How to Buy a House if You’re Single

Can a single mom buy a house? Yes!

If a husband/wife can buy a house, why can’t a single mom?
If a bachelor can buy a house, why can’t a single mom?
If a single woman can buy a house, why can’t a single mom?

The only difference between a single mom and other potential buyers is [presumably] limited resources because of her dependent(s). Other than that, there isn’t anything different about the process. I don’t approach life in a “woe is me because I’m a single mom” mentality, so I’ll address the question to benefit ALL aspiring homeowners.

Got it? Good! Aight, let’s roll…

How to Buy a House if You’re Single

Buying a house requires 3 things. Yep, that’s it! Just 3 things:

1. Down Payment
2. Assets
3. Good Credit

Well, maybe I’m oversimplifying just a tad. There are many many ways to buy a house if you’re missing any one (or all) of these things, but creative financing has gotten out of control! When you buy your house, I assume you want to keep it without compromising a family meal (lol). So keep in mind, having all three will put you in the most advantageous financial position. Then no one gives a sh*t about your marital status or how many rugrats you have anyway. Ha!

Ok, for real. When buying a house, two [incomes] is always better than one. But doing so on one income is NOT impossible. I just bought my first home in April 2006 and here are a few Single Ma’s lessons learned along the way:

Have a Vision: What kind of house do you want? Where do you want to live? How do you imagine the neighborhood? What about the schools? Having a vision helps to solidfy what you want. If you can see it, you can achieve it!

I envisioned myself living in a 3 bedroom 2 story single family home. I wanted to stay in the same school district but the housing area was more affluent, thus the prices were through the roof. Location was more important than size or floorplan, so I was determined to make it happen anyway.

Get Ya Money Straight: How much do you want to spend on the house? What monthly payment (principal, interest, taxes, and insurance) can you afford? This may require you to massage your vision so that it’s more aligned with your resources. Don’t think too big. Don’t buy more house than you can afford (even if the bank says you can). Think about the total cost of ownership (i.e. downpayment, closing costs, monthly payment, maintenance, furniture, decorating, etc.).

Most “A” paper loans (good credit/best rates) won’t allow your housing expenses to exceed 28% of your gross income. Other lenders will let you extend yourself up to 45%. Why are their calculations based on your gross income (BEFORE taxes) beats the hell out of me. Most lenders also review your assets and at least 6 months reserve. They want to make sure you can afford the mortgage and have a cushion to sustain yourself after you are in the house.

With that in mind, only you can determine what you can comfortably afford. You know how often you like to eat out, the cost of daycare, how often you shop, get your hair done, when the child support check comes, etc. Figure out your comfort zone and stick to it.

Establish a Goal: Goals keep you focused and grounded. This is your plan to make your vision a reality. When do you want to be in your house? How much can you ‘reasonably’ put aside every pay period? How long is it going to take you to save the downpayment?

Once I became serious about owning a home, I let nothing distract me. Going out with my girlfriends was a thing of the past. Unless we had a potluck house party, they knew to exclude me from the festivities. Single Ma was on a mission and my eye was on the prize. When I finally got into the habit of saving, I started putting aside $1,000/month. I fumbled and back slid here and there, so it took me about 2 years to accomplish my goal.

Get Ya Credit Straight: Bad credit is NOT fabulous! If you have problem credit, I highly recommend getting assistance from a non-profit organization or a reputable firm to get that cleaned up BEFORE entertaining a mortgage. If you’re a DIYer like SingleMa, I’d recommend going over to and poke around a bit. I’ve been a member of that forum since October 2004 and I’m impressed with the level of expertise and industry knowledge available and the FREE information and assistance provided.

I used to be a card carrying member of the bad credit club. It took me a few years to correct my bad spending habits and another few months to clean up the mess I’d made. After my credit was in the competitive range (700+), I was able to approach my lender with confidence and tell them what I wanted instead of them telling me what they could TRY and work out. I made them compete for MY business and the experience was truly liberating!

Research, Research, Research: I know it’s cliche’ but knowledge really is power. There are many professionals involved in the homebuying process who may claim they are working for YOU (i.e. buyer’s agent, mortgage broker, attorney, home inspector, etc.), but no one, I mean NO ONE will look out for your best interest as well as YOU can. I mean, think about it…you’re buying a house (your money going OUT) and they’re earning a living (their money coming IN). We rely on them for their respective areas of expertise, but we must also use our own common sense and business acumen to successfully complete the transaction. Having a keen eye and attention to detail will disclose many (not all) things that could ultimately save you money.

I realize this is a very basic, top level summary to buying a home. However, these are the areas that had the greatest impact on me. I can’t go into detail about all the downpayment assistance programs for low income and/or single parents because I didn’t use them. As previously mentioned, there are many “creative financing” deals out there, but be very careful. Many of them are tailored to benefit the lender, not the borrower.

When all was said and done, I purchased a 3 bedroom/3 story townhome just a few blocks from the neighborhood I originally wanted. My daughter goes to the same school and I can comfortably afford my mortage. It wasn’t a cake walk by any means, but it was certainly worth everything I sacrificed. Would it have been easier with a mate? Umm hell yea. Was I willing to wait for a mate before owning a home? Umm how about NO! If I can do it, you can do it too!

For more information, please see these related posts:

Investing vs. Saving For a Home

The 2nd Largest Expense When Buying a House

How to Read a Good Faith Estimate

Everything is Negotiable

Single Ma is a 30-something single mom with a lil diva in training. Financially, her long term goal is to become debt free (car and student loans) and establish a six figure net worth. So far, she’s off to a great start -she owns her own home, has a comfy emergency fund, 401k, Roth IRA, 529 account, and no credit card debt. Woo-Hoo! Visit her at Single Ma’s Fabulous Financial and experience the journey of a fabulous single mom as she pursues financial independence!

Note: The information provided during the series is for informational purposes only. The opinions expressed in these articles are not necessarily the opinions of Kathryn Finney or the TBF Group, LLC and posting does not constitute an endorsement of the ideas expressed in this article. Please contact your own financial adviser for advice specific to your personal financial situation.

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