Since high school, Gaby Lorenzo has dreamt of a home that she can call her own - of a place she can decorate just the way she wants and where she has a sense of control.
“There’s a huge sense of independence in owning my home and being comfortable in my own living environment where I make my own rules and my own decisions,” said Lorenzo, 24, who works at a communications agency in San Francisco and recently bought a condo in Concord, California.
Among the things she loves about living in her own home: having the space to be able to do yoga in her living room without distractions.
Many single women like Lorenzo are buying their own homes. In fact, it is much more common for single women than single men to purchase a home. According to the National Association of Realtors’ most recent data from 2014, 16 percent of home buyers are single women, while 9 percent are single men.
“More women than men think buying a home is a good financial investment,” said Jessica Lautz, NAR’s director of survey research and communications. “Many of them are thinking of the pure desire to own a home and to settle and make roots.”
Here are three financial tips for prospective home buyers. (Note: these apply to single men, too.)
KNOW WHAT YOU CAN AFFORD
A first-time single female buyer spends a median of $135,000, according to the National Association of Realtors’ 2014 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, which covers July 2013 to June 2014 home buyers. A single female repeat buyer spends $170,400.
Affordability is a huge issue. That means not only affording the mortgage but also the taxes, the maintenance, the insurance and having money set aside for emergencies.
“Otherwise, you are house rich, cash poor,” said Kathleen Grace, certified financial planner and managing director at financial services company United Capital.
The conventional wisdom for a down payment has not changed. Expect to put down 20 percent for the mortgage. At the same time, have an emergency fund to cover at least six months of expenses, experts say.
Even if you are purchasing a new property, you will need a reserve to cover repairs. Remember that you have to pay property taxes, too. A good way to make sure that you can is to divide the tax bill by 12 and set the money aside each month.
A spreadsheet can help you figure out all the costs of owning the property. Use a housing calculator like financial services company Fidelity's (here) to figure out what you can afford.
“Only take on buying a home if it’s something you have ample funds for,” said personal finance expert Farnoosh Torabi.
PROTECT YOUR ASSETS
When you are buying a property alone it becomes even more important that you have adequate insurance coverage. That includes life, disability as well as healthcare insurance.
You might also want to look into setting up a trust so that the proceeds from your insurance policies go to your independent beneficiary if something happens to you.
“All the responsibility lies on you,” said Chantel Bonneau, wealth management adviser at Northwestern Mutual. “So it’s even more important that you protect your income, which is your biggest asset.”
If you get married, you can also look into shielding your home in the event of a divorce with a prenuptial agreement. Another option? Keep your property entirely in your name, said Torabi.
CONSULT EXPERTS AND TAKE YOUR TIME
Since buying a home is one of the biggest financial decisions most people make, it is a good idea to work with a real estate agent and consult with a financial adviser. Do your research and take your time.
That’s exactly what Lorenzo did. The process of finding and buying the condo, which was priced in the $300,000-range, took about four months. She went through several offers before finding the right place.
“It’s a demanding process that requires a lot of critical thinking,” Lorenzo said. “You can only grow from the experience.”