Buying a home together can be a quick, one-way trip to the divorce courts, if you're not careful. If, however, you go about the process the right way, it can strengthen the relationship, says Maranu Gascoigne, real estate agent at Tremains in Napier, who is also a psychotherapist.

Gascoigne advises buyers who aren't on the same page to run through an exercise that encourages them to work as a team.

She often gets real estate clients to sit at their dining table with a big sheet of paper, visualise what they want in a home, and each write down the three top requirements they cannot live without.

Then they need to whittle that down between them to a list of three. The other points become nice-to-haves.

Advertisement

"What they are learning in the relationship is the art of compromise," she says.

Couples failing to work as a team is an issue that Harcourts agent John Diprose sees at times in his patch of Greenhithe.

Diprose, a registered psychologist who worked for the armed forces and police, sells high-value coastal property.

One of the most important things to do when house hunting as a couple is to listen to each other, says Diprose. Many couples don't. "Before you go out, discuss and agree on the important things," he says.

The process can help a couple rediscover each other if they work as a team, says Gascoigne.

House hunting in harmony does take effort. Work out how many properties you're going to view in a morning, says Gascoigne. Take notes. Then have lunch out together and review the notes.

If the family has children, get them involved at some point, says Gascoigne. She often suggests getting the children to draw a picture of their ideal home.

Both Diprose and Gascoigne recommend having a conversation around money before hitting the house hunting trail.

"It's common for people to think they either have more or less money to spend than they actually do, depending on the individual."

We have all got baggage around money, says Gascoigne.

They both say to visit a mortgage broker early in the process to find out what you can really afford to pay. Make sure you've discussed all eventualities as well. "If you are buying before you have sold, make sure you have properly arranged bridging finance," Diprose adds. "If not, conflict can occur."

Being on the same page and knowing how much you can spend is really important in the case of auctions.

If a couple has lost more than one auction because they can't agree on money or other factors, they can start bickering.

"People have to have the belief there is another property out there for them and they have to create fun (around the process of house hunting)," says Gascoigne.

She says it's also important for the couple to stay healthy during the process. It's too easy to let stress and anxiety take over.

Diprose has seen cases where older couples aren't on the same page about selling up and buying into a retirement village, which can be an issue.

"Often one wants to move and the other wants to go out (of the existing home) in a box. But they are not able to look after themselves."

In this instance it is often a good idea to get the family involved.