Single & House Hunting? How to Make a Successful Deal

Single women comprise nearly 20 percent of U.S. homebuyers. While a single income may pose a bit of a challenge to home ownership, it’s totally possible to purchase a home flying solo.

Assessing Finances Before You Buy

Scrutinize your finances closely to see if it’s feasible to purchase a home. Check your credit record — contact companies if you note errors — and pay down debt.

Analyze your current budget: How much do you spend monthly on housing, food, utilities, student loans, credit cards, car payment, car/health insurance, and incidental expenses? One expert recommends totaling those monthly costs and setting aside the difference between that amount and your current rent or mortgage payment. If it’s a struggle to maintain that budget, you might be better off waiting to buy. Use this mortgage calculator to start strategizing.

Finding the Right Mortgage

Remember to compare costs more than just rates. Lower rates often indicate a higher lender’s fee. FHA loans offer the lowest interest rates and have lower credit score requirements for first-time homebuyers. They require additional underwriting and documentation, but you only need 3.3 percent of the home’s purchase price for your down payment.

Certain conventional loans also offer low down payment options without private mortgage insurance (PMI) and may work for you if you’ve owned a home previously. If you’re a veteran, look into a VA loan. Are you considering rural living? Evaluate USDA loans. Single moms can also take advantage of a variety of programs as long as they have decent credit. Ask your realtor or broker about down payment assistance loans and grants that may be available through state and local homeownership programs.

Once you’ve prequalified for your mortgage, it’s time to start hunting! Experts recommend not searching for homes selling at the maximum amount for which you qualify. Factor in all homeownership expenses and figure that your debt-to-income ratio should hover at around 28 percent for housing and 32 percent for all liabilities combined. Research the prices of homes in your target area; homes in Dallas, TX have an average price of $219,000.

Finding the Perfect Home

In addition to finding and working with a real estate agent, use sites like Zillow and Trulia to narrow your options. Make a list of “must-haves.” You might need to be within 10 minutes of family or work. Perhaps you don’t want stairs or need at least two bathrooms.

Dream a little. What’s your wish list? All stainless-steel appliances or hardwood floors? A fenced-in yard or finished basement? Share the list with your realtor.

When you’ve found the home that’s perfect for your needs, hire a home inspector to identify potential issues that could turn into major headache and expense, like problems with roofing, mold, outdated electric or plumbing systems, or other structural issues.

What to Do with Mutually Owned Property When Couples Separate or Divorce

Couples who own property together have additional considerations if they split since a home is a major asset they share. Selling and sharing the profit often makes the most financial sense. Another option is refinancing the home in one person’s name if that person wants to keep it.

If you’re upside down on a mortgage and you owe more than the home’s value, you have a few other options. You can do a short sale, agree with your ex to rent, or continue to live together — while maintaining separate lives — until the housing market improves and you can avoid selling at a loss. Before you make any decision, talk to a financial advisor.

Ensure a Smooth Move

You’ve bought the house and moving day looms near. Hire professional movers instead of asking your friends and family to help. The pros are trained to handle your belongings carefully and lift heavy items without injuring themselves. Plus, the company will compensate you should damage occur during the move.

Go for It!

If you’re preparing to take the plunge and want to arm yourself with even more information, check to see if your state has a Housing Counseling Agency that offers homeownership classes covering topics like preventing foreclosure, home inspections, financing options, and more.

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