Where women once only aspired to the role of being a homemaker, more single women are now homebuyers. In the early 1990s, single females outpaced single males in purchasing homes. By 1999, 20 percent of total home sales in the United States were to single women, twice the number of single males and that proportion remains nearly constant, now at 22 percent per the National Association of Realtors. A 2013 Pew survey showed women are the breadwinners in at least 40 percent of households with children; about two thirds of these breadwinners are single mothers. Those single women need to be more conscious of some choices they make in buying their homes.
- Buy a home that they can afford to maintain, live in a long time or for at least five years, and pay off for a low-cost place to live in retirement years.
- Buy a home based on figures other than the largest loan a lender will approve. Add in property taxes; homeowners insurance; private mortgage insurance; utility costs; garbage removal and lawn maintenance costs; and other debts like credit card and car payments to the principal and interest payments and closing costs on the loan to determine if the home is truly affordable for them. Leave enough money in the budget to be putting aside at least 10 percent of income in a retirement account, to pay into an emergency fund that could support at least 6 months of living, and for unexpected repairs. Remember to include moving costs.
- Shop around for mortgages checking rates with several lenders. Female head of households pay 40 basis points or almost 0.5 percent more on home mortgages than other loan applicants. Some of that can be related to income, credit score and other factors, but women may not be receiving all the loan options from lenders because of alleged less financial knowledge stereotyping.
- Require a home inspection before purchase and that the sellers repair what turns up on the inspection report. That can delay the typical 1 to 3 percent of the home’s value annual maintenance repair costs. Look for a home with low interior and exterior maintenance.
- Require the seller to pay for a home warranty to cover repairs on appliances and major systems.
- Investigate potential increases in community association dues if the property is a condo or in a planned community.
- Buy a home with safety features like monitored alarm systems, drive-in garages with interior home access or front doors visible from the street, solid exterior doors all with solid steel locking deadbolts that extend at least one inch into the door frame, high off the ground windows, and well-lit entries not hidden by shrubbery, trees, or rocks.
- Investigate neighborhoods at different hours of day and night, ask neighbors how safe they feel there, and get neighborhood crime statistics from the local police precinct. Check out the FBI’s sexual predators database for a list of any living close to the home.
- Buy a house with good resale potential to be able to move if the house is not working out or especially if a job transfer or change in circumstances like marriage or having children is a possibility. Consider a home with two master bedrooms in the event that a roommate may be needed to help with costs.
- Ask friends for recommendations for an excellent team of real estate professionals like an experienced real estate agent, mortgage broker, and home inspector, and interview a few before deciding on them.
- Educate themselves on real estate basics by taking a homebuyers class, browsing websites such as the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and reading books like:
- The Single Woman’s Guide to Buying a First Home by Vanessa Summers.
- Nolo’s Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home, by Ilona Bray, Alayna Schroeder, and Marcia Stewart, three women authors who address women buyers.
- Women Home Alone: Learning to Thrive- Help for Single Women, Single Moms, Widows, and Wives Who Are Frequently Alone by Patricia Houck Sprinkle.
Watch the attached video for insights into common things first-time homebuyers should know.