Of course, what I’m going to say certainly depends on your area, home prices, values, etc. My concern about townhomes and condos is always resale value (obviously, this advice would differ for someone who lives in, say, NYC – where houses are basically non-existent).
I mean – a condo is basically an apartment you own. If anything goes wrong, it’s still your responsibility to fix it – not to mention your neighbors are still very close by. I did my time in apartment living, and I lived in the best one in the area. You still would not believe some of the people who passed in and out. And, at least in my area, condos tend to be much more expensive than houses – presumably because older people tend to go for them more (wanting ownership of their own place – but not having to do things like mow the lawn).
Are you settled in your area? Do you see yourselves moving in the near future (next 5 years)? If that’s the case, I’d say definitely rent first. Do either of you live on your own, or…?
My next statements also depend on the type of house you want. In my immediate area, it’s a great market for buyers (my 1500 sq. ft, 3 bedroom, 2 bath house was about $75k). The typical 3 bedroom, 1.5 – 2 bath house can go anywhere from $50k to $150k in my neck of the woods.
We were living in an apartment with prices comparable to some townhouses around here…even with a 20 year mortgage and insurance, we’re paying slightly less than we were in rent every month.
As for “married first” or not…
We started looking when we were engaged, and only he was preapproved. After we got married, we could’ve added me into the whole process, but decided not to. We’re going to add me to the house deed later on. We just saw it as more hassle and potential trouble adding me and my finances to the mix in the middle of the whole thing.
Basically, you just need to call your titling company and ask about the steps to take afterward to add you to the deed (and then, later on, to the mortgage). Usually, this is in the form of a quit claim deed or warranty deed (it’s called different things in different states).
I’ve heard most people say it’s up to a few hundred dollars. We haven’t started the process yet, but need to.