If you're a single parent, you may feel burdened with all the responsibilities on your plate, and you might think that with one income, it’s impossible for you and your family to have a house of your own. Well - it may be tough, but it’s definitely not impossible. There are several proactive ways for you to get the house you want for your family, so lighten up! Here’s a 5-step guide that can help you with that:
1. Determine your budget.
For a single parent, a budget is the first thing you must put in order before looking for a home. If you're a newly single parent who is used to two incomes, you may need more time to adjust to your new life.
Don't rush into it and don’t feel pressured into making several decisions all at the same time. Ease into your plan of purchasing a home, and start making a detailed budget. The goal is to find out how much more you can shell out for monthly mortgage payments while also paying for your current monthly dues such as utilities, car payments, school tuition fees, etc.
Once you’ve done the hard part of listing down all your monthly expenses and figuring out how to cover them with a single income, planning how to get a house will be a lot easier since you’ll know exactly how much you can allot for your mortgage loan every month.
And, when you do purchase a house, you also have to take into account the expenses of maintaining it. A free budget planning worksheet by Bankrate can help you with accounting and tracking of your expenses.
2. Be familiar with available assistance.
Acquaint yourself with The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) programs that aid one-income households in buying their own homes.
USDA loans are especially useful if you're buying a house in rural areas or counties. USDA also has a program catered for single-parent families, known as Section 502 Direct Loan Program, which offers payment assistance through a subsidy that reduces the mortgage payment amount for a short time so that you can increase your ability to repay. FHA, on the other hand, could give you loans that require you to provide just 3.5 percent of the down payment instead of the usual 5 percent.
If you happen to be a veteran or in the military, there’s a VA loan with the option of no money down plus a string of other benefits. Check with your state’s local government housing offices if they offer programs that let you just give a 3.5 percent rate on the down payment and the closing. If you’re planning to avail yourself of these programs, you have to make sure to find a lender that is certified to offer these programs. Ask your agent about it and work through it together.
3. Sort out credit issues.
If you have credit issues or you do not have a credit history of your own, there are loan programs backed by the government that are flexible on credit and even exempt you from waiting periods associated with bankruptcy or foreclosure.
These type of loans, which you can have access to through the FHA and USDA, allow you to create a credit history through other sources such as the bills you pay monthly - rent, utilities, and insurance premium payments, given that you have a minimum of a year in good standing on those accounts.
4. Use your first-time home buyer status to your advantage.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has a reference guide which you can check if you qualify as a first-time homebuyer.
If you qualify as one, hone in on HUD's resource list so you can familiarize yourself with organizations certified by HUD to grant assistance to first-time homebuyers. Take note that there are also tax benefits for being a homebuyer (whether it’s your first time or not) such as deductions on home mortgage interest and loan origination fees.
5. Make a list of your family's preferences in a home.
Time is another valuable resource, and you can save so much of it when you make a list of preferences for your home. How many bedrooms does your family need? Are schools and hospitals within the area? Does it have to be near your workplace?
Carefully assess what you need in a home based on your family's lifestyle, and make sure to include your children if they’re old enough to help you decide. This doesn’t mean that you have to consult them every time you look at a home - just make sure that you show them their new potential home before you make your final decision to purchase it. Kids are often averse to change, especially if you’re relocating to a place they’re not familiar with, so it’s always best to make sure they’re more excited than scared. Having them weigh in on your decisions will be really helpful in the long run.