So you’re single, and you’re pretty sure you’ll stay that way at least for the foreseeable future. You like your rental apartment or home, but you think perhaps it’s time to launch into that “adult” activity known as first time home buying. After all, nothing says singles can’t buy a house; many do just that each year and are more than delighted with the outcome.
Of course, single home buyers face certain issues that married buyers may be able to avoid, but knowing what to expect is half the battle.
Is this the best move for you?
Sometimes we feel pressured to do certain things, just because we’ve crossed the line into adulthood and think it’s the “thing to do.” Buying a home might fit into that category. Many individuals – single or not – simply see this as a right of passage and dive into the process without giving it sufficient thought.
Some people choose not to marry because they simply enjoy the single life, which often includes the ability to come and go as they please. It’s evident that though singles certainly have plenty of responsibilities to which they must tend, they do indeed have fewer responsibilities than married folks, especially married couples with kids. Freedom is often a big issue for singles.
So, before you start searching through the Multiple Listing Service, Zillow, and other home listing websites, think about whether or not buying a house is a right thing for you. Does your lifestyle fit the responsibilities of a homeowner? Take a serious look at your life and at your goals. Will buying a home bring you closer to your goals or will it impede your progress? If the answer is the latter, perhaps it’s not the time for a major purchase.
However, if you have determined that buying your home will help you achieve your dreams and goals, then start the process by doing some careful research and finding professionals that can confidently assist you on your journey.
Examine your financial situation carefully
Obviously, if you haven’t succeeded in saving money to buy a home, this might not be the right time to buy. But if you’ve been thrifty – or even frugal – in the hopes of making a large purchase, home ownership might be just around the corner.
So start by taking a photograph of your overall financial health. First, consider your credit. Have you established any, and, if so, is your credit rating a healthy one? If you’ve got a few credit cards and you’ve always paid your bills on time, your credit is probably good or excellent.
However, if you recall some late payments or other issues, you will probably want to check your credit score. Often, your bank will do this for free, or you can employ the use of reliable and safe websites such as Credit Karma. A low credit score may keep you from buying or, at the very least, may prevent you from securing a good mortgage rate and terms.
Next, consider how much you have saved for a down payment. Ideally, 10 to 20 percent is good…with 20 percent being a great goal. However, you don’t want to assign all your savings to your house purchase. Everyone has emergencies – especially homeowners – and it’s a good idea to keep a little nest egg on hand for those unexpected surprises.
Don’t be frustrated if you find that you don’t have enough money saved for a home purchase. It takes singles with one income a little longer to save than couples, and you may need another year or two to amass the ideal amount of money required to purchase a home in your area.
Find a lender and Realtor you trust
It used to be that home shoppers would find their ideal house and then go out and look for a mortgage. These days, however, it makes more sense to get pre-approved for a mortgage, especially if you’re a single who’s not sure about your house-buying qualifications.
So, start by searching for a reliable lender. Nowadays, many people do that online. That’s okay if you’re comfortable with those parameters, but if you prefer to meet the bank representative in person, look for someone in your area with whom you can have a face-to-face meeting. Make sure they’ve done plenty of work with first-time buyers and be sure they offer you more than one option. If they have only one product available to you, look around for a different lender or, at the very least, be sure you understand why that’s the only program suitable for you and you are comfortable with the explanation.
Once you’ve determined that you can indeed qualify for a mortgage and found out how much you are eligible to borrow, look for an experienced Realtor who’s familiar with the neighborhood in which you’ve chosen to purchase your first home. Ask questions about the homes they’ve sold in the area, the buyers they’ve placed, or about the neighborhood in general. Expect solid answers. Provide your price range and make sure they are familiar with the inventory in that range. (Hiring a luxury home agent isn’t ideal if your budget is under $150,000, for example. The agent, even though he or she may have a stellar reputation, won’t be familiar with the homes in your price range.)
Don’t be afraid to ask for references and check them out. Ask questions about the agent’s responsiveness and availability. Inquire as to whether they were helpful through the entire home buying process or if they disappeared after the offer was accepted. Ask about the support staff in their office as well. Once you’re happy with the answers (you don’t have to choose the first person you interview), it’s time to start shopping.
Because there are usually fewer homes in the price range available to a single with a moderate income, both you and the agent will need to exercise a bit of extra patience. It may take longer to find the ideal house, and you may need to be a little flexible as far as your “wants” are concerned. It’s a good idea to concentrate on a home’s “bones” and remember that cosmetic things can be changed, even if takes a little while. That mindset might help you save some money AND find a home more quickly.
No doubt it will all fall in line with the right people helping you make this all-important first home purchase!