With the questions of down payments, closing costs, and how much home can you afford, it might seem daunting to step out of your comfort zone and purchase your first home. Especially as a single woman. But it is most definitely something that can be done.
In fact, I recently spoke with four amazing women oozing with all kinds of black girl magic who can testify to this. What I learned from them is that the path to ownership can take quite a few steps and sacrifices to get there, but ultimately, the first step is actually making the decision to own and shifting your mindset.
Changing Your Home Buying Mindset
Cierra Craig, a 31-year-old traffic officer from Washington, DC. Craig purchased a new 3-bedroom, 4-bathroom single family home at the age of 30 and doesn't regret it one bit. "A lot of people believe that you have to have all of this money to get started...and it prevents them from even looking into it because they feel like they aren't in a position to own anything," she shared.
Long gone are the days where women are waiting around for "the one" to come along and sweep them off of their feet, get married, and purchase a home with their spouse. Nah. More and more women are going out there and making their goal of being a homeowner happen all by themselves!
Kiara Arnold, a 29-year-old IT auditor from Charlotte, NC who purchased her 3-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom single family home at the young age of 25, explained how she didn't see any representation of someone young and single owning a home in her family. She knew that she had to do something to break the cycle. "It's important to challenge that belief that you have to wait until a partner comes along," she revealed.
"You don't have to be married to take ownership of something."
Prioritize Saving & Prep for Sacrifices
The next most important thing to do once your head is in the game and you're ready to move forward is save, save, save (and make some sacrifices)!
It took Kimaada Sills, a 30-year-old adjunct professor in Essex County, NJ four years to save $30,000. "I just lived at home with my family right after grad school to save up money for my down payment. While all of my other friends were moving out and getting apartments, I didn't have the opportunity to do that and still meet my savings goals," Sills said.
The sacrifice that was made afforded her a much greater opportunity instead. She was able to purchase a multi-family home at the age of 28. Arnold took two years to save $15,000 and moved back in with her parents to make it happen. Craig said she saved anywhere between $10,000-$15,000 over the course of two years because she was unsure of how much she was going to have to put down on her home. She actually ended up not having to put anything down and just paid for the home inspection. Phylicia Franklin, a 28-year-old dwelling in Atlanta and working in recruitment, recently purchased her first single family townhome and saved about $5,000-$6,000 in a span of six months.
Franklin made the sacrifice of picking up a second job temporarily to bring in some more cash for towards her down payment. "I think that was the most stressful thing (through homeownership process), trying to balance two jobs," Franklin expressed.
She also gave up her apartment and moved in with a friend for 6 months to make her savings goal happen. Everyone's savings goal and sacrifices that need to be made are going to be different. That's why it's important to do what makes sense for you on the journey of homeownership. "You gotta do what you gotta do and believe in," Craig advised.
Be Honest About What You Can Afford & Do Your Research
All four women also stressed the importance of knowing what your budget is and being honest with yourself about what you can afford. "I think that we get so caught up in looking at our dream home, and then when we see what we can actually afford, we get discouraged. We feel like we should have what we deserve, which we should, but we all have to start where we are at. Just because it might be your first house, dont mean it's going to be your last," Craig added. "We feel like we should have what we deserve, but we all have to start where we are at."
Her advice is to see what you get approved for prior to actually looking for a home so that you don't get your hopes up. Arnold recommends looking into starter neighborhoods in your area for homes that aren't as expensive when looking to purchase for the first time.
Three out of the four women utilized first time home buyers programs to make their dreams a reality. There are a ton of resources out there for people looking into homeownership and even help with covering some of the costs. Because of the HPAP program Craig utilized in DC, she wasn't required to pay a down payment. For 10 months, Sills worked with a first time home buyer program that allowed her to get an interest rate much lower than the market rate.
"I went to a number of workshops. I spoke to any and everyone who owns a home, about 10 different banks, and just processed the information," Sills shared.
Franklin was able to get $1,000 towards her closing costs through her lender and an additional $2,000 through her builder. Unfortunately, a lot of time, people are unaware of the resources that are out there. That's why it's super imperative to do extensive research in order to discover the gems in your area.
Lessons Learned Through First Time Home Buying
With all of these nuggets that were being shared, I just had to know if these women would've done anything differently throughout the process. It was interesting to hear about the lessons that they learned along the way and the advice that they'd give someone who is looking into buying their first home.
"I wouldn't do anything differently...I really feel like the journey and the process that I went through or that anyone goes through is for them," Craig said.
Sills wouldn't have done anything differently either. She stated, "I had years before to prep before I started looking. I was well prepared for it."
Arnold explained how she put 5% down on her home and that if she could do it all over again, she would've put at least 20% down. She also pointed out the importance of thinking about things that rarely get taken into account when looking into a home. "I would make sure that my house is not on a hill, that it's not elevated because you may incur different expenses depending on where how your house is positioned," she continued.
Arnold also warned to think about maintaining the lawn and how the sun rises and sets on it as it can burn the grass. Because of these things, she has to make sure she budgets money for lawn maintenance. Franklin stated that she would have sought advice from homeowners about their experiences and other educational programs in her area. "I went through the process pretty much by myself and it was trial and error for me. There were so many things (resources) available that would have just answered all of my questions prior to me going into the process," Franklin shared.
She also discussed how she didn't realize how important credit was: "Your credit is everything. It basically affects what your interest rate is going to look like and whether you get a 15-year loan or a 30-year loan."
If you're looking into purchasing your first home, remember that patience is a virtue. It's not an overnight process that you can just rush. Take the proper time to get your mind right and educate yourself, research programs in your area, get your credit and savings up, and search for properties within your budget. Don't put too much pressure on yourself as the process is already a lot on its own!
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Originally published September 29, 2018