A Single Girl’s Guide to Owning a House

Being a homeowner can get complicated. There’s the process of purchase, the maintenance, the neighborly shenanigans. Navigating all that as a single woman might become overwhelming. Here are the things you’ll need to keep in mind while home hunting on your own.

Check your funds

The largest factor to be aware of is that every single expense will be on your shoulders. This includes:

  • The loan you might take out to finance your purchase
  • Any previous debts, e.g. student loans
  • The down payment
  • The mortgage
  • Homeowner’s insurance fees
  • Property taxes
  • Maintenance expenses down the line
  • The price of furnishing and decorating
  • Potential renovation expenses

Take the time to figure out whether you truly can afford to buy a property right now. Talk to your financial advisor and make sure you did your math right. The last thing you need is to find out mid-way that you have less money than you thought. Also, shop around for a suitable financier. Compare mortgage terms, compare the rates and prices, and don’t rush the decision.

Plan your debt

If you plan to fund buying a house by taking out a loan for it, you need to calculate your DTI (debt-to-income) ratio. This represents your monthly credit debts compared to your monthly income before taxes. It’s expressed in percentages. For example, if you make $6,000 a month and you pay $2,000 in debt, your DTI is around 33%. Debts factoring into DTI include the mortgage itself, but also things like credit cards and vehicle payments.

The catch is that a loan program might have a high DTI margin, up to 50%. You may be qualified for a mortgage that’s more than what you’d like to give up each month. Be realistic with how much you can regularly pay. Factor in the property taxes and insurance as well.

In addition, make sure that these debts won’t impact your quality of life. You have to have enough money left over for necessities. Will you be able to pay for utilities, groceries, transportation, etc.? Will you be able to set aside a little fund for maintenance or emergency repairs that might crop up? Such “everyday life costs” aren’t considered for your loan qualifications, so you have to figure them out yourself and set boundaries.

Plan for safety

Before you settle on a home, consider your:

  • Technical and mechanical safety, i.e. maintenance and prevention of household hazards
  • Physical and psychological safety, i.e. feeling secure in your environment

Regarding technical and mechanical safety, you need to find reliable services. For example, if you live in Southern Sydney, look for an electrician in Rockdale, a plumber in Banksia, etc. Sure, you can DIY some repairs, but it’s good to have trustworthy go-to professionals nearby. Make a list of maintenance categories:

  • Plumbing and sanitation,
  • Electrical installations,
  • Heating and cooling systems,
  • Ventilation and air-conditioning,
  • Electronics and appliances…

Then search for local experts in each. Locals will be familiar with the common issues in the area. You can also use that as a networking opportunity – ask your new neighbors for recommendations!

Regarding physical and psychological safety, trust your instincts and do your research. Spend some time in the area and see how it feels at different times of the day. Do you feel safe coming and going in the evenings and early mornings, when there aren’t many people around?

When there are people, does it feel like an attentive community, or like everyone would turn away if there were trouble in the street? Do homeowners next to the property you’re considering seem like they would respect the boundaries of land and privacy?

Also, consider the available external help. How far away are the fire department and police? Where’s the nearest medical facility? How long does it take the emergency services to respond? Again, this is a good time to chat with the area residents and hear about their experiences.

As a single female homeowner, the essential issue is establishing a strong support network. This means financial advisors, real estate agents, trustworthy service people, neighbors, as well as family and friends.

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