Homeownership can feel like an impossible milestone for many young buyers, and this becomes even more of a challenge if you’re attempting to field this process as a single mother. Yet, many still accomplish this goal, and many of those individual buyers are women. In fact, in a 2019 study done by LendingTree, statistics showed that single women, on average, own more than 1.5 million more homes than single men in the United States.
The question: how?
Perhaps no one understands society’s expectation that you have to be coupled or have a family to own a property more than Erica Bentley.
As a nurse and single mother of two, Bentley is debunking that stereotype one property at a time — by merely stating the fact that “nothing is guaranteed, so why wait?”
For Erica Bentley, buying a single-family home was a no-brainer. After her divorce, it was up to her to manage a busy life with a time-consuming job and two little ones. Here are her insights on how to buy a home as a single mother.
What kind of home would you buy?
One critical deciding factor in the process of homebuying is choosing the right property for you. Bentley knew that she wouldn’t want a property that required outside maintenance, and that she wouldn’t need too much space for herself and her kids. With a reasonable budget, the decision seemed clear.
In August of 2019, Bentley purchased a single-family colonial home built in the 1980s for $480,000.
The four-bedroom, two and a half bath home came at a higher price point than she had initially planned. Still, Bentley found the difference in cost worthwhile because she was saving on homeowners association (HOA) fees. She was also benefiting from the quality of life her new neighbourhood offered her and her children.
The transition to a larger property was not without sacrifice. Bentley no longer had maintenance assistance for her yard and found herself having to apprehend some newer features she had in her previous townhome.
When asked about why she felt drawn to move, Erica explains that it was for a few key reasons. The first draw was the outdoor patios and screened porch area. A few others were the walkability, friends in the area, the fact that the neighbourhood was well-established.
However, because of the additional costs and upgrades, Bentley struggles to know if this move was the right decision. To be sure, she will stay put for at least ten years to make the investment worthwhile, and she knows that this new townhome will resell easier than her previous one would have.
How can you buy property as a single woman?
Erica’s budget was her most significant influence on whether to become a homeowner or not. She not only considered her present circumstance, but she contemplated what her life would look like five or ten years down the line. Would she be in the same career that provided the same amount of income? Would she want to stay in a corporate job or scale back over time?
One of the things she was sure of was that she wanted to sell her primary residence after her kids graduated high school, and then relocate. “Emotionally, as a single mom, you are always aware that you are the only income. There is no safety net beyond your savings and investments.”
Last year, after realizing she had the means, Erica bought a rental property on the beach. She always had the goal of retiring somewhere along the ocean. She credits her fantastic real estate agent for the smooth process and now lists the property on Airbnb. As an affordable oceanfront property, this groovy 1970s home has gone through some renovations. Still, it continues to be a nice profit for her. She always gets a reasonable amount of panic and stress that comes with being a first-time rental owner, but she shares that her overall experience has been positive.
What are some things to consider as a single homeowner?
One thing to consider is the repair and renovation costs for each of the properties. For the townhouse, Erica said the only thing she had to update was the paint. She had become so confident in her DIY skills that she was able to keep the repairs and renovations to a minimum.
As for her single-family home, Erica is choosing to be very cost-conscious. She tries only to invest money if she knows it will increase the value of the property, given that she will not be in that home forever. For example, she chose to redo her basement for $500. The rental property, however, was another story.
The 1970s oceanfront house took on $25,000 in renovations. However, Erica was pleased to make the rental exactly how she wanted. While handling a lot herself, she left the kitchen, a new set of doors, the demolition and most of the electrical work to contractors.
Erica took care of the painting, plumbing for the new bathroom vanity, tiling, drywall, and upgrading the outlets and switches only, “with the help of YouTube, wine and God.”
What do other single women need to know before they buy a home?
Erica’s most significant piece of advice is to do your research on locations, housing stock, and prices and invest in a trusted realtor or advisor that understands your true potential.
Erica encourages women to take advantage of the many resources available online. There is no reason not to evaluate your situation and make an informed decision fully. Minimize your risk and take a chance. Don’t be intimidated by your age if you think you’re ready. “Half the time, they think I’m the daughter of an owner or a renter,” says Bentley. “Sometimes, they seem quite surprised that I own it.”
When it comes to negotiating, Erica warns others to stand their ground. Don’t worry about being “nice” or “reasonable.” She negotiated her current home until the very last hour, refusing any offer that wasn’t the one she had already given them.
Be bold and confident during the entire process. If renting wins out in the end, Erica says to put the extra into savings and investments.
Another important note is not to get sucked into HGTV culture. Unless you have unlimited cash and a fully funded retirement account, personalize and renovate what is essential to you.
Erica cautions those wishing to become a single-family homeowner not to compare themselves. The people you are comparing yourself to are usually men, and these men have different goals than you do. “You make your own priorities and follow them.”