Break the Glass Ceiling…and Install a Sky Light

Break the Glass Ceiling…and Install a Sky Lightfrom_our_columnists

Buying a Home When You’re Female and Single

By Kara Stefan


Women aren’t just breaking down barriers in the corporate world; they’re starting to blow the rooftops off the home buying industry. In fact, over 52% of women-headed households in the U.S. own their own homes, and single women constituted the fastest growing demographic of first time home buyers in 1998 and 1999.

Nonetheless, the prospect of buying a home on your own can be daunting. But single mothers in particular should know that buying a home can be a breeze compared to raising children while working full-time.

Essential Facts of Home Buying
Can you afford to buy a home? Consider these two guidelines:

  • Your monthly mortgage payment, including principal, interest, real estate taxes, and homeowner insurance, should not exceed 28% of your monthly income before taxes.
  • Your total amount of debt (mortgage, credit cards, car payments, student loans, etc.) should not be more than 36% of your gross income–this is referred to as your debt-to-income ratio.

If you’re renting and these numbers surpass the recommended percentages, you may be better off buying a home and taking advantage of the interest deduction on your taxes.

By and large, whether you’re single or divorced, the toughest part of buying a house is coming up with the down payment. However, the following resources are a good place to look for mortgages requiring low down payments.

Fannie Mae: This type of mortgage features a loan-to-value ratio of 97%, meaning you need only come up with 3%. Only people with modest incomes will qualify for this type of loan, and a pre-purchase homebuyer education class is required for approval.

Federal Housing Administration (FHA): This government agency doesn’t offer mortgages, but it does insure residential loans provided by private lenders. This means that once you qualify for FHA insurance, you may buy a home with only 3%-5% down. FHA-backed mortgages have a maximum loan limit depending on the average housing cost in each region.

Veteran’s Administration: Not an obvious choice for women homebuyers, VA loans are nonetheless gender blind. If you qualify, the VA guarantees mortgages up to $203,000–often with no money down–and the financial requirements tend to be less stringent than those of private lenders.

Rural Housing: Low-interest rate, nothing down loans are available for qualified borrowers living in rural areas who are unable to procure financing through traditional lenders. You can find out more at your local Rural Housing Service office.

City/County Assistance Programs: Many cities and counties offer down payment assistance programs for borrowers meeting certain eligibility requirements. These are often called “silent seconds,” and they’re actually loans offered at below market interest rates made to help you come up with a down payment and may not require any repayment until you sell your home.

Seller Financing: You may be able to find a seller who will finance your mortgage. This often means paying a higher interest rate and a “balloon note” (large lump-sum payment at the end of a shorter time period), but it can keep your payments low the first few years and provide financing if you have poor credit.

Builder Incentives: If you’re interested in new construction, many builders offer monetary incentives that you may apply to your down payment or pay down points to lower your interest rate.

Don’t be threatened by the word “qualified”–in most cases, it only means you can’t make too much money. What’s more important is that your debt ratio is under control and your credit is good.

The Online Revolution
Experts predict that over the next 5 years, at least 10% of home mortgages will be obtained through online resources. And the nice thing about online shopping is that it is largely gender blind. Lenders no longer discriminate between men and women–they’re just looking for qualified borrowers.

The following Web sites offer a multitude of resources for single women ready to break through the glass ceiling and become homeowners on their own: