For Melissa Wood, house hunting as a single woman couldn’t have gone more smoothly.
Within six weeks of enlisting a real estate agent, the head of Marketing for RateSupermarket.ca and first time buyer was moving into a stylish one-bedroom loft, smack dab in the middle of Toronto’s trendy Queen West neighbourhood.
“People talk about how expensive Toronto real estate is,” says Wood. “But I had a fantastic experience with my real estate agent, she was able to find tons of stuff that was all within my budget – I ended up actually going under my budget.”
The Challenges of Buying Solo
But that doesn't mean the entire process was a breeze. As she arranged her financing and closing costs, Wood did encounter unexpected snags due to her single-lady status.
“I got a couple really weird questions from my real estate lawyer that were like ‘oh you’re a single woman’,” says Wood. “I think I felt like everybody else was making a bigger deal out of it than I felt like it was.”
Her mortgage specialist commandeered the fact she was single to convince her to invest in disability insurance.
“She’s like ‘you’re alone, you don’t have anybody to lean on’ and she kind of used that as a sales tactic which was... interesting and it totally worked,” she adds. “I found that was kind of odd now looking back.”
Securing a Mortgage With One Income
Financing also proved to be a bit of an issue for Wood, as she had to qualify for her mortgage based on her income alone - and qualifying with her bank meant jumping through a few more financial hoops.
“Because it’s just myself, the same financing options aren’t available because you don’t have someone else to back your income,” she says. “I’m seen as a higher risk because there’s not two of us co-signing on the loan.”
Pro Tip: Don't hit those open houses without a pre-approval on a great mortgage rate.
The Importance of a Good Credit Score
And these challenges aren't necessarily unique to single woman buyers, says Jia Li, a Toronto-based realtor with Sage Real Estate.
“This applies to anyone, it is important to establish a good credit and start saving for the down payment,” says Li adding, “(For the most part) single women are doing quite well when it comes to purchasing first-time properties.”
Single Home Hunter Tips
Buying – single or otherwise – is about figuring out what best fits the homebuyers’ interests. What neighbourhood they like, access to amenities and transit and safety all mean different things to different types of buyers.
And, once it comes time to put in offer, be prepared for the process can move pretty fast.
“Buying for the first-time could be over-whelming,” says Li. To take the edge off she recommends mapping out a timeline to prepare for the purchase.
“It could be six months, one year, two years, or longer,” says Li. “Set a goal and understand the necessary steps to achieve that, then go for it.”
Be Your Own Advocate
Wood admits that even though the experience is rewarding and she’s glad she got to brave the milestone on her own; it can be tough house-hunting when you feel like no one’s in your corner.
“It’s something I’ve done once, that I don’t think I’d like to go through again because you’re making these huge decisions and you have all of these different people that even though they’re there to help you they’re also kind of vying for different parts of your business,” says Wood. “You really need to be your own advocate.”
It Takes a Team
Both Wood and Li recommend single buyers should ask for professional help when it comes to understanding how the process works and figuring out what's your budget, carrying cost and other expenses.
“You also really need to be responsible for knowing your own stuff because at the end of the day you’re the one that’s going to be holding the weight of those decisions,” says Wood. “It can be quite frightening but can also be quite empowering if you go ahead with it and are properly prepared”