Owning a home has long been touted as the American dream, and more and more women are making the choice to buy their own homes rather than delaying home ownership until they marry or form a partnership with a significant other. Whether you are married or single at the time when you buy your home, however, you need to make sure you understand the financial and other implications of the house and are prepared to take the responsibility on.
Buying a House as a Single Woman
Deciding to buy a home when you are single can be a smart move when your money situation is right. When you buy a house on your own, you get the opportunity to purchase exactly what you would like without having to consult anyone else’s opinion. However, you will also need to be solely responsible for paying the mortgage and the bills on that house. This can be a risky position to be in, since a job loss means that your entire household income goes rather than just half of the income going. As such, if you plan to buy a house on your own, you should make absolutely sure you have a solid emergency fund (6 months of living expenses, at a minimum, is advisable).
As you consider purchasing a home when you are single, you should also think about:
- What will you do with the home if your family situation changes? Is it large enough to provide a home for you and your husband, or for you and your husband and children? If not, will you be able to rent the home out easily (and do you want to be a landlord) or will you be able to sell the house? Normally, you should not buy a house unless you plan to stay put for at least two years, as otherwise you are almost guaranteed to lose money on closing costs. So, be sure your situation is stable and that you won’t need to sell immediately soon.
- Are you ready to take on the responsibility, both financial and otherwise? When you buy a house on your own, you will become solely responsible for handling the repairs on that home and for maintaining the house. If you aren’t skilled in DIY work or solving home problems, then you will need to be responsible for hiring the right people to do the work and for overseeing that work. Even basic home maintenance takes a lot of time and money, and home repairs can be even more burdensome. Make sure you are prepared to take on the task before you decide to buy.
Buying a Home When You are Married
Buying a home when you are married brings with it its own complications as well. First and foremost, you will need to decide how to take title to the home and who is going to be responsible for the mortgage. In most cases, both spouses apply for a mortgage for a home together and take title to the house together. Sometimes, however, one spouse has significantly better credit than the other and it makes more financial sense to apply for the mortgage only in that spouse’s name. This requires a tremendous amount of trust on the part of both parties, as the spouse who takes the mortgage in his or her name needs to trust the other party to help pay it, and the party without the mortgage in his name needs to have some legal assurances that he is earning an ownership stake in the property.
Making the Choice to Buy
Whether you are single or married, you shouldn’t make a choice to buy a home until you are reasonably certain that you will be remaining in the home for a few years and that you have the money to both pay for and take care of the home. Career stability and an emergency fund are also necessary. You should also think carefully about how to structure any real estate transaction and consider getting help from a financial and a legal advisor to make sure your legal rights and interests are protected and that you are making a wise move.