Home Buying Tips for Single Parents

April 30th, 2018

The vast majority of buyers in the housing market are either individuals on their own or couples looking to buy a home together. As a single parent, you’re in a unique position of looking for a family home with only one adult you can count on: yourself. Not only are you taking care of your family and saving up for a down payment on a single income, without a partner to fall back on, every decision involved in the process is yours to make. Whether you’re feeling the stress or loving the freedom, buying a home as a single parent can be challenging, so we’ve put together a few quick pointers to help you prepare for the journey ahead that will hopefully end in owning the perfect home for you and your kids.

1) Make a List of Needs, Wants and Nevers

The first step to house hunting is knowing what you want vs what you need. The easiest way to sort out your thoughts it to make three distinct lists. The first list should be what you need from the home you will eventually buy like enough bedrooms for your children, a yard for the dog, a kitchen big and nice enough to enjoy cooking in, and so on.

Your next list should be wants, things that would sweeten any deal for you like big windows, a garden tub in the master bedroom or a double garage. Finally, make a list of ‘nevers.’ These should be things that would cross a house off your list like an unfinished basement or dangerous neighbors. Having these lists in hand will help you be certain whether or not a house is up for consideration and stick to your decisions if a seller or real estate agent get pushy. Don’t forget to ask your children about things they especially want or don’t want in a new home and add their points to the list.

2) Open a Separate Savings Account for the Down Payment

Now it’s time to decide on your budget. You’ll be trading monthly rent for monthly mortgage payment, so make sure the price range you choose is affordable in both the short and long term. You’ll also need a 3% to 20% down payment depending on the home and the bank you finance through, but for many people, watching all that money pile up in one place makes it difficult not to think of other ways to spend it. To keep your hard-saved down payment money safe from temptation to splurge, open a separate savings account you only look at to put more money into until you’ve got enough to start seriously considering making a bid. Once this is done, it’s safe to start house-hunting as you’ll be able to pursue the properties currently available.

3) Be Prepared to Delegate (and Pay for It)

There is an incredible amount of complex paperwork involved in buying a home, including getting a title search (checking to make sure the seller owns the property free and clear), the inspection, the contract and the final home purchase documents. Unless you’re already quite familiar with the home buying process, you’ll probably want help from a real estate agent who will take good care of your paperwork and personal interests for a fee. Do not use the same real estate agent as the seller as they’ll possibly be looking out for the seller’s interests before yours.

4) Always Get an Inspection

No matter how perfect a home may look on the outside and even during the open house, never ever settle a real estate deal without a complete professional inspection. Walk through with the inspector and take a look at absolutely everything from the pipes to the wiring, from the attic to the basement. They should be able to give you fair warning about major potential issues like pipes that are nearly rusted to powder, dangerously unprofessional or old electrical wiring, problems with the appliances, water damage in the walls or a crack in the foundation. All of these things could turn your perfect new home into a bankrupting money pit if not detected before the sale.

5) Ask the Children to Help with the Final Decision

If, in the end, you are torn between two or three really tempting offers, have a serious talk with your kids and take them on a tour of all of the locations in question. Let them know that they get the important task of deciding your next new home and give each of them a vote. While you still have the final decision, your kids may bring up some good points about quality of life, aesthetics of a home or simply which home would be the most fun to grow up in.

6) Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage

There is a big difference between pre-qualified and pre-approved, and this matters when buying a home. Pre-qualified means that the lender has taken a quick look at your overall credit report and thinks they’ll be able to extend you a loan, but no guarantees. Pre-approved means you’ve discussed an amount, signed an application and the bank has agreed to keep the right mortgage offer available for you until the purchase paperwork is signed. Take care of this task when you know which home you’re buying, what the final price will be and are fairly certain you will get it.

Taking care of the entire house hunting and buying process may be challenging to balance with your duties as a single parent, but it doesn’t need to be a hassle. With the right preparation, precautions, input from your children and assistance from industry professionals, you should soon be settling into the perfect house for your kids to grow up in.

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