There was once a point in time when a single woman buying a home was unthinkable, and women sometimes would even face discrimination if they showed up at an open house without a mate. Today’s first-time homebuyer challenges for single women include uphill battles to prove credit-worthiness after a divorce or getting the same deal as a single male who, because of widespread pay inequalities, is paid more, thus opening him up to access to better loans.
Despite these challenges, today’s single woman is empowered and investing in her own slice of the American dream. A recent survey by the National Association of Realtors reflects that single women comprised more of the homebuyers’ group in 2016 than in recent years. According to the NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Seller Survey findings, married couples still make up a large share, however, single females represented 17% of total purchases of homes, the highest rate since 2011.
If you’re hoping to buy a home and have decided not to wait for marriage, here are three steps to get you started on the right track:
1. Get to know your options and what you can feasibly afford.
This is usually done in the pre-qualification process. According to Realtor.com’s Craig Donofrio, pre-qualification gives you a sense of “how much house you can afford,” and it’s a conversation you have with a loan officer about your current financial picture. Don’t be afraid to explore this. You won’t know what’s feasible if you don’t actually take the step to talk to someone. Don’t let hang-ups about being single stop you from exploring what it will take to buy a home. Also, if you’re not yet in the position to buy, you can create a plan, based on information from your conversation, to become ready to buy.
2. Invest time in courses, first-time buyer programs, and support groups.
Many financial institutions, nonprofits, and local government offices offer free resources for prospective homebuyers to learn more about the process, prep themselves for being attractive candidates for loans, or help them through the process with moral and informational support. It can be as simple as conducting a Google search for “homeownership classes,” and you’ll find many local resources based on your location. Also, if you’re already banking with an institution, tap into their free resources by meeting with a representative to find out about local events and panels on the subject. Oftentimes there are grants, down-payment assistance, and other tailored resources specific to first-time homebuyers who complete courses and programs.
3. Save, save, and save some more.
As a single woman applying for loans or seeking ways to finance your home, it can be challenging when there’s only one income and one person’s assets to consider. Experts have touted the benefits of having more money to put toward a down payment, from easier approval experience to lower interest rates, and even if you decide not to use that full “Dream Home Fund” for the down payment, you’ll definitely be glad to have funds to cover expenses such as mortgage insurance, home inspections, cash reserves (which some lenders require), and moving expenses. Be deliberate in saving up as much as you can.