Despite the pay gap, women are increasingly becoming financial powerhouses. Case in point: they now control 51 percent of American wealth, totaling some $14 trillion in assets. One of the ways they’re using those assets to their advantage? Home buying.
According to the latest data from Ellie Mae, women are the primary borrowers on 32 percent of all closed mortgage loans. When women take the lead on a home loan, they’re single 61 percent of the time. Buying a home is tough enough with a spouse or a significant other, but it can be even more challenging when flying solo. To better help your clients who are first-time homebuyers, here are some of the most important things you need to keep in mind.
1. Affordability is about more than Purchase Price
One common pitfall many homebuyers often fall into is misjudging how much they can really afford to spend. For single women, that can be especially problematic because they rely on just one income, and it’s often lower than what men earn.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) puts the median weekly income for women who are working in full-time management or professional positions at $1,019. That adds up to $52,988 annually, or $4,416 a month. By comparison, men make a median annual salary of $73,060.
Assuming your client has an annual salary of $52,988, zero debt, and $40,000 for a down payment, they could theoretically afford a $245,900 home if they got a 30-year loan at a rate of 3.39 percent, according to Realtor.com’s home affordability calculator. Their payments would come to approximately $1,224, including the principal and interest, taxes, homeowners’ insurance and private mortgage insurance, leaving them with $3,192 a month to pay the rest of their bills, cover everyday expenses, and save.
That seems like plenty of money, but it can go relatively quickly if homeownership results in higher utility costs, or they’re spending more on transportation because they have a longer commute to work. They also have to factor in the added expense of things like maintenance and home repairs, which could put even more of a strain on their financial resources.
In that scenario, something like saving for retirement could easily get pushed to the backburner. Considering that women are more likely than men to retire poor, socking away money for retirement isn’t something your clients can afford to skip out on. Before your client makes a move on a home, make sure that it doesn’t come at the expense of their other financial goals.
2. Your Clients Down Payment Matters
Putting 20 percent down on a home is the generally accepted industry standard, but it is possible to buy a home with less cash out of pocket. An FHA loan, for instance, will allow your client to put down as little as 3.5 percent.That’s tempting for a single woman who’s trying to keep short-term costs as low as possible, but it comes at a price. Taking on an FHA loan or a conventional loan with a down payment of less than 20 percent means paying private mortgage insurance (PMI), which drives up the cost of home buying.
Let’s say your client has their eye on a $250,000 home, and they want to get a 30-year, fixed-rate loan at a rate of 3.39 percent. If they put 20 percent down, that eliminates the private mortgage insurance requirement and sets their payment at $1,139, which breaks down to $886 for the principal and interest, $63 for homeowners’ insurance and $190 for property taxes.
On the other hand, if they only put 10 percent down, that adds $117 a month for private mortgage insurance. The principal and interest part of their payment increases to $997, so they’re now looking at a payment of $1,367 a month, including the PMI, property taxes and homeowners insurance.
If your client is a single woman who’s pulling in a modest salary, a difference of more than $200 a month in the mortgage payment can have a significant impact on their bottom line. Saving up a larger down payment may mean delaying your client’s home purchase, but they will thank you if it allows them to shrink their monthly housing costs in the long term.
3. A Safety Net is Vital
If your client is single, the burden of making sure they’re financially protected sits squarely on their shoulders. Buying a home adds a new dimension to that responsibility.
Single women need to be ready for the worst on multiple fronts. Buying a home warranty, for instance, can help with the cost of making certain repairs or replacing appliances during the first few years of homeownership. Disability insurance allows them to keep up with their mortgage payments if they get sidelined by an illness or injury. Life insurance can wipe out their mortgage debt altogether if they pass away.
Besides all that, single women should also have a sizable emergency fund. If they don’t have a home warranty or it runs out, having money on hand to deal with things like busted pipes or a leaky roof means that they don’t have to resort to putting them on credit. An emergency fund also comes in handy if they get laid off and it takes a few months to land another job.
4. Knowledge is Power
Nearly half of mortgage buyers don’t take the time to compare rates when getting a mortgage, and that can be a serious mistake for single women. A difference of even 0.25 percent in your client’s mortgage rate can translate to thousands of dollars more they’ll spend on interest over the life of the loan. Shopping around for the best mortgage rates is a must.
Taking on an expensive loan or coming to the closing table with a tiny down payment can influence your client’s financial outlook for years to come.
5. Good Fences Make Good Neighbors… or Do They?
Moving somewhere means that your client is committing themselves to being neighbors with the folks who already live there. If your client is moving somewhere and still wants to maintain an active dating life close to home, make sure that they check out the city demographics to confirm this desire can be satisfied.
Another thing to check is your client’s immediate neighboring properties: are the homes looking cared for? If the neighbor hasn’t bothered to replace a rotting fence or paint the house in a long time, chances are that this neighbor isn’t going to fix something that might be affecting your client’s property (like drainage, or that rotting property line fence).
Chief Industry Officer