If you're married, you know it's usually common for spouses to share the same bank accounts and even loans—but that doesn't always have to be the case. If your spouse has credit problems, for example, you might prefer to not have them listed on the mortgage, and instead opt for listing them on the title to the house.
Depending on where you live and what type of loan you get, this might be easier or more difficult to do. In most states, your spouse doesn't need to be listed on the mortgage. However, if you're using an FHA loan to buy a house in one of the nine community property states, for example, your spouse's debts will still impact your ability to get a mortgage by yourself, even if they won't be listed on the loan. Learn more about how this works.
- You can generally get a mortgage by yourself, and list both you and your spouse on the title.
- You may not qualify for as large of a loan if you don't list your spouse (and their income) on your mortgage application.
- Some types of mortgages may still take your non-borrowing spouse's finances into consideration, even if they won't be on the loan.
Do Both Spouses Need To Be on the Mortgage?
There is no law that says both spouses need to be listed on a mortgage. If your spouse isn't a co-borrower on your mortgage application, then your lender generally won't include their details when qualifying you for a loan. Depending on your spouse's situation, this could be a good thing or a bad thing.
If you live in a community property state (one in which everything you own belongs equally to your spouse) and want to apply for a VA loan, your lender will still consider your spouse's credit, debt, and income when deciding whether to approve you for a loan, even if your spouse won't be listed. This is also true for FHA loans, except your lender can't deny you for your spouse's credit history, even if they do look at it.
Pros and Cons of Having Only One Spouse on a Mortgage
You are allowed to take out a mortgage in your name alone. However, you need to be aware that this has ripple effects for both you and your spouse. Here's what to consider.
It's simpler to part ways if you divorce.
The credit hit is limited if you default on the mortgage.
You can get better mortgage terms if one spouse has challenges.
Your spouse won't build credit.
You may not qualify for as big of a loan.
It may be harder to qualify for a mortgage if you have a lot of debt.
- It's simpler to part ways if you divorce: If you think divorce is likely, then having only one spouse on the mortgage simplifies things if you do officially split up.
- The credit hit is limited if you default on the mortgage: No one plans to pay late or foreclose on a home, but if it happens, it'll only hurt one spouse's credit.
- You can get better mortgage terms if one spouse has challenges: If one spouse has poor credit and/or a lot of debt, this can hamper your ability to get a good mortgage.
- Your spouse won't build credit: Having a mortgage on your credit report is a good way to build credit with a lengthy history of on-time payments.
- You may not qualify for as large of a loan: If your spouse has income but won't be listed on the mortgage, the lender can't use their income to qualify you for a larger loan.
- It may be harder to qualify for a mortgage if you have a lot of debt: Without your spouse's income, your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio may be too high to get a mortgage.
Does Your Spouse Need To Be on the Title?
You can take out a mortgage without your spouse, but things get a little trickier as to whether or not they have to be listed on the title, too. Ultimately, it depends on where you live and whether it’s a common-law state or a community property state.
How Do Mortgages Work In Common-Law States?
Most states in the U.S. are common-law states, where you're allowed to keep property separate from your spouse. In this case, you do not need to list your spouse on the title if you don't want to, and they aren't assumed to be owners of the house. It's yours alone if you want it.
How Do Mortgages Work in Community Property States?
Things work a bit differently in community property states, which include:
- New Mexico
In Alaska, you can opt into community property laws if you want, but it's not required.
In community property states, anything you buy while you're married also belongs equally to your spouse, even if they're not officially listed on the title. This can make it hard for a lender to collect on the loan in case you default, because someone who isn't listed on the loan (your spouse) still technically owns half the property. You can't split it in half with a chainsaw and give your piece back to the bank.
For this reason, many lenders require a non-borrowing spouse in community property states to either intentionally sign away their property rights, or at least sign a document allowing the lender to repossess the property in case the spouse who is borrowing defaults on the loan.
The Bottom Line
If you're thinking about buying a home without your spouse, it's a good idea to chat with a reputable mortgage lender. They'll be able to answer all your questions about what requirements and considerations there are for your situation and location.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do I add or remove a spouse from a mortgage?
The only way to change the names listed on a mortgage is to refinance in the new borrowers’ names. If you divorce, for example, you'll need to meet the qualifications to refinance the house in your name alone. If you want to add someone to your mortgage, you'll both need to jointly qualify to refinance the mortgage.
Why does a spouse who isn’t borrowing still have to sign the mortgage?
In community property states, anything your spouse buys while you're married (including a house) is automatically jointly owned. That's a problem for lenders if they ever need to repossess the house, because the non-borrowing spouse still owns it. One way lenders get around this is by requiring the non-borrowing spouse to either sign the loan guaranty, or sign away their property rights.
What happens if only one spouse is on the title and they pass away?
The laws here can get very complex depending on where you live, when the house was purchased, whether your spouse had a will or not, whether you live in the home or not, and more. If this might happen to you, it's a good idea to know how estate planning for property works so you can make sure you're protected.