If you have a 700 credit score and your partner has a 500 credit score, the average credit score will be 600. Because conventional loans generally require a 620 credit score to qualify, you may leave your spouse off the mortgage because your combined average puts you below the qualifying 620 credit score mark.

One Spouse Is Carrying A Lot Of Debt

To help determine whether you qualify for a mortgage, a lender will look at your debt-to-income ratio (DTI), the percentage of your gross monthly income dedicated to your fixed monthly debt. DTI can have a huge impact on a home loan. If one spouse has a lot of debt, you may leave them off the mortgage to decrease the DTI.

One Spouse’s Income Doesn’t Meet Requirements

Lenders will need proof of income from both borrowers. Many lenders use the 2/2/2 rule to evaluate loan eligibility, which typically requires:

If your spouse is self-employed, they may need 2 years of business returns or 1 year of W-2s from previous work in a similar field. Leaving your spouse off the loan if they can’t produce this documentation may make sense for you.

One Spouse Wants To Simplify Estate Planning

If you want to leave your house to someone besides your spouse, such as children from a previous marriage, buying a house in your name can simplify the estate planning process. This is especially important if you live in a community property state where all assets and debt belong to both spouses. Right now, there are nine community property states in the U.S.:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Idaho
  • Louisiana
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

See What You Qualify For

Can You Buy A House Without Your Spouse? Things To Consider

So if you’re the only one on the mortgage, you may be thinking that you shouldn’t have any problem getting a mortgage. Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple. Here are a few things to know if you’re getting a mortgage without your spouse.

You May Qualify For A Smaller Loan With One Income

If you’re part of a two-income household, getting a mortgage together usually means you can qualify for a larger home loan. However, if your spouse isn’t on the loan with you, your lender won’t consider your spouse’s income when determining how much you’ll qualify for. You may have to buy a home with a smaller loan.

The exception would be a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) loan, which considers the income of all household members for loan qualification, whether or not they’re on the loan. To meet the loan’s income eligibility requirement, your combined household income must fall within a certain percentage of the area median income where you’re buying a property.

Your Spouse’s Debts May Still Affect Mortgage Qualification

If the home you want to purchase is in a community property state and you’re applying for a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) or Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) loan, your debt and your spouse’s debt will be taken into consideration, even if only one spouse is on the mortgage.

You May Also Want To Keep Your Spouse’s Name Off The Title

If you live in a common-law state, you can leave your spouse’s name off the house title. A title and a mortgage are different aspects of homeownership. The name on the title proves who owns the property, and the name on the mortgage represents who’s responsible for paying back the loan.

Some spouses don’t include their partner’s name on the house title to keep their finances separate, personally manage their life estate or protect their home from creditors because their spouse has a poor credit history.

Married Couples Buying A House Under One Name FAQs

As you can see, there’s plenty to think about when buying property without your spouse, and you may still have more questions. You can find the answers to a few of the most common questions on this topic below.

Can I be on the mortgage and add my spouse to the title?

Yes, having both your names on the house title won’t affect your mortgage or who’s responsible for paying it. The person with their name on the mortgage is solely responsible for the loan. However, in a common-law state, when one partner dies, their spouse may become legally responsible for all their debt.

Can I add my spouse’s name to the title at a later time?

You can use a quitclaim deed to add your spouse’s name later. A quitclaim deed transfers property between individuals and is typically used to pass ownership to family members, add a spouse to a title or remove them after a divorce.

Can I use a joint bank account for a mortgage if my spouse isn’t on the loan?

It isn’t a problem if you use your income to qualify for a mortgage – but you and your spouse share a joint bank account. It won’t affect your ability to pay your monthly mortgage payment from the joint account as long as both of you can legally access the funds and your name is on the account.

The Bottom Line

Leaving your spouse’s name off of your mortgage or title is not a reflection of the quality of your marriage, and in many cases it can be the best choice for both of you to get the house you both want. It could also ensure that you get the best home loan terms.

Even if you’re not sure if both you and your spouse will be on the mortgage, by see your options so you can make the best financial decision.

Take the first step toward buying a house.

Get approved to see what you qualify for.

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