Homebuying Tips for All the Single Ladies

Put your hands up if you want to buy a home! Don’t make a move until you’ve read this list from savvy and experienced females like yourselves.

Photo courtesy of Rhonda Franz “Depending on the age and state of the home and property, it may be worth the expense of buying a warranty, or it may not,” according to writer and columnist Rhonda Franz, pictured here with her 5-year-old son in front of their Northwest Arkansas home. She says the fine print may be tricky, but it’s best to read it all to make sure you know what’s covered.

We were thrilled and inspired by the responses we received from all over America when we put the word out we we were searching for tips for single female homebuyers. Many of us at FrontDoor.com have been there, done that, and wish we would have known then all the savvy and insightful tips recently you shared with us.

We were moved and impressed with stories from women like 24-year-old Kayla Chapman from Columbus, Ohio, who had the courage to move two hours away from her hometown, family and friends, and purchase a home. She discovered she would be making the same monthly payments whether she rented or bought, so she decided to buy a condo, which would have all the apartment amenities she liked (pool, fitness facility, community, etc.) but none of the maintenance issues like yard work or landscaping. She found a Realtor she trusted, opened her mind to areas she hadn’t thought of considering, and before long, she became a blissfully happy homeowner.

If Kayla can do it at 24, we’re thinking the rest of us might be encouraged to give it a shot too, especially with the tips from these savvy, experienced homeowners. The general consensus is that you should look at the homebuying process like you’d approach a job. It’s not a simple diversion or pastime, it’s hard work! We’ve organized the advice into three categories: Homework, Housework and Heartwork.

Homework


Strengthen your credit score. Illinois Housing Development Authority’s (IHDA) executive director Mary Kenney suggests working with a credit counselor. She says those who do “often experience significant increases in purchasing power. Homeowners who received counseling increased their credit scores by an average of 23 points, according to the Center for Housing Policy.”

Photo courtesy of Harrine Freeman Maryland financial expert Harrine Freeman, CEO/owner of H.E. Freeman Enterprises, took a homeownership class that discussed preventing foreclosure, home inspection, etc., and highly recommends it.

Take a homeownership class. Maryland financial expert Harrine Freeman, CEO/owner of H.E. Freeman Enterprises, took a homeownership class that discussed preventing foreclosure, home inspection, etc., and highly recommends it. She used a nonprofit homeownership company called Home Free USA, but she says, “Many states have Housing Counseling Agencies that offer these types of courses for free.  I found the class during research on first-time homebuyer programs.”

Get a pre-approval with conditions. “Many people assume you find a house first, then work on financing. But the most successful and smooth transactions actually reverse that order,” according to TJ Freeborn, a mortgage expert with Discover Home Loans. “Talk to your lender before you begin your home search and obtain a pre-approval subject to collateral conditions, which is more thorough than a pre-qualification. This pre-approval will tell you how much home you can afford and how much the lender is willing to let you borrow.”

See if you qualify for a renovation loan. Stephanie Carroll of Philadelphia qualified for an FHA 203K loan, which is “a great option for anyone looking to buy a home, but is especially appealing for female buyers because they can customize their new home the way they want – and finance it into their mortgage,” says Jeff Onofrio, director of renovation lending at AnnieMac Home Mortgage. “FHA 203k loans allow for borrowers to buy or refinance a home and finance the cost of the renovations using the future value of the home,” he explains.

Investigate down payment assistance. Some states – Illinois, for example – have programs that aid affordable housing purchases. IHDA's Mary Kenney advises, “There are many options for both first-time and repeat homeowners. For example, Welcome Home Illinois, a loan program administered through IHDA, provides first-time homebuyers with $7,500 in down payment assistance. Those interested in this and similar programs should contact their state housing finance agency.”

Housework

Don't be afraid of renovation. “It’s a great way to get the exact home you want, or get a good deal on a home that others may be overlooking,” says Lauren Bowling of Atlanta, who chronicles her purchase and complete remodel of a foreclosure in a historic neighborhood in SW Atlanta, on her blog L Bee and the Money Tree.

Photo courtesy of Lauren Bowling “It’s a great way to get the exact home you want, or get a good deal on a home that others may be overlooking,” says Lauren Bowling, who chronicles her purchase and complete remodel of a foreclosure in a historic neighborhood in SW Atlanta, on her blog L Bee and the Money Tree.

Start basic, then upgrade. Everything doesn’t have to be designer perfect the second you move in. You can always upgrade later, after you’ve taken care of additional moving and finance costs. “Don’t start with pricey flooring or bells and whistles in an unstable market. Go simple and chic until time to upgrade and be open to the magic,” advises Kahshanna Evans of Kissing Lions PR. She bought a live/work space in Harlem where she based her boutique public relations agency, and had her remodel/redesign featured on TV.

Consider a PUD: If you’re not into yard work or maintenance, a Planned Unit Development might be for you. Attorney Jan Allred, a Salt Lake City single mom, says they can be good “because they do some of your yard maintenance, such as mowing and snow removal.” But she advises that ‘maintenance-free living’ doesn’t always mean that. “Read the community legal documents to see what landscape maintenance is done by the community. And keep in the mind that those rules can change.”

Understand home warranties. “Depending on the age and state of the home and property, it may be worth the expense of buying a warranty, or it may not,” according to writer and columnist Rhonda Franz of Northwest Arkansas. She says the fine print may be tricky, but it’s best to read it all to make sure you know what’s covered. It can be a real lifesaver if the HVAC system goes out, or your water heater explodes, for example. Know that you can work with the repair technician to make sure the work falls within your warranty.

Heartwork


Follow your heart. If you love a certain lifestyle and can afford it, don’t let others sway you. Oregon marketing expert Kim Beeler says, “If I had it to do over, when I became single again I would have purchased a single-family residence in the community that I love. The condo was the worst decision I made because the value didn’t increase, and there were large assessment fees and high monthly HOA dues. I'm so glad I eventually followed my own heart and purchased a home with a yard, where I enjoy gardening, and deeded access to a lake, where I enjoy kayaking.”

Photo courtesy of Jan Allred Salt Lake City attorney Jan Allred says, “I bought my house (in a PUD) when I still had two children at home. Now I’m an empty nester, and I don’t need all of the space. Also, keep in mind that you won’t always want stairs. As I have contemplated resale and spoken to Realtors, main floor living has been one of the main requirements of buyers looking in a PUD like mine.”

Don’t push you limits. “Just because you are pre-approved to buy a house at the top end of your range, doesn't mean you should,” advises TJ Freeborn of Discover Home Loans. “Single women have only one income to rely on for household expenses. It's smart to make sure that your monthly mortgage payment is an amount that you are comfortable with. Then, if unexpected expenses arise, your ability to pay your mortgage and maintain your lifestyle isn't compromised.”

Work with people you trust. You don’t have to settle for the first Realtor, mortgage broker or inspector you meet. Shop around. Certified debt and money specialist Maureen Campaiola suggests, “If you don’t know anyone personally, ask family and friends for recommendations and then spend some time interviewing the prospects.  You want people who will be on your side, take the time to explain the process and help you through the complications.”

Finally, the one thing that every single female homeowner will tell you without skipping a beat:

Have a backup plan! “Before you buy, make sure you have the equivalent of several home payments tucked away in savings, advises Rhonda Franz. Lauren Bowling agrees: When she was first looking for a home to rehab, she was shopping with her fiancé. But they broke up, and she took over the purchase. She advises that you estimate paying double the price of the down payment to initially get into the home, particularly if you’re doing renovations. There are so many extra expenses that arise in a home purchase. Ideally, you want to end up house proud, not house poor.

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