For Richer or Poorer: How to Buy if Your Spouse Can't Qualify

Maybe your spouse made some bad investments. Or maybe they just weren’t that great with money when they were younger. Whatever the situation is, you’ve accepted it. For better or worse, richer or poorer, right? So what do you do about it now that you want to buy a house?

Can you buy a home when your spouse has bad credit?

The good news is that it's not impossible--the bad news is that it might be a little difficult. When your spouse has bad credit, it negatively affects you if you're applying as co-borrowers on a mortgage. It can have other impacts on your financial future together too, so the best thing you can do is immediately start working to get your spouse's credit up to par. 

Wait to apply for a mortgage 

Unless there’s a reason you need to own a house today, you can always wait and work to fix your spouse’s credit and debt-to-income ratio. The easiest way to do that is to focus on paying off credit cards and loans without racking up any more debt.

Apply by yourself

You can apply for a mortgage by yourself, even if your spouse’s name is also going to be title. If you do that, it’ll help if you have a joint bank account. That way you can count both of your savings even if your spouse isn’t a borrower.

Ask mom and dad to be a co-borrower

Your co-borrower doesn’t have to be your spouse, even if they’re going to be on the title. You could ask your parents to sign with you. When they do that, they’re promising to pay the mortgage payments if you default. It’s a lot to ask, so you might want to find out exactly how much house you can afford in case they ask.

What about community property states?

If you live in Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, or Wisconsin you live in a community property state. In these states, the law says that all property acquired after you're married is "community property" or in other words you own in jointly.  That means that your spouse has to sign all the documents and that they'll be legally responsible for the mortgage debt even if they're not listed as a co-borrower. The downside here is that your lender is going to look at your spouse's financial history and any debts against them may negatively affect your chances of getting a mortgage.