First time home buyer?

by singlemomseeking on April 24, 2009

That’s me.

After visiting my “perfect” house again – and really imagining what it would be like to live in a neighborhood that’s on the edge — I let this home go:

bidding-on-this-house-web1

This house did fit my dreams, but the ‘hood didn’t. I not willing to put up a fight for it — and the fight has begun! Ten offers were put down last night. I can’t thank all of you enough for your great advice.

For example, Amy reminded me that “your safety is important. I have a nice big black lab/Sheppard mix who would chew the leg off of anyone who touched us.” And Kari suggested that I call local PD in the neighborhood where I’m house-hunting.

Some of the guys — such as John — reminded me to calm down. Oh, yeah, that.

~~

The truth is: I never imagined buying a home like this. I guess none of us does, right?

For starters, I’ve let go of the idea of buying a home with a man. (Maybe this does make me a modern single mom?)

Of course, I’ve gotten LOTS of support from guys, including my Dad. And Thunderpants — who created a mortgage calculator for me on an Excel sheet! — keeps teasing me for checking out a Home Buying book from the library. He means well, right?

At night, I’m studying: fixed rate mortgages, down payments, APR rates, monthly payments, property taxes, insurance, closing cost, loan contingencies. (Hello? When have I ever had to use the word “contingency”?)

But being evicted has put the fire under my tush. I can do this. I’m terrified one moment, and exhilarated the next.

That’s when I take a deep breath and re-read one of my favorite quotes, by Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca (c. 4 BC – AD 65): “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

So, I’m preparing.

The record numbers of single women buying homes inspires me. According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies:

  • More than one in five home buyers is a single woman.
  • Twice as many unmarried women are buying homes than single men.

And trends for Single Women Home Buyers?

  • 3 out of 4 women spend less than $200,000.
  • Prefer 2 bedrooms or more.
  • Less likely to choose new construction.
  • Buy in city over suburban areas.
  • Will compromise size & cost to get other amenities.
  • Will not compromise on location or quality of neighborhood.
  • Desire security and / or gated access.
  • Like to engage in social interaction with neighbors.
  • Want close proximity to stores, shopping and fitness centers.

The above sounds like me! I continue to take your advice to heart! I’d love to hear more about your own home-buying experiences.

Have any of you — men or women — bought a house on your own?

For those of you who previously bought a house with an ex-husband/wife, after splitting up, did you go onto buy your own home — alone?


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Break in | Single Mom Seeking
September 16, 2009 at 10:47 pm

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Nancy April 25, 2009 at 4:46 am

Right up my alley!

This IS a buyers market and yes do your homework.

Yes, you can do it, no man required, lol

You know I’m 54, divorced when I was 35 … have bought/sold/owned SIX houses during this time … “all by myself”. I was fortunate I was able to make money with each “flip” before the bubble burst.

Watch how you finance your home … obviously some, well LOTS of people were sucked into financial situations that are f’d up now. Comprehend each step!

I’m not going to be some of your fav readers example here, but I never used a Realtor or attorney … why pay commissions and fees? That bit may not be for everyone.

Jump in, don’t be afraid … the temperature is in your favor now!

Nancy´s last blog post…Shallow Seeks Same

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jen April 25, 2009 at 5:20 am

Ten years ago I bought a house on my own. This was before I even contemplated having a child, but two years later I was pregnant so I’m so glad I did it then as it would be a lot harder now. You’ll do it too.

jen´s last blog post…The Footy Club

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Susan April 25, 2009 at 5:35 am

I bought my townhouse after splitting with the ex. It’s been a great move, although I wish I had a backyard for the kids. But next up will be getting J.’s house sold, this house sold and then finding a larger place together.

But first a nap… :)

Susan´s last blog post…Navigating and Negotiating in Single Parentland

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John F April 25, 2009 at 6:11 am

You touched on it, but a hard lesson learned by my ex wife. I bought and paid for her home free and clear when we divorced for the sake of the kids.

She got involved and remarried because this time is was “forever”.

Well, “forever” ended up being like 4 years, and against my advice (not that it is always good)right after she married, she put his name on the deed. She kept the home equity loan she took out to fund her unemployment.

So now in a divorce, he is half legal owner and can (and likely will) force the sale of the home for half the equity essentially leaving my ex and my kids (when they are with her) in a terrible bind.

Don;t buy a house with a girl or boyfriend! If you remarry, leave the spouse off and allow the house to provide for your kids!

John F´s last blog post…Brenda & The Grand Canyon

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Amy Sue Nathan April 25, 2009 at 6:12 am

I didn’t buy my house myself, but I owned it myself after my divorce…and still do. It’s a wonderful and big deal to own a home, to be responsible for it all. It can also be daunting – but in a super-accomplishment kind of way.

It will all work out for you. Things have a way of doing that.

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Jane April 25, 2009 at 6:32 am

When my ex-husband and I bought this house, he walked through it once said “okay” and only lived here with the kids and I a couple of years before we divorced. I refinanced it a couple years later and taking his name off was an amazing thing for me.
The woman I worked with really pushed me hard to do an ARM to take out more $$. I refused, we bickered, I won. And I’m happy with my 30 year fixed.

Jane´s last blog post…Hug-it-out

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Divorced Lifestyle April 25, 2009 at 6:58 am

I’m still looking. When the ex and I split, he kept the house because it’s been in his family since it was built 70+ years ago. I paid off my bills and put the rest of the settlement into a CD, waiting to find that “perfect” house. Now I’m waiting for a permanent job so I can get a mortgage.

But I have faith that someday soon, the sun, the stars and the planets will align, and I will be a homeowner!

Divorced Lifestyle´s last blog post…I can count on Shaunna to

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Legal Editor Mom April 25, 2009 at 6:59 am

I bought my current house on my own after my ex and I split but were still legally married. His lawyer wanted to force me to sell it so that he could acquire 1/2 of the proceeds. Technically he would have been entitled to something since the house was acquired during the marriage. But my ex didn’t want to go up against me after all he had put me through, so he didn’t do that.

I know that California is a community property state, so I agree wholeheartedly with John F’s advice. Never buy a house with someone you’re not married to, and even married, go in with your eyes open, knowing all of the legalities and “What ifs.”

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MindyMom April 25, 2009 at 7:17 am

I’ve bought and renovated two homes on my own post divorce and it’s been a wonderful experience.

MindyMom´s last blog post…Thirty-nine Things

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Nappy Kitchen April 25, 2009 at 7:36 am

John F said: Don’t buy a house with a girl or boyfriend! If you remarry, leave the spouse off and allow the house to provide for your kids!

This advice is golden!!!

I’ve never bought a house at all, but I’ve been looking around recently. The problem I’m running into is that I do not want to move out of the city I am in because of the good school district, locale, and my support system.

However, there is a subdivision going up every minute of the day here and home prices are through the roof. :(

Nappy Kitchen´s last blog post…‘Growing’ Dandruff for Nappy Hair

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April April 25, 2009 at 7:45 am

I know this isn’t what you’re looking for, and I hope you’ll forgive my playing the devil’s advocate, but there are advantages to renting, too. Check if your state offers a rental tax credit (mine does). There’s a landlord to call when things go wrong (and pay for it). Sometimes you can get a rental in a better school district than you can buy a home. And if a crisis occurs, there’s not a mortgage payment hanging over your head.
Just a reminder to keep all of your options open.

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singlemomseeking April 25, 2009 at 2:44 pm

April and Honey: I really appreciate this advice about renting. I’ve been a renter for close to two decades now (!!). I’m keeping my options open. I’m still looking at rentals, too. If I don’t find the right home for us, I’m not going to buy out of desperation.

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Legal Editor Mom April 25, 2009 at 11:32 am

April makes a valid point, and if you follow the Millionaire Mommy Next Door, she’s a perfect example. I was only chiming in advice about buying because that’s what SMS was thinking about doing; but believe me, there are some days when the house maintenance, taxes, high mortgage, etc. can be overwhelming as a single parent, and I contemplate renting again.

I just love my house because I don’t have to answer to anyone on what I do with it or in it, I am building equity, and my daughter has a nice house to grow up in with a private backyard. She was the main reason I bought it in the first place, although at this point she couldn’t care less and thinks it’s neat to go to her friend’s apartment to play! But there definitely are advantages and disadvantages to both. Especially in this economy!

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Honey April 25, 2009 at 1:19 pm

The BF and I are trying to pay off our grad school debt…and our new mantra is, NEVER BE IN DEBT AGAIN. A home is not an asset. It is debt, unless you plan to flip it and sell it. We do not plan to buy unless we can purchase a home outright.

Unless you are confident being in debt for hundreds of thousands of dollars for the next 30 years, I think you are making a HORRIBLE decision. Go debt free! Rent.

Honey´s last blog post…Why He’s “The One,” or 5 Fun Facts about Honey and the BF

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singlemomseeking April 25, 2009 at 2:45 pm

Honey: I hear you about being debt-free!

However, I’d love to hear others’ thoughts re:
“A home is not an asset. It is debt, unless you plan to flip it and sell it. We do not plan to buy unless we can purchase a home outright.”

From what I recall, you and your boyfriend are not planning to have kids. I DO think that buying a house as a parent is an asset. I plan to be in this part of Cali for a LONG time, and my kid could eventually inherit the house… I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on this one.

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Ms. V April 25, 2009 at 5:27 pm

Oh my. I just posted about this.

I’m leaving our joint home. Soon.

Ms. V´s last blog post…*I read the news today. Oh boy.

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Robin April 25, 2009 at 5:55 pm

There is nothing like being kicked out of your home to make you want to own your next one. I totally get it. I bought my house 5 years ago in the Excelsior District in SF and while sometimes the maintenance is stressful, I love that I don’t have anyone above me or below me and I can do anything I want to it, inside and out. It’s a scary step but it’s also one that will make you feel more secure, I believe. good luck!

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singlemomseeking April 26, 2009 at 9:38 am

Yes, Robin, this is so true:

“There is nothing like being kicked out of your home to make you want to own your next one.”

The landlords are coming over tomorrow with their contractor to take measurements — they’re renovating the kitchen — and to “discuss your move-out” plans.

Did you see the red in my eyes?

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walt April 26, 2009 at 4:39 am

I somewhat disagree with the advice not to buy a house with a non-spouse, as long as you each contribute half the equity and pay the mortgage together. If the relationship doesn’t work, one of you can buy the other out, or you can sell the house and both move on. Marriage is not the right choice for everyone, so you should not allow your choice of the legal form of your relationship to determine your lifestlyle. Also, as in Rachel’s case, there’s nothing wrong with buying a home on your own, as I did, even though someday you may want to buy a home with a man/woman. If that occurs, you can sell your home and buy a new one together. Remember that you own the home, the home doesn’t own you.

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singlemomseeking April 26, 2009 at 9:36 am

Walt, thanks so much for this!

“Remember that you own the home, the home doesn’t own you.”

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keenkamsmom April 26, 2009 at 6:55 am

I’m right there with you Rachel. House hunting was a lot more complicated than I expected. Luckily I have a lot of great people to give me advice and guide me along the way. I am a single mom and soon to be a first time homeowner (we close on May 29th). I totally understand finding the “perfect house” in the wrong neighborhood. I found a few houses I would have loved to have, but they weren’t in the neighborhoods that I wanted. Finally I found the right one. It will all work out, but don’t rush. Wait until you find the one that feels like home.

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Jen April 26, 2009 at 7:00 am

I completely relate to everything in that post. I’d rather wait it out than settle in a neighborhood I wouldn’t want to raise my son. I’m ready to have a home of my own. Its a big decision I wasn’t ready to make but now that I’m looking I couldn’t be more ready and excited about this. Good luck with your search. You’ll know when you’ve found your home!

Jen´s last blog post…Waiting

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avigail74 April 26, 2009 at 7:18 am

I bought my house myself. It was a pretty amazing feat–I was going on year four after filing for bankruptcy–I just knew in my heart that I was going to be able to find a wonderful condo in a very expensive part of Boulder. I was able to get a 30 year fix, zero money down and at a price that I can afford. I love it!

It IS an asset: you get tax credit(more than rent), equity AND if you live in a neighborhood where the value goes up, it’s definitely an investment. Almost all over SF, Berkeley and Oakland, the houses do go up in value (they will again when the economy returns to normal). And, more importantly, it keeps our family stable–I never have to worry about being kicked out of my home–now that’s an emotional asset!

Rachel–I like that you’re not buying out of desperation but keep looking–your home is out there somewhere. And, do become familiar with the word “buyer’s remorse”—look it up ;-)

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singlemomseeking April 26, 2009 at 9:40 am

Avigail: Thank you!!

Via Wikipedia:

Buyer’s remorse is an emotional condition whereby a person feels remorse or regret after a purchase. It is frequently associated with the purchase of higher value items which could be considered “bad” although it may also stem from a sense of not wishing to be “wrong”. In an extreme situation, an individual who struggles with or cannot accept the possibility that they may have made a mistake, may be suffering from a more serious and severe condition that has truly little to do with “buyer’s remorse”.

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MC April 26, 2009 at 10:28 am

My (then) BF & I bought the house together that I live in now 13 yrs ago–a modest, older house we could easily afford. We ended up getting married, having a couple of kids, and eventually got divorced. I was bought out his equity in the house after the divorce, which wasn’t a problem since it wasn’t an expensive house.

I think there’s a huge advantage to owning *something* as a single parent–it gives me a feeling of security, and my kids have gained a lot of security too, I think (they still live in the same house, the same neighborhood, even though their lives were otherwise updended when their Dad left).

I’d probably feel differently if the house was a financial burden, but paying the mortgage on this place is actually cheaper than renting. Yeah, it’s kind of a dump, but living here is letting me recover relatively painlessly from the financial disaster the divorce inflicted on me and my kids.

I would say: go ahead and buy a house with a BF–just get everything put down on paper, properly, and make sure you have an independent lawyer/agent representing your interests.

The thing to avoid at all costs is actually *marrying* a deadbeat. A breathtaking amount of money was “disappeared” by my ex during our marriage, and on top of that the divorce cost me around $40,000 in legal fees. Nothing can kill your financial future faster than a bad marriage!

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Anna April 26, 2009 at 11:50 am

I am continuing to rent right now because things in Michigan are SOOOO bad, and we may end up moving out of the state to be closer ot my aging parents, anyway (I’m an only child and have to think about these things). Right now it works for us. We would not be able to afford a nice house in a nice neighborhood in our school district if we were buying, and we need to stay in the school district for my son’s special needs program. Someday I may buy again, but after going through a foreclosure like we did, I think the stars would have to align perfectly…

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LeAnna in MN April 26, 2009 at 1:21 pm

I bought alone as a single mom at TWENTY-FOUR. Hells yes. It can be done, and done well. You can do it, Rachael!

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Priscilla San Remo April 27, 2009 at 8:09 am

Rachel, been meaning to comment for a while, but as a (dating) single mom, my spare six seconds of time often get eaten up by other tasks. Really enjoy your blog.

Yes, you certainly can own your own home, if that’s what you set your mind on, but I’d think very carefully about it. I got the equity in my house as part of my divorce. Over the years the equity has increased, and I’ve used it to supplement my income (really can’t live on $12,000 a year), take care of repairs/remodeling, and frankly, to pay for emergency situations in other areas of my life (vet bills, major car work, etc.). I still have equity left in the house, and I’m glad I live in a place that didn’t see such a dramatic boom, and consequent bust, in the real estate market.

That being said, I own an older home (about 80+ years). Keeping it up is like a never-ending game of Whack-A-Mole. You get the furnace fixed and the roof needs repair. You replace the roof, and the water heater breaks. Ad infinitum.

I’m trying to move this year, since my son is graduating high school and I never wanted to live in this town to begin with (dragged here by now ex-husband). I’ve decided NOT to purchase another house, but to rent instead. I’m looking forward to making a phone call to the landlord instead of a plumber the next time a pipe breaks. I realize it’s a “grass is always greener” kind of situation. I’m just ready to be on the other side of the fence!

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singlemomseeking April 27, 2009 at 9:59 am

Priscilla: Thank SO much for your articulate, honest, helpful comment. It’s good for me to stay in reality.

Congrats on being the mom of a high school graduate! And just as importantly, for beginning a new life chapter… it sounds like you’re holding onto your dreams and making them happen.

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ruth April 27, 2009 at 9:36 am

I bought a home this past year. I had owned previously with my ex-husband and was pleasantly surprised that I still qualified as a 1st time buyer because I had never bought on my own before. It gave me a great sense of accomplishment to be able to buy a house for myself and my son. I’ve had married moms tell me they don’t know how I do it and they would never be able to do something like that on their own! I bought something smaller than I was renting, which was fine because I really don’t need a ton of space for just the 2 of us and I didn’t want a lot of maintenance or yardwork. Best part is I got almost all of my downpayment back through that new homebuyer tax credit so make sure you are looking into that! Good Luck househunting Rachel!

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singlemomseeking April 27, 2009 at 9:55 am

Ruth: Yes, I’ve looked into the new homebuyer tax credit (thanks!), although one broker I spoke to said that she’d discourage me from depending on that…. because who knows if the government will run out of money by the time I’d receive it! Last time I checked, the credit is about $7,000. Yes?

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Edgar May 4, 2009 at 5:20 pm

Rachel – it’s a big step, and rather scary, to jump into owning a home. It can be financially draining, even disastrous (think of all those foreclosures out in Brentwood or Antioch by people who stretchd themselves too thin and the house depreciated). House prices are still going down in Oakland and Berkeley, so while it may be a good time to get a deal, that deal may be worth less next year. Usually, the fees you pay when you buy a house take at least 5 years to recover, even in a moderately appreciating market. So, choose your location carefully.

I was fortunate in choices I made in the 1990′s and early 2000′s, and sold my house in Sacramento last year before it went too far down in price, but I ended up not making any money on it, given the repairs I had had to make. It was a 1926 brick Tudor, which had been renovated, but there were still things that cost $20,000 to do. So, get someone to do a thorough inspction on the house before you seal the deal.

The rent to mortgage ratio is a good metric to review, as well. If rents are lower than mortgage payments in an area, house prices are still overly inflated. I haven’t checked Oakland and Berkeley lately, but that was certainly the case a year ago.

So much to investigate and so little time…

Good luck!

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'nother single mom June 9, 2009 at 7:58 pm

Wow! After leaving my husband, I rented with my two kids. After appx. 18 mos. I am a home owner and it is a great feeling. Yes, it is scary and very expensive, but it is OURS! At my closing, I mentioned that the entire process was so expensive and I felt like I was throwing money away. My lawyer calculated what 30 years of rent would cost and said, “This is throwing money away”.

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