House Hunting Tips for Singles

Find your perfect match with these five pointers.

Fabian Ruales has it all. He's young, educated, has a great job with an international company and he's ready to make a huge commitment. No, he's not getting married; he's buying a house.

"I'm a young professional and this is a great way start my capital and investment opportunities," say Ruales, 26. And, he's not alone. According to a study by the National Association of Realtors, nationwide, 20 percent of recent homebuyers were single females and 12 percent were single males.

Like Ruales, many singles know that because of lower home prices and still-low interest rates, now is the perfect time to step into the market. Before you snuggle up to your perfect home, consider these tips.

  1. Love doesn't last. "This will likely not be your home forever," says Dan Vollmer, an associate broker with RE/MAX 1st Olympic in Lynchburg, Va. "Even if you think you'll be there for 10 years, you probably won't. So much about life changes within such a short period of time — marriage, kids' interests, job changes — that you can't plan for your entire future when buying a home," he says. So, find a home that suits you now.
  2. Research your date online. Venture onto FrontDoor.com and take a look at what's out there. "Make a list of your must-haves, such as three bedrooms and two bathrooms. Then, make a list of what you'd like," says Cathy Miller, a Realtor with Amerivest Realty of Naples, Fla. "Share the lists with your real estate professional, who will help you narrow down your choices."
  3. Start smart financially. "All too often singles want to buy a home for the maximum amount that someone tells them that they can purchase," says Rich Hayden, chief operating officer of HomeFirst Mortgage Corp. in Alexandria, Va. "However, a little restraint now can make a huge difference later. If you keep your debt to income ratios within the traditional levels of 28 percent for housing liabilities and 32 percent for all liabilities combined, you'll find you love your home that much more because you have a financial life outside of it."
  4. Listen to your mama. Ruales sought out the opinion of a couple of friends before he made an offer on a bank-owned property. "A lot of times singles will bring their parents," says Anne-Marie Wurzel, a sales associate with Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate in Winter Springs, Fla. "As a single you're stepping into that homeownership role alone. A second opinion offers you a different perspective on the property. However, cautions Vollmer, "Listen to your real estate professional first and your friends and family second. Your friends and family will make good points as they relate to your personality and needs. But, they’re not experts on the market, what homes are worth or how you should negotiate."
  5. Diamonds are forever; but gifts are even better. "Gifts are good, as long as they're from family," says Hayden. "Most conventional financing will require you to provide most or all of the down payment yourself. Even though you can have a gift as a part of your down payment funds, you still must have some skin in the game to make the deal go," he says, "However, with an FHA loan, you can have 100 percent of the down payment (as little as 3.5 percent) come from a gift from a family member."

When it comes to buying a home, it's imperative you find a matchmaker (aka real estate professional) who can guide you through the process smoothly and make sure the blush of first love turns into a long-lasting relationship that serves you through your many stages of life.

Tracey C. Velt is an Orlando-based freelance writer.

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