If you are a single mom and bravely considering buying a house, there are unique stressors to this big achievement. Owning my house solo has been a huge learning curve, but I am happy to share some tips and tricks that I have learned along my way. Read on!
10 Home Buying Tips For The Single Moms
Funding that house.
Hey mama, if you have good credit with a score of 580, the FHA loan may be an option for you. An FHA loan is a mortgage that’s insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). Although the borrower must pay mortgage insurance premiums, which protects the lender if a borrower defaults, borrowers can qualify for an FHA loan with a down payment as low as 3.5%. Additional options to consider are the “Good Neighbor Next Door” or the “USDA loan“. Another good tip for those first-time home buyers of any age is that you can withdraw up to $10,000 from a traditional IRA penalty-free for a home penalty-free for the purchase. You’ll avoid the early-withdrawal penalty, but you will owe taxes on the money (of course!)
Before you hire a home inspector, be sure that the reviews are decent. Don’t be quick to hire a home inspector based on the suggestion of one person. Seriously put the work in and do some investigation for yourself. Poke through the “Better Business Bureau” and read reviews online. I promise this is worth your time! When you finally hire a home inspector, ask a TON of questions during the walk through. Be there and be nosy. Get the deets. Bring a pad and paper, write everything down! Check for leaks in those bay windows and witness the water runoff from the house; I learned this the hard way!
Consider giving the seller their asking price (if the house is worth it) but, request that the seller cover all of the closing costs. In addition, the seller must complete all repairs that were identified as issues on inspection. This was a huge help for this single mama. The truth is, it does not hurt to just ask!
Buyer beware of those “home warranty” plans. Such coverage agreements help to shelter the expenses of repairing or replacing appliances and home systems when they break down due to normal, everyday use. Sure, this may sound great for a single mama, but here is the low down. You pay a monthly fee and when you need a technician, you call the warranty company. The downside is, they send out a contractor of their choosing. You pay an additional price towards the deductible and then your service is completed. While this may temporarily give you peace of mind, the agreements are not usually worth the paper that they are written on. I have done research and the best option is to take the money that you would spend annually on a deductible and store it away into a savings account for a “home repair fund.” When an appliance malfunctions, ask around, read reviews and choose a contractor that you trust to do the work. Heck, you may even find a friend that is able to fix that dishwater. He may even have muscles! Wink, wink.
Protect that house!
Every 5 years, you should be revisiting the value of your home and assessing your homeowner’s insurance coverage. You will want to be sure that if a total loss were to occur that the house is covered completely. Keep in mind that the value of a house changes over the years especially with all of this badass work that you are doing!
Shop around for home maintenance help.
There are small companies out there that would appreciate your business. You may even find friends on social media that are willing to come by and mow the lawn or paint the steps for a fair price. Home Depot stores also offer free workshops to customers all year long. Yes, FREE! There are “Do-It-Herself” and kid-friendly classes. Class attendees are responsible for purchasing the supplies, but the how-to-instruction is complementary. There are courses on interior paint and dry wall repair, installing tile flooring, and others. Single mamas, take the help!
Three is not a crowd.
Before signing any documents with a contractor for home repairs (roof, windows, siding) obtain at least three estimates from three well-reviewed companies. The first roofing company that stopped by with a quote proposal for yours truly thought they saw SUCKER on my forehead. Boy, were they wrong. I have since obtained additional roofing estimates and the cost has significantly decreased with each new quote.
Ask for help!
When you visit home improvement stores, gather as much advice as possible then research to confirm. YouTube home repair videos are also beneficial. The employees at home help stores are full of great info and they have always seemed so eager to assist little, old me. I am not exaggerating when I say that every time I have walked into a Home Depot while scanning the shelves for items, at least one fellow customer (or contractor) will approach me in the isle with some sort of information. Last month while I was picking up paint, a licensed painter offered advice. Last week while stopping in for exterior window and siding caulk, a customer came over with good data on a product. I am always aware and cautious of strangers, but many times I do appreciate the help. A kind “thank you” is sufficient.
Pay down that mortgage.
Look into the accelerated payment program as offered through your mortgage company. When I first purchased my house, I had initially been paying one, huge, monthly mortgage payment, which was leaving my account quite dry until the following pay day. I contacted my mortgage lender and asked about weekly payments. I was offered an accelerated payment plan and my monthly mortgage payment was divided up into lower weekly payments. The benefits: your monthly mortgage is divided, which makes money management so much easier for the single mama while long term, I am paying off the loan quicker. Win-win!
Do not run up your credit cards.
This seems obvious, but seriously, starting over after divorce, (especially when buying a new home) is a challenging feat! There is nothing wrong with taking a few used items as donations to get you on your feet. I had no living room furniture for the first few months, however, the children and I were able to happily dance all over my hard wood floors! I advise single moms to utilize as much furniture, dishes, towels, etc. that you can finagle from the divorce. Do not rush to purchase all new items out of panic. You will likely have attorney fees among other costs. There is no shame in taking your half from the marital home goods and saving money for now. I was gifted an electric lawnmower and bunk bed frames. Consider browsing the social media “tag sales” for some good buys, like cheap dresser draws that you can sand and paint or barely used patio chairs that just need a good cleaning.
I hope that these tips for home owning will help you run that new house with confidence. Keep calm and carry on, single mom! Congratulations on becoming “head of household!”