The information in this answer provided by Attorney Ranj Mohip is general information and is not intended as legal advice, nor does the attorney intend to create an attorney-client relationship with any reader by answering this question or otherwise contributing as a member of Trulia.com.
Thank you for your question.
It is totally possible for you and another couple to purchase a building together.
You will have to wait until you own it, however, to divide it into two PIN numbers - if that is what you truly want, two condos in a building with an association rather than a 2-unit, multi-unit building.
Have you discussed your plan with a real estate agent and/or a real estate attorney?
Best bet is to start there.
You cannot cause any change to a building/property prior to ownership, it's in your purchase agreement. You can however, do whatever you want after you close.
Two schools of thought: a) create a partnership or b) convert to condos. The former is an easier route and may have some tax benefits, the latter is longer & may be arduous and more expensive, but may have financial benefits in the end.
The benefits will depend on location, condition, pricing, etc... Ask yourself how long do you see yourself staying there and what do you plan to do to upgrade the premise that will justify a better ROI?
Good luck whichever route you follow!
You could own the building in a partnership and have an agreement, preferably written with the help of an attorney, to have common rights. The problem with this arrangement is that either both of you decide to sell or you cannot sell it. There are no buyers out there who would want to get into a "partnership" for a multi-unit building.
The best way to do it, and the most expensive, is to convert the two-flat into condos and then each of you would have full rights over your unit. I have attorneys who specialize in condo conversions and they range from $5,000 to $10,000. When my buyers have done that, they realized quite a handsome profit. Of course, if you buy a multi-unit at a good price, and then convert it, you may sell each condo at a higher price than you could sell a two-flat any time of the year.
I would use a competent Agent and an Attorney. Nothing ruins a friendship faster than unwritten contracts and fuzzy arrangements involving large amounts of money. I've been there before; you better take all the necessary steps or you may end up in trouble. A good Agent will defend your interests and force everyone to do their due diligence. We real estate Agents make it look easy, but there are a lot of ducks that need to be in a row before you buy and are happy with your purchase.
Americorp Real Estate
Having said that, have an attorney draw up a partnership agreement. Realistically this is your best option. I have a couple attorneys listed on my website who have experience in such matters.
If you divide the building, you are essentially creating two condos. The days of flipping a 2 flat condo are over. You won't be doing yourself any favors in many ways. These would include maintenance, property taxes and resale. If you are that worried about liability or issues between parties, you are buying the building with the wrong partner.
It will be much more cost effective and practical to buy the building and create a partnership or LLC that addresses the ownership responsibilities and the most important aspect of all, how to have one party exit the agreement.
The negatives to trying to convert the building to a condominium, both present and future, far outweigh any benefit.
The partnership is the way to go.
My perspective as a Realtor working in the current market environment.
Find a good attorney and work out a fair agreement.