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“…losing love
Is like a window in your heart
Everybody sees you’re blown apart
Everybody sees the wind blow”
~ Paul Simon, from Graceland

There’s nothing quite so heartening as representing home buyers or sellers when they’re IN LOVE with their new partner and the promise of a new life together. Everything is rosy. Any wonderful thing is possible. The happiness is contagious.

Yet as their agent, I need to stay cool and be vigilant. I need to watch that they don’t get carried away and do something that isn’t in their best interests – particularly if they are not married or planning to marry.

Like purchasing a cottage on Telegraph Hill with a sexy view but only one parking space when one partner has a commute to Silicon Valley and the other is often on call at Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital.

Like buying a Sunset house together before one partner’s San Francisco job offer is finalized.

Like paying cash for a loft in the Mission while ignoring how noisy the bar across the street is and the fact that both partners work NYSE hours.

Like – worst of all – not agreeing NOW (while the love is still strong) upon an exit strategy in case of a split.

Before, during and after closing, I remind couples to make a contingency plan for uncoupling. Just in case. Because things inevitably get ugly if there’s not a friendly agreement to fall back on.

You can’t count on common-law marriage statutes, as family law attorney and divorce mediator Amanda Singer writes in “Uncoupled: A Mediator’s Analysis” on ProVisors’ Thought Leadership blog. She recommends that aspiring-long-term yet unmarried couples put a Cohabitation Agreement in place.

Another way to plan for a worst-case scenario is to create a Tenancy in Common agreement regarding the co-owned real estate. At least you’ll be covered on what is probably your most expensive asset.

Bottom line: It’s up to YOU to make a commitment to safeguard your financial security and emotional wellbeing. Explore the “what ifs” with the help of a cool-headed professional advisor while you’re still mad for each other. Don’t wait until love is lost.

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Tsung

Author and RealEstateTherapy curator Cynthia Cummins has been devoted to homeowners and homebuyers for three decades and counting. Visit KindredSFhomes.com for more information on San Francisco real estate.