Single mothers face a number of challenges when trying to buy a house as single parents. With a single income, raising children on your own, and making sure the bills are paid all seem like daunting obstacles to achieving the goal of homeownership. But with loans, assistance programs, and good old-fashioned preparation - buying a home as a single parent is totally possible.
Can a single parent afford to buy a house without financial assistance?
Yes, there are many single parents that purchase homes every day and many without financial assistance. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are currently 20 million single-parent families living in the United States and single homeownership is becoming more and more prevalent - the National Association of Realtors reports that 24% of recent home buyers were single.
Why not just continue to rent instead of buying?
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If we're being completely honest, after reviewing your current situation and available options, it may actually be the best decision to wait to make a home purchase. It's more important that your family is financially secure before taking the home buying plunge than rushing into things. However, there are a number of benefits to owning your own home over renting. Here are some of the main ones:
1. Building equity
The real estate market is not a guaranteed profit-generating investment. However, it continues to be one of the best ways to build wealth. As you pay down your mortgage, your home will typically appreciate in value while you build equity in your home and work your way to full ownership. And while there's risk involved when making an investment in property, there isn't a return on the money you spend every month on rent.
2. Choosing your school district
As you consider your needs for a home, your children will factor into your considerations significantly, of course. At the top of most single mothers' lists will be the school your children will attend. Purchasing a home allows more flexibility to choose where you want to live and ensure your children are in the school district you prefer they attend.
3. Lowering your taxes
Homeownership also offers the opportunity for federal and state tax deductions in most areas which reduces your taxable income. This can free up additional money for savings, home improvements, and other ways to build your wealth.
3. Freedom of choice
One of the main reasons most people want to become homeowners is the freedom to create a home exactly the way you want to live. Whether it's room color, remodeling, a garden, or a pet - the choice is yours to make and enjoy as you please.
What should a single mother keep in mind before starting her home search?
We advise single mothers to make the same preparations we recommend to all of our clients when planning to purchase a home. It's critical to understand the pros and cons of making such a large investment and a home buyer's consultation should be the first step. This consultation allows us to tailor the assistance we provide to each client based on their circumstances. Being able to pinpoint particular areas of focus and financing that are available for single parents allows for a smooth process from beginning to end.
Here are a few key things we recommend when preparing for your home search:
In today's market, it's really important to go into your home search with pre-approval. Homes are staying on the market for shorter and shorter amounts of time so it's priority #1 to get pre-approved by a lender to ensure you have an edge when making an offer on a home.
Saving or setting aside funds to cover your downpayment is crucial. While there are some programs available that can reduce the amount required by a single parent to put down, in most cases, you will be required to apply some sort of downpayment.
Your credit score will play a factor in a lender's decision and terms for your mortgage. This is true for just about every program and form of assistance available. Some will accept lower credit scores, but the higher the score, the better terms that will be available. Make a point to review your credit report and address any irregularities or forgotten debts that come up to improve your score.
4. Debt-to-Income Ratio
Lenders will look at how much of your income is used to pay your debts and how much is available to pay a mortgage. The more you can reduce your expenses, the better your debt-to-income ratio will be.
5. Wish List
Consider making a list of "Must Have's" and "Nice to Have's" in terms of what you'd like in a home. Feel free to add anything you can think of to each category; adding the things you feel you can't live without to the "Must Have" column and things that would be nice but aren't deal-breakers to the "Nice to Have" category. Your Realtor® can review this list with you and advise you on your options based on your budget and wish list.
6. Stay Vigilant
Even if your finances look great, it's important to avoid any big changes to your situation leading up to and after applying for your mortgage. Steer clear of large purchases, job changes or additional loans until you have keys-in-hand.
Are There Restrictions Where Single-Parents Can Purchase Homes in Charleston?
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There are no housing restrictions regarding where a single parent can purchase a home. Where a single parent purchases a home will depend on their budget and a lot will depend on their kids. As a single parent, having access to good school systems and daycare is critical to your quality of life.
Should Single Mothers Consider Purchasing a Home by Themselves or Should They Use a Co-Signer?
Whether or not to use a co-signer is definitely a personal decision; but if a little help is needed, it may be a great way to go. As always, education is key when purchasing a home so being educated on the pros and cons of your options will definitely help to make informed decisions. When a borrower's credit history or debt-to-income ratio prevents them from buying a home alone, the use of a co-signer could be the key to making their dreams of homeownership come true. The mortgage lender will also advise you on the criteria your co-signer would need to meet. There are many risks to this type of arrangement and the decision to get a co-signer should be given a lot of thought. It's up to the borrowers to take good care of their responsibilities of the loan as their actions will affect the impact of the co-signer. So understanding the stipulations of the loan, how to remove the co-signer when you are at a point to totally assume the loan alone and how it impacts your co-signer is critical.
Should a Single Mother Begin the Home Search by Themselves?
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We don't recommend a single parent begin the home search alone, you should get a trusted Realtor® that understands the pros and cons of your situation and can guide you through the process. As a single parent, having someone to guide you through the process is even more important because many single parents feel they have to make all the decisions alone. So having a trusted Realtor® that can provide them the one-on-one guidance and support they need will make their experience much more enjoyable.
I can remember my first home purchase as a single mom. Before I became a Realtor® and was still on Active Duty, I was so afraid I wouldn't qualify and didn't feel like I could go through the process alone (and perhaps didn't want to!). My best friend actually took me by the hand and drove me to a lender's office. It was her support and the guidance of my Realtor® that made me completely at ease with the home buying process and made all the difference in the world.
If you're a single mother and considering your first home purchase but are concerned about where to start - GET IN TOUCH. I've been there myself and have helped numerous single moms achieve their dream of homeownership. I can't wait to help you achieve yours!