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Buying real estate as a couple

Access to property is a life goal for many of us. Investing your money in bricks and mortar has many benefits, the most important one being that it is a safe and profitable investment. In addition to sharing costs, buying a home together is also an opportunity to bring couples closer and enhance a relationship through the acquisition of a luxurious property.

As future buyers, today’s modern couples require an understanding of the different options available to them, depending on their status. Married, in a civil partnership or simply cohabiting, each status has a secure legal structure through which the purchase can be made confidently and without obstacles or difficulties.

The community of property

Married couples under this scheme are split into two categories. ‘The partnership of acquests’ is the default matrimonial scheme in France. Any property acquired after a marriage, from the most basic housing to luxurious real estate, is considered the couple’s shared asset. ‘The universal community’ option groups all property of the spouses under a single asset. Therefore, even personal inheritances are to be included.

Under this specific scheme, the division of ownership will be totally equal, each individual owning half the housing. If a loan is needed, it will be repaid by the couple's common financial resources.

In the event of a divorce, common goods are sold off, and the housing properties put back in the market to be sold. The takings are then divided into two equal parts. If there is an agreement, the former spouses can keep the property under the joint possession scheme. Finally, an allowance called ‘monetary compensation’ will be paid if one of the party wishes to keep the property.
If one of the contractors dies, the other one can benefit from free accommodation for one year if the relevant property is their principal residence. Then, children from this union will recover, depending on the chosen option, either ¾ of the property, thereby generating a joint ownership scheme, or the bare ownership of housing while the spouse still alive will retain the usufruct.

Buying an apartment under the ‘joint possession’ scheme

Cohabitants, whether they are civil partners or married under the ‘separation of property’ scheme, do not legally have common property. Joint possession makes it possible to buy a property for two without going through the community of property. If this is the case, every individual is the owner of their personal investments.

The amount of financial contribution determines the share of each cohabiting partner. If one of them has to borrow money, they will do it individually and will therefore be solely responsible for the repayment.

Joint possession requires a bilateral agreement, which means that if one of the parties wishes to move on, the second can not oppose it. The drafting of a joint possession agreement with a notary is therefore recommended to guard against unforeseen circumstances. It allows the establishment of the terms in case of death or separation and therefore protects cohabitants from an intervention by the high court, which in the case of a disagreement between parties, may require the sale of the property.

The joint possession scheme does not provide for any rights for the survivor. The rights of the descendants prevail and they therefore take place within the joint possession. The drafting of a will, leaving for example the enjoyment of usufruct to the spouse, avoids ambiguous situations and the usual sources of conflict.

- Acheter un appartement à deux

Acquire property in the form of an SCI (Civil Real Estate Company)

SCI is a contract that establishes ownership of the property by a corporation. The couple then receives shares proportional to their financial contribution.

This legal means requires the drafting of contracts, which are sometimes very wordy, but are essential to clarify each party’s position and rights in case of separation. One of the partners can then buy the shares to become the owner, or the SCI is dissolved and the property sold.

In the event of death, the descendants receive the shares of their beneficiary. However, a possible authorisation clause gives the spouse who is still alive the option of keeping the property, provided that the shares are bought back. Moreover, the dismemberment of the property ownership allows them to gain full control of the property while retaining half of the usufruct. Therefore, they can enjoy it without the descendants being able to intervene.

Investing in housing under the ‘tontine’ scheme

For cohabiting couples, the ‘tontine’ is the legal scheme that best protects them as buyers. If one of the individuals dies, the second gains full possession of the premises, regardless of the amount of the initial investment.

However, this lever can be used because it presents a tax disadvantage. In fact, the surviving spouse will have to pay inheritance tax.

Furthermore, in case of separation and without an agreement on the repurchase of the shares or the equal sale of the property, the situation can not be brought to justice and only the death of one of the two parties can resolve any dispute.

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