Home-buy couples 'show commitment'

Estate agent window More than a third of couples think buying a house together is a way of "showing they are committed" to each other, leaving them financially vulnerable should the relationship break down, new research shows.

One in seven (14%) thought buying a house with their partner was 'romantic', while one in five said they would buy a house with a partner they had been involved with for a year or less.

Despite the apparent enthusiasm among young couples to buy a shared home, nine in ten (89%) of those surveyed said they hadn't discussed who was entitled to what should the relationship break down.

And 36% of those polled said they were willing to show their commitment to their partner by buying a house together - leaving them financially vulnerable in the event of separation.

The research, which polled 1,500 people, was commissioned by law firm Slater & Gordon in response to an increase in people contacting them regarding cohabitation agreements to protect their assets should a relationship break down.

Amy Harris, a lawyer at Slater & Gordon, said: "Cohabitation agreements have been around for years but recently we have seen more couples coming to us and asking about how they work.

"Anecdotally we all know people who have lost huge amounts of money after a relationship went wrong because a property was involved and, as this research shows, many couples now view buying a house as a way of making a romantic commitment, not a serious financial commitment.

"It is more difficult than ever to get on the housing ladder and it makes sense that two salaries will put you in a better financial position with regards to what you can afford. But investing in a property together can leave you financially vulnerable if things do go wrong."

More than two thirds (67%) of people surveyed had never heard of cohabitation agreements, didn't realise they could protect the money they invested in a property, and didn't know how the equity of a property would be divided up if the relationship didn't work out.

Ms Harris added: "Many of the couples that are coming to us have seen their friend's hard-earned savings wiped out after buying a house with the wrong person. A break up is hard enough without losing your home and the tens of thousands of pounds you have spent on it."

The number of opposite sex cohabiting couple families has dramatically increased from 2.2 million in 2003 to 2.9 million in 2013, according to The Office for National Statistics.