First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes buying your first home – at least, that used to be the order of things. However, these days, more and more young adults are putting off marriage, but that doesn't mean that they don't want the stability and equity that come with being a homeowner. You don't have to wait until you have a partner to become a first-time homebuyer, but single people have different homebuying needs than couples or families, so it's important to make sure that you make the process work for you. Check out some important tips for prospective single homeowners.
Don't Wait for a Forever Home
Even if you have a plan for your future, it's hard to predict what your life will look like in ten years, or even in five years. Your relationships, career path, and interests can all change very quickly.
For that reason, it's usually not a good idea to worry about finding a home that you want to live with for the rest of your life at this stage. For example, if you want a big family in the future, but don't have any plans for marriage or family for the foreseeable future, focus on a house that suits your needs now, not on finding one that will accommodate a hypothetical future family. You never know – by the time you need a bigger house, you may also want to live in a different area. It's best to focus on the present and on concrete future plans, not on potential futures that aren't easy to predict.
Be Conservative With Your Cash
Experts vary on how much of your income should go to your mortgage. The traditional recommendation is that you can spend up to 35% of your pre-tax income on housing. More conservative debt experts recommend spending up to 25% of your take-home income on housing. Most buyers do best somewhere in between these estimates.
Everyone's financial situation is different, and there's no one hard and fast rule for single buyers. However, it's smart to lean toward the conservative side of the spectrum. When you're buying a home alone, you take on that debt without the benefit of a partner to pick up the slack if something happens to reduce your income. If you experience a job loss, illness, or injury somewhere down the road, you may be glad to have kept your debt load to a minimum. You'll be able to put the money that you would have spent on more house to savings so that you have a cushion in case of emergency.
Don't House Hunt Alone
Just because you don't have a partner doesn't mean that you should go house hunting alone. Choosing a house is a big decision, and a third-party perspective can be valuable. Bring a parent, sibling, or close friend with you – preferably one who's been through the home-buying process before.
Friends and family can't and shouldn't take the place of expert advice from a real estate agent. However, they do have insight on your personality and lifestyle, and may be able to make good suggestions about what you might need from a home that you own. They can also be good sources of information about potential pitfalls of home buying that you might not think of yourself. In the end, the choice is yours, but take advantage of outside opinions to help bring some perspective to your decision-making process.
A good real estate agent can be invaluable to your home-buying experience. They can help you find homes that suit your specific desires and fit within your preferred budget. Look for a real estate agent who has experience with first-time and single homebuyers who will understand your unique needs.