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Could your best friend be the key to getting into the property market?

Struggling to get into the property market? You’re not alone. This article explains how co-ownership may be the key to help you achieve the “Great Australian Dream”. This is a non-biased piece that explores both the pros and cons for co-ownership.

As it seems that home ownership moves beyond many peoples’ reach, the option of co-ownership is seeing many Australians achieve their own Great Australian Dream.

Co-ownership refers to a single property owned by two or more parties. Geared towards people unable to purchase a property independently, it involves pooling resources with others in the same boat, and getting a foot on the property ladder.

Co-ownership has proven popular among:

  • first home buyers;
  • single parents;
  • single-person households;
  • households comprising multiple generations; and
  • those looking for a sense of community.

Intrigued?

Don’t start scrolling through your contacts list just yet. Consider these precautions first:

Legal structure

Property ownership in Australia is categorised two ways:

  • Tenants in common
    Two or more people own a share of a property. They may own different percentages of the property and may bequeath their share to anyone upon their death.
  • Joint tenants
    Two or more people own a property jointly and upon one person’s death the property ownership passes to the surviving owners.

A joint tenancy is the most common arrangement for couples, however is probably not the most appropriate arrangement if you’re embarking on a co-ownership arrangement.

You’ll need to be clear about these structures when seeking finance and purchasing your property.

Co-ownership agreement

You and your bestie may be 100% committed to a co-ownership arrangement, but circumstances change. If down the track one of you wants to sell and the other doesn’t, what then?

It’s only possible to partition ownership if the property can be divided – painting a line through each room doesn’t count.

Who is responsible if the property requires unplanned and/or expensive repairs? What happens in the event of unemployment, bankruptcy or death?

There are examples of co-owners settling disputes like these through litigation; a stressful and costly exercise easily avoided by a Co-ownership Agreement.

It’s vital to speak to a solicitor or property conveyancer for advice and guidance prior to making any co-ownership decisions.

Financials and other practicalities

Obviously you’ll discuss the amount you’ll each contribute to the deposit, mortgage, insurance, rates etc., but what about utilities and wi-fi? Will you have a joint bank account, a maintenance fund? Will you share food and living spaces?

Dual-occupancy properties resolve many of these issues, however it’s vital that all co-owners have a very clear understanding of their obligations, and their expectations of each other.

Again, a Co-ownership Agreement will cover these issues – and others – so that all parties are fully aware of the commitment they’re making.

The advantages

So far we’ve discussed the legals and financials, let’s now consider the benefits.

Co-ownership can:

  • provide access to the property market;
  • break the rent cycle (owner occupiers);
  • start a property portfolio (investors);
  • purchase a better home than you could afford alone;
  • purchase a fixer-upper and improve its value by pooling resources and skills; and
  • provide a community (think single parents sharing child-minding, etc.).

Co-ownership may be the solution you’re looking for; you may even find you qualify for a government first-home-buyer package!

However, there’s an old saying about the risk of mixing money and friendship. As with all financial decisions, risk can be minimised through professional advice and well-informed decision-making. Your solicitor and/or a property conveyancer will be best placed to answer all your questions.

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