5 homebuying tips for single parents

A single father sits at his kitchen table, with his infant son on his lap, considering buying a home as a single parent.Image: A single father sits at his kitchen table, with his infant son on his lap, considering buying a home as a single parent.

In a Nutshell

Government programs and pragmatic budgeting could help make buying a family home achievable for single parents.
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Being a single parent can come with many challenges, both emotionally and economically.

Dual income can be helpful when trying to buy a house, but it’s not necessarily a requirement. There are resources for single parents looking to buy a home. Additionally, knowing some best practices around homebuying can help you get the best home for your family within your budget.

  1. Create a budget
  2. Be willing to look for help
  3. Sort out your credit
  4. Figure out what you need before you start looking
  5. Take advantage of first-time homebuyer programs

1. Create a budget

A budget is a must-have for anyone looking to buy a home. Make sure to have a clear, defined idea of what you can afford before you even start looking at houses. When making a budget, you’ll want to include your monthly expenses with and without the mortgage and related expenses. When adding a mortgage into the equation, remember to consider the following costs:

  • Down payment
  • Mortgage insurance premiums
  • Closing costs
  • Moving costs
  • Property taxes
  • Homeowner association fees

The current state of the market, the area where you’re house shopping and the average cost of the type of home you want can help inform your budget calculations.

Will your home cost $100,000 or $1 million? Using an online mortgage calculator can help you figure out a realistic budget based on the estimated monthly cost of your loan.

Securing a mortgage rate that you can afford

Unless you have enough money to buy a home outright, you’ll need a mortgage. Mortgages are large, long-term loans.

When it comes to choosing a mortgage, not all lenders are the same. So shopping around for the right lender is an important part of the home loan journey. Depending on your circumstances, you may find that some lenders are willing to work with you while others may not. For those lenders willing to work with you, you’ll want to compare interest rates along with fees and closing costs — information you can get when requesting a loan estimate.

Keep in mind that any interest rate discussion you have is hypothetical until you enter into a mortgage-rate lock commitment with a specific lender.

2. Be willing to look for help

Your credit scores play a large part in getting a home loan. It’s possible to get a home with bad credit, but it can be difficult. You may have to accept loan terms that are less favorable, which can have long-lasting consequences. You can also look for home loan programs with more-forgiving credit terms.

  • VA loansThe Department of Veterans Affairs offers a VA loan program to qualifying service members, veterans and eligible surviving spouses. If you’re eligible, you can apply for a VA mortgage through a participating lender.
  • HUD housing counselors The Department of Housing and Urban Development offers referrals to HUD-approved housing counseling agencies. These agencies provide free or low-cost services. This can be a great resource for first-time homebuyers who are single parents.
  • HUD homeownership vouchers HUD also offers housing vouchers and monthly financial assistance to those who are admitted to the Housing Choice Voucher homeownership program. Eligibility for the HCV program is decided by your local Public Housing Assistance program, but not every PHA offers one.

Your state may offer other financial assistance programs, such as grants or special financing opportunities. Contact your local PHA to learn whether these programs are available to you.

3. Sort out your credit

Because your credit scores are such an important part of buying a house, make sure to check your credit before you start applying for a mortgage. The Fair Credit Reporting Act entitles consumers to a free credit report from each of the three main consumer credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — periodically.

If you have low credit scores, there are ways that you can work on improving your credit health. You can start by reviewing your credit reports for errors and disputing any you find. It’s also a good idea to review your credit reports for evidence of identity theft and dispute anything that looks suspicious. Keep in mind that disputing entries on your credit reports takes time, so start this process as early as possible.

Your payment history is also important. A good track record of on-time payments on your financial obligations shows creditors that you’re likely to pay them back — so make sure you’re up to date with all your payments before coming to the home loan application process.

4. Figure out what you need before you start looking

You’ll want to have an idea about what your family needs before you start home shopping. The choices you make here may affect the price range of the homes you want to view — how much for a one-bedroom home compared with a three-bedroom house? Here are some of the factors you’ll want to consider.

  • Number of bedrooms
  • Number of bathrooms
  • Yard size and cost of upkeep
  • Nearby schools/daycare
  • Age of the house
  • Neighborhood amenities — parks, pools, etc.
  • Proximity to shopping, healthcare facilities and transportation

Consider how your new house will fit into your lifestyle. For example, is it important for you to live near your family? What accessibility features do your family members need? By considering all of these factors, you can start looking at homes that fit the way you live, rather than homes you’d have to work your life around.

5. Take advantage of first-time homebuyer programs

If you haven’t bought a house before, you may qualify for first-time homebuyer programs. These programs can offer different types of financial assistance, such as tax credits or special interest rates. Each program will have different eligibility requirements. You can look up programs in your state or ask your bank if it has a first-time homebuyer program.

Buying a home is a serious commitment that can seem even more daunting as a single parent. But by leaning on available assistance programs and being strategic with your budget, you may not have to compromise on your family’s need to get into a home.

Want to learn more? Check out some of our top mortgage lenders for first-time homebuyers.

  • Homebridge Mortgage: Homebridge offers resources that specifically cater to first-time homebuyers.
  • Rocket Mortgage: Consider Rocket Mortgage if you’d prefer an online-first experience.
  • PennyMac Mortgage: PennyMac offers a wide variety of home loans and shares current rates on its site, which can be helpful for people looking to buy their first home.
  • USAA Mortgage: USAA is a good option for military members and their families.