We’ve come a long way from the golden age of the nuclear family. In fact, studies show that more and more women are delaying marriage, having children, and buying a home. (Millennials as a whole are delaying marriage until later, but this trend has more positive socioeconomic implications for women. See here.) ….But, if later marriage means higher wealth and earning power for single women, why are single female homeowners still so hesitant? Here are five common challenges I’ve seen (and experienced myself) that may keep women out of buying their first home.
Affording a Down Payment as a Single Earner is Tough
Buying a home is a costly process – but affording a down payment on your own (whether you’re male or female) can seem almost impossible. Unless you’ve been aggressively saving or have a great job, how can you manage 20% down on a home when factoring in student loans and a single person’s cost of living?
How to Overcome This: What many women don’t consider is that they may actually have an advantage when it comes to paying for a down payment. First off, if you’re single and don’t plan on starting a family right away you can get away with purchasing a smaller home. For a first purchase, consider a condo or townhome that you can share with a roommate (like a real estate investment!) Secondly, look into grants or down payment assistance for women in your age and income bracket in your area.
Waiting to “Settle Down” Before Buying
Buying a home is frequently associated with tethering yourself to a location, town, or city for the foreseeable future. After all, you aren’t signing a lease for 12-months, you’re signing a mortgage for 20+ years! Especially if a woman who desires marriage and family in the future, homeownership can feel like a big hassle when things could change in the not-so-distant future.
How to Overcome This: Reformat the way you think about homeownership. With low mortgage interest rates and low savings rates, homeownership can still be a great way to grow your money. Buying a reasonably sized home at an affordable price, staying in it for a few years, and then renting it out can be a great way to earn passive income while maintaining your investment in the home.
Sometimes reselling can put more money in your pocket- IF you time it in the 3-to-5 year window and again, be smart about your initial purchase.
Fears About Going Through the Process Alone
Buying a home is a huge decision you shouldn’t take lightly. You may think it’s in your best interest to go at it alone – after all, who knows what you want better than you? The trouble comes when you overthink, don’t do your research, or bite off more than you can chew. What you value in a home today might not be the same as what you’ll value 5 years from now. So do you buy the one bedroom studio or the 3-bedroom starter home you hope to grow into?
How to Overcome This: Make a trusted friend or family member your sounding board during the process. This will help you stay sane and keep you from making impulse decisions. Having a knowledgeable realtor and mortgage broker will also help you ensure you make a good money purchase.
Discouraged By Home Maintenance
It’s a nasty stereotype that women aren’t handy around the house, but it isn’t just women who don’t want the headache of maintaining a home. Many millennials desire the maintenance free renter’s lifestyle.
As someone who has lived through a $60k renovation and is now a landlord, I can promise you that home maintenance isn’t as scary as it’s cracked up to be, (if you know what to look for during an inspection) and it gets easier to manage over time.
How to Overcome This: Prepare for mishaps. The same goes for a home purchase – investing in a good toolkit will go a long way when you try to replace a doorknob or switch out your fixtures. And just, you know… as a functioning human being, you should know how to use a screwdriver and hammer.
For the bigger stuff? Take a deep breath. If you have the time and desire to DIY – the internet will quickly become your best friend, but make sure that you’re comfortable calling a professional for big projects such as HVAC maintenance or electrical issues. There’s Angie’s List or a whole host of apps like Handy that can make booking a handyman a snap.
Uncertainty about Homeownership in General
There are many ins and outs of the home buying process – it can be overwhelming, not just for single female homeowners, but for people everywhere. (Although I can attest that as a single woman you have to be extra vigilant and ask lots of questions, especially with contractors who will look to take advantage of your lack of knowledge) If your parents aren’t around or are unknowledgeable – where do you go to make sure you’re educating yourself on what it takes to be a smart homeowner?
How to Overcome This: From getting an agent, closing and making sure you have the proper insurance and that you don’t drain your finances throughout the process, there’s so much to know when buying your first home. Now isn't the time to let your eyes glaze over and “phone it in.” Do your homework, ask questions, be present. It will go a long way, but trust me, anyone can become a homeowner with the right attitude (and credit score!)
Thinking of buying this spring?
To make sure you’re prepared and know what to expect (and how to overcome all of the challenges listed above and more) check out the book, The Millennial Homeowner: A Guide to Navigating Your First Home Purchase. The book is full of my experiences as a single female homeowner; everything I wish I’d known into the book so no one has to be confused, or lose thousands of dollars during the home buying process due to uneducation.