All the Single Ladies! Here’s How You Can Snag That Home of Your Dreams
Single women, rejoice! You can do it. And why shouldn’t you? The facts speak for themselves — women’s homeownership was over 61% in 2019. Compare that to 1990, when that number was just a little over 50%. Single women are 20% more likely to be first-time homeowners than men (11%). Setting aside the gender pay disparities and how daunting it can seem to buy a home in general, women are conquering this field.
If you’re a single woman, you might not know how others are doing it. After all, homes are expensive. And while you may love being single and free, you only have one income and one credit line. So, how can you be like that 20% of single women rocking it? Here are some steps you can take towards making it happen for yourself.
Check That Credit Report and Spruce it Up
Oh, that pesky credit report. Your mind and heart want to buy a place, but the credit bureaus tell you no. To combat that, be sure to check your credit report before you do anything else.
To obtain a free credit report, you can go to annualcreditreport.com, which lets you view a free report every 12 months. Other sites let you do it too, but this is the only site authorized by the FTC, while other websites might not be truly ‘free’.
The credit report will show all of your accounts — current and past, and note if you’ve ever been late on a payment. When you’re speaking to a mortgage lender, they will bring up any late payments. Even if your credit score is as high as can be, you might have to explain any line items such as one-off late payments. Be honest with them, as mistakes do happen.
When you’re looking through your credit report, you might also see something called “Adverse Accounts.” These consist of negative marks towards your account, be it late payments or collections. That old store credit card you forgot you had a small balance on could come back to haunt you or maybe there’s something on there you’ve never heard of in your life! No need to fear. Your credit report will include contact information to resolve those adverse marks. By going line by line to handle each collector or lender, you can beef up your credit for a mortgage.
Budget and Save
Unless you get lucky and a house falls from the sky, you’ll be paying a good chunk of change to buy one. And it’s not just the mortgage, either. You’ll have to pay for utilities, insurance, repairs, and other surprises. So, not only should you budget for the down payment, monthly mortgage payment, and utilities, but hold a reserve of money for unexpected expenses.
You will need to make a down payment on your home which does reduce how much your mortgage is. Your monthly payments and interest could be massive if you pay too little. However, if you pay too much, it can cost you a lot up front. There’s no right or wrong answer. It all depends on your personal situation. Are you a credit union member? Some offer low down payment loans for longtime members. Had a windfall recently? Then maybe 20% down will help you get into the market sooner, as prices continually rise.
A typical down payment is about 20%. So, say you want a home that costs $500K, then the ideal down payment would be $100K. Of course, many do not have a hundred thousand dollars sitting in their bank account. It can take a while to build up your savings, but it could be worth it. If you can’t wait, there are lower down payment options but you have to shop around for them. You won’t know until you try!
Pre-Approval and the House Hunting Process
Pre-approval means a lender informs you how much money you would be able to borrow. A pre-approval letter is essential when home shopping in this market. Having one in-hand will ensure that, when you do find a home you want to offer on, the seller can see you’re serious and can afford it. So connect with a lender, give some basic financial information, and they’ll tell you how much money you can borrow. If you’ve cleaned up your credit report as much as possible, you’ll be in the best position to qualify for the amount you can really afford — without adverse accounts holding you back.
House Hunting Time!
Now, you’re on the prowl for a new house. Your first course of action is to take to the Internet, like you’re doing now. Look at neighborhoods in the area you’re thinking about moving to — ideally, a community that’s affordable, safe, and fits with your lifestyle.
Do you want a neighborhood near nightlife? Something more quaint? A place to raise a kid? A little bit of everything? There’s a neighborhood for that. LA is a big place!
Once you’ve narrowed down your search to a handful of neighborhoods you’d like to live in, look at the houses for sale in that vicinity. Check the big home search apps and brokerage websites to see what houses are going for in your target areas.
The next step is to look for a real estate agent. Ah yes, the agent. Now, here’s where you need to tread carefully, as some agents are more experienced and helpful than others. Reading reviews for agents and looking at recommendations from friends and family is ideal. Speaking of which, you should bring your friends and family along for the ride. As a single woman, don’t let your independence get in the way of asking for some help. For example, your parents might be experience homeowners ready to share tips with you, while your bestie can keep it real about whether a home seems the right fit for you.
Now, It’s Time to Close (Or is it?)
Once your offer is accepted, it means that the home *could be* yours. But, think of it like a date. You want to make sure there are no red flags before putting a ring on it.
One way you can do this is to thoroughly read through the seller disclosures. Homeowners are obligated to disclose any issues about the home they are aware of. You can sort through and see if anything in the report is a dealbreaker for you. You’ll need to do the same with the inspection report. Most people ask for an inspection contingency in the purchase agreement. That means you’ll have the right to have a professional home inspector come in and check everything out. You can point out any safety issues that arise to the sellers and request they do repairs. This is another time for negotiation. However, in a very hot market, sellers may not be so willing to sink a lot of cost into a home they’ll no longer be living in. So just keep that in mind when you come back to the negotiation table. Think about what issues are truly alarming and which are minor, to be dealt with later.
Once your agent informs you the transaction is closed, they’ll get you your keys and you have your home! In this world, buying a home — especially if you’re single, can be a challenge. But you’ve overcome it and you deserve it!