The old song goes, 'first comes love and then comes marriage,' but today, you could change that to 'first comes love, then comes a mortgage.'

  1200 WOAI's Michael Board reports that a new study shows that fully one quarter of young couples are buying a home before tying the knot.

  "I have a lot of first time home buyers," local Realtor Danny Charbel says.  "I've even got a couple of young kids who are buying a second home, selling a previous one, before they're married."

  The trend is part of a greater trend which is redefining a relationship and, in many cases, that relationship doesn't include actual marriage.  It seems at a time when gay couples are demandign to be married, straight couples are demanding the right not to be married.

  The survey shows fully one quarter of young, and even not so young, couples will buy homes jointly before they get married, and many of those couples have no intention of ever being married.

  Charbel says one reason why the trend is exploding now is now interest rates.  He says the rates are just as low for unmarried couples as they are for married ones.

  "I think this is a generational thing, and I think it's low interest rates."

  The survey shows fully one half of all American woman say they have lived with a man in a committed, full time relationship without being married or engaged to be married.  That is up from barly one third in 1995.

  The survey says in many cases their first home has replace dthe 'engagement ring' as a symbol of a relationship which is solid even without a marriage license.

  "I had a couple that was dating for four years and was planning to get married, but they decided to buy a house before they got married, becasue they wanted to take advantage of low itnerest rates," Charbel said.

  The survey says in many cases, the act of shopping for a home and going through all of the challenges of qualifying for a mortgage are a 'baptism by fire' for a young couple.  It forces them to see whether their goals and their attitudes toward life are similar, and, in many cases, it forces one of the partners to own up to the other's less than perfect finances, all of which could serve to either cement a relationship, or make the couple decide to go their separate ways.