The real estate website Estately recently conducted a study showing how the continued gender wage gap in America affects home affordability and ownership for women.
To answer this question, Estately used 2016 U.S. Census data to compare men’s and women’s median salaries in the 50 most populated U.S. cities. Based on those salaries (and assuming a monthly mortgage payment of 28% of the gross monthly income) the site used a mortgage calculator to determine the maximum home price each salary could afford.
Armed with all of this information and after a review of the homes currently for sale in major cities across the country, Estately identified what percentage of homes men versus women could afford by city.
The results in some urban centers were bleak. Seattle, for instance, has the biggest wage-based housing gap. Men can afford nearly 150% more homes than women. Colorado Springs, Miami, San Diego and San Jose also topped the list with significant gaps. For instance, in Colorado Springs men can afford 122.5% more homes than women, while further down the list in San Diego, the difference is still a significant 68.5%.
With these results in mind, we asked real estate and personal finance experts to share their top tips for single women seeking to purchase a home.
Don’t let the down payment scare you away
Coming up with the funds to make a down payment on a home can often seem impossible, particularly when so many Americans have sizeable student loan bills and more.
Andrina Valdes, division president at Cornerstone Home Lending, urges buyers not to let this part of the process discourage them.
“Over and over again, potential home buyers report saving for the down payment as the biggest hurdle to homeownership. When you’re relying on one income to save up for it, the problem can seem insurmountable,” says Valdes.
The good news is there are all kinds of down payment assistance programs that can help individuals get into a home for less money down.
The Federal Housing Administration loan is popular among first-time and single-income home buyers thanks to its 3.5% down payment requirement. There are also programs offered by the Veterans Administration and also USDA loans that may require no down payment at all, says Valdes.
Line-up a guarantor or co-purchaser
The reality is that many single income households, whether they’re run by men or women, need assistance buying a home in today’s market.
Experienced agent Julie Gans of Triplemint suggests lining up a qualified guarantor, co-purchaser or someone who might be able to gift money for your home purchase.
“These three options help buyers with lower income, lack of reserve funds or the total overall funds to purchase properties,” said Gans. “Finding the right [property] that will allow these options are important and help women and single income families be successful in their purchases.”
Consider a fixer upper
A growing trend among home buyers with limited means has been buying older properties and rehabbing them, says Ralph DiBugnara, president of Home Qualified.
“There are a few mortgage products in the market right now that make that easier,” said DiBugnara. “Fannie Mae has a loan called Home Style and FHA has what’s called a 203k loan. They both allow you to not only finance the purchase price but also construction costs in the loan to help your home look new. This is one way women can buy less inexpensive homes and make them new, also giving them a much higher valued property at completion.”
Look at homes well below your means
Real estate analyst Julie Gurner, of FitSmallBusiness.com, says it’s critical that single income households buy properties that are well below the amount they’ve been pre-approved for.
“You see that gorgeous home at the top of your range? Pass on it, and you’ll be glad you did,” said Gurner. “Single women and single income families have to be especially mindful to buy a home below their means…It gives them an additional expense cushion every month. Things come up. Doctor visits, your car breaks down, or your furnace breaking can be a big financial hit if you don’t have the ability to absorb it. On months where nothing goes wrong, you have the ability to save.”
As a single income earner, it’s important to protect yourself financially and be able to provide the necessities that make life stable. Having a home below your means can give you both and a great place to live.
House hunt during the right season
When it comes to finding an affordable home, time of year can make a big difference.
That means shopping during the right seasons, when prices traditionally are more negotiable and inventory is better, says Valdes.
Recent data from Trulia shows that there’s a 7% spike in starter home inventory during the fall, making it an ideal time to find a good deal. On the flip side, starter home inventory drops by more than 20% during the summer, making the warmer months a less appealing market.
Minimize credit card debt
As you embark upon your housing search, it’s critical that you reduce existing debt. This helps on a variety of levels.
For instance, not only does it make you a better mortgage applicant, it will also help once you’re in your new home dealing with a whole host of new expenses.
Gans, of Triplemint, suggest tackling credit card debt in particular.
“Pay off all credit cards prior to purchase to lower your income to debt ratio,” advises Gans. “This reduces your liability and makes you look more appealing to a seller.”
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Mia Taylor is an award-winning travel and finance journalist with two decades of experience. Her work has appeared on MSN Money, MSN Travel, TheStreet, MainStreet, TheSimpleDollar, Cheapism, KPBS (the San Diego affiliate of National Public Radio) and in Westways Magazine. In 2011, Mia was among a team of KPBS reporters who won the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism for an investigation into the salaries and perks of California county supervisors. She has also received multiple awards from the North American Travel Journalists Association. You can read more about Mia’s career and writing expertise at www.miataylorwriter.com. More by Mia Taylor