When I was 27 years old, I bought my first condo. I was single and scared but proud of what I’d been able to accomplish on my single-person salary. A few years later, I made the jump to a townhouse – still single, a bit more scared and even more proud of myself. The statistics show that single women make up one of the fastest growing segments of Toronto’s real estate market – and based on how many single women Buyers we help, I’m not surprised. Today, I offer my advice to solo women Buyers:
1. Don’t be afraid of a house.
True, it’s cheaper to buy a condo than a house, but you can always offset the price difference by buying a house with a rental apartment. If the maintenance of owning a house intimidates you, you’re in good company: plenty of men and couples are afraid of mowing the lawn and dealing with a leaky basement too. The good news: help is just a phone call away and there are plenty of resources to help you deal with the quirkiness of old Toronto houses. Just make sure you have available cash to deal with unbudgeted repairs. And remember: townhouses make a great compromise – the feel of a house without all the maintenance and risk.
2. Put to rest the ‘What if I meet a man?” concerns.
I’ll admit, this was one of my biggest concerns. At 27, I was worried I’d meet the man of my dreams next week, and he wouldn’t want to live in my 630 sqft condo. Well as it turns out, I didn’t get married until I was 36 and investing in a condo early on was one of the best financial decisions I’ve ever made. Of course, if you do fall in love, there are plenty of options: 1- he moves in with you (and don’t worry, that doesn’t mean he gets half your home); 2-rent it out and enjoy rental income while your property increases in value; or 3- sell it and buy a new home together. Some of the best non-real estate advice I ever got when I was in my twenties was to make a list of what I expected my life to be like if I found the man of my dreams – and to get out there and get all that for myself. Boom!
3. Don’t spend as much as the bank is willing to give you.
Of course, you want a nice home, but pouring all your money into a place to live won’t give you the flexibility to live that sassy spontaneous life that all us married people think you’re having.
4. It’s OK to involve your best friend or your mom.
You don’t have to make this decision on your own – involve friends and family to make sure you make the right decision. We help a lot of single women find homes and having the opinion of someone who knows you can be reassuring.
5. Only get a second bedroom if you really plan on using it.
We’ve met single Buyers who are searching for a second bedroom in case the dreamed-of baby come along with the dreamed-of husband. Recognize that you’re likely paying more than $200 a month for that second bedroom. If you do buy a two bedroom condo, put it to good use: a home office, yoga room or space for your suburban friends to crash on the weekends. Of course, you can always consider a roommate and pay off your mortgage faster with their rent!
6.Location, location, location.
I’ll never forget the single man I met who was living in a small community outside of Toronto. Sure, it was affordable, but it was about the worst place in the world to meet a mate. He was spending thousands a year on taxis to and from the city and he was miserable. What was he thinking? Where you choose to live impacts the kind of life you’ll have.
7. Safety and security.
I know guys don’t get the importance of being able to feel comfortable walking in your neighbourhood at night [Brendan, I’m talking to you] but it’s a reality that women know all too well. Before you agree to buy a house or condo, make sure to walk around the neighbourhood during the day AND at night. Consider the security features (security system, concierge, attached neighbours, etc.) and decide what’s right for you. If you aren’t comfortable on the main floor of a condo, focus on upper units.
There’s no doubt that buying a home on one income is harder – you’re paying the whole mortgage, all the closing costs, all the maintenance costs, etc. But the good news is that you also get to keep the whole profit when you sell! Make sure you have a decent downpayment and plenty of emergency cash. And remember to rejoice that you don’t have to argue about having university and sports memorabilia in the house, a clawfoot bathtub as a coffee table and entire wall of guitars (yea, that’s my life now).