With single parent homes on the rise — to date, there are 20 million single parent families in the United States according to U.S. Census Bureau making single homeownership increasingly prevalent. In fact, 24 percent of recent home buyers were single, says the National Association of Realtors.
Here’s a surprising item to consider: Single parents may actually have an advantage as home buyers. How so? Obviously, solo parenting can be difficult. But with lower average incomes than two-parent homes, many single parents qualify for low- to moderate-income home ownership programs, grants and financial gifts. These programs often help single parent homeowners qualify for smaller down payments and special loan terms.
Before you dive into the housing market as a single parent, investigate your options. With a plethora of programs available, it’s important to choose the right fit for you and your family.
“Becoming more knowledgeable about the home loan process may make you feel more confident,” Movement Loan Officer Sarah Cain says “Obtain guidance from your mortgage loan officer, CPA, financial advisor and real estate agent.”
Cain also advises single parents to budget and save for an emergency fund before going too far down the road of homeownership. “Saving for those unexpected financial emergencies can help you feel more comfortable when making one of life’s major purchases.”
Feels Like the Very First Time
Starting over isn’t easy. But there might be some good news: Even if you and your ex owned a house together previously, you might still qualify as a first-time homebuyer. In general, to be considered as a first-time homebuyer, you may not have owned property within the last three years. However, single parents are often granted exceptions – contact the Department of Housing and Urban Development and be sure to ask about eligibility. Qualifying as a first-time homebuyer opens the door to a number of financial aid and other programs that can help on the way to homeownership.
Don’t have credit because your accounts were in your spouse’s name? Never fear. Many programs offer a way to create a credit history using alternative sources, such as monthly payments from rent, utilities and insurance premium payments, plus it’s sometimes possible for newly single parents to get exemptions from waiting periods associated with bankruptcy or foreclosure.
Look for organizations offering assistance to single-parents. Nonprofits and charitable organizations like Habitat for Humanity, the Nehemiah Foundation, AmeriDream Inc, and others help single parents find affordable houses or assist with the down payment, often with no need of repayment. Or consider an IDA – Individual Development Account — a matched savings plan that helps those with limited income allocate funds towards the purchase of a new home. Contributions are matched, often by charitable organizations, as a way to encourage continued contributions and the accumulation of financial assets for your future purchase.
Look To The Fed
The federal government has several options that may make buying a home more affordable. The FHA (Federal Housing Authority) may have options to fit single-parent budgets, while the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) offers budget-friendly programs in rural (and even some not-so-rural). areas. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides a homeownership voucher program, as well as resources designed to help single parents find houses they can afford. Many states offer down payment assistance programs for first-time homebuyers.
Fannie Mae? I Know Her!
Even organizations like Fannie Mae offer assistance for single parents. Fannie Mae’s
HomeReady program offers flexible underwriting and income sources, and online homebuyer education to make buying a home a smoother process. HomeReady is open to borrowers with incomes at 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI) – up to 100% of the AMI if the home is purchased in a high-minority census tract or designated disaster area – and borrowers of all income levels when purchasing a home in a low-income census tract.
The Bottom Line
Buying a house as a single parent is not only doable, it’s becoming increasingly prevalent. If you’re looking to move your family out of an apartment and into a more permanent dwelling, do your research first, and talk to a mortgage professional – you can find a Movement Mortgage loan officer in your area here. With the resources available, you can feel confident in the fact that it’s an achievable goal.