real estate

4 tips for single, female homebuyers

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Highlights
  • Single women account for 21 percent of all home purchases.
  • Women receive an outsized share of subprime mortgages.
  • It may be a mistake to borrow as much money as a lender approves.

Buying a home today takes a certain confidence -- in the market and in your own financial strength. A lot of single, female homebuyers are taking that bold step in high heels, with no one at their side.

Nationally, single women accounted for 21 percent of all home purchases in the year ended this past June, while single men accounted for just 10 percent, according to the National Association of Realtors.

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Experts say female homebuyers share characteristics and concerns that set them apart from male buyers. Following are four tips single, female buyers should keep in mind when purchasing a home.

Buy with confidence

A variety of factors -- such as a greater likelihood of working at jobs that offer paltry retirement and other benefits -- keep single women from achieving their financial goals, says Mariko Chang, a consultant who recently completed a report on the wealth gap for women for the Insight Center for Community Economic Development in Oakland, Calif.

Although the nation has witnessed a housing bust, homes should still climb in value over the long haul, leaving longtime owners with a valuable asset, Chang says.  

Chicago-based Certified Financial Planner Leisa Aiken says it is a mistake to expect a quick run-up in property values, especially since there's still an abundant supply.

Still, Aiken agrees with Chang that owning a home can help women enter a more secure retirement if they pay down their loan balance over time.

"You shouldn't think of a home as an investment that will make you rich," Aiken says. "But if you buy a home that you can afford to pay off, maintain and live in over a long period of time, you'll have a low-cost place to live in retirement."

Don't stretch your budget too far

Mortgage lenders may approve borrowers with good credit and other favorable factors for a home mortgage that -- combined with their other regularly occurring debts -- takes up one-third or more of the borrower's gross pay.

However, experts caution it could be a mistake to borrow as big a home loan as a lender will approve.

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A woman who earns $50,500, makes a 10 percent down payment on a $149,000 house and carries a mortgage loan for the rest at 5.375 percent would have a monthly home loan payment around $750.

On the surface, that's well below one-third of gross income, says Jeri Lynn Fox, president of the Illinois Association of Mortgage Professionals in Lombard, Ill.

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