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Flying solo

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Buying a home as a single female owner may seem daunting, but it could be one of the best financial moves you ever make

Buying a home as a single female owner may seem daunting, but it could be one of the best financial moves you ever make

WORDS: MARANA BRAND – IMAGES: SHUTTERSTOCK

While many might think it impossible to purchase real estate on a single income, Lightstone Property reports that single females make up the largest portion of real estate buyers in South Africa, outstripping both their married and single male counterparts.

According to BetterBond, 60% of bond applications they received from women in 2019 were from single women, down slightly from the 61% in 2018. Of all the bond applications received last year, 41% were from women, says Jenny Rushin, national development manager, BetterBond.

Tougher for single females

As there’s still a gender pay gap in some professions, it can be harder for single women to save for deposits, get pre-approval for bonds and also afford the monthly bond repayments, as well as all other household expenses on their own, Rushin says.

“However, with the current low interest rate, it’s now more affordable for many buyers, including single women, to afford a bond. If your credit score is maintained by ensuring all payments are made timeously and you budget well for your monthly expenses, you should be in a position to get a bond,” she says.

Be money smart

As a solo buyer, there’s likely to be a smaller budget than when joining your savings and income with someone else’s. Therefore, solo buyers need to be smart with their money.

By working with a bond originator to obtain pre-approval, a woman will have a clear idea of how much she can afford to spend on a home. When she’s ready to apply for a bond, the bond originator will negotiate with the major banks on her behalf to get the best possible interest rate, explains Rushin.

“All property costs, including maintenance, rates, levies etc, need to be factored into your overall budget to ensure that once the property is secured, you’re able to service all debt.”

Applying for a bond

Before applying for a bond, a woman should try to pay off her current debt, and ensure that she has a good credit score. “Also, she should save as much as she can for a deposit, which will make her monthly payment lower,” Rushin advises.

To apply, a woman who is employed full time will need proof of income, with an official salary slip or stamped bank statement (three months), a copy of her SA ID or passport, a copy of the signed Offer to Purchase and a completed bond application form (this can be completed with the assistance of a consultant), she explains.

“Self-employed applicants should work with a bond originator to establish document requirements, as each case is unique and needs to be handled as such,” she says.

Save

Adrian Goslett, regional director and CEO, RE/MAX of Southern Africa, advises having at least a 10% deposit saved up, along with enough money to cover all the other costs associated with buying a home like transfer duty, attorney fees, home insurance and bond costs.

“If you don’t take out a 100% loan, not only will the monthly repayments be lower, but you will also often secure a lower interest rate on the home loan and save a substantial amount on interest charges over the span of the loan term,” says Goslett.

You should also start boosting a “rainy day” fund once you have bought the home, as it’s important to have money available for repairs or any other costs that may arise.

Choosing your home

If you’re a single mother, you may want to look for an area with excellent schools, or public transport.

“Safety is an important consideration, so living in a complex or on an estate may be an option. If you’re not keen on maintenance, a sectional title property may be preferable to a large freehold home, with a garden or swimming pool, which would require more upkeep. However, if you have children, a home with a play area, or that’s close to a greenbelt or park, would be ideal,” Rushin says.

“Single income buyers should also remember that real estate is a long-term investment,” says Goslett. To ensure that you will one day make a profit, you need to purchase a home in which you can imagine living for at least the next five to ten years.

Also, you may be single now, but do you foresee having a partner within the next ten years? You might want to consider a home that you can add on to or rent out in the future.

Before you sign….

Once ready to make an offer on a property, you should carefully read through the Offer to Purchase (OTP) and seek advice on any clauses you’re not comfortable with, Rushin advises women buyers. “The OTP is a legally binding document, so you need to make sure that you’re happy with everything contained in the document before signing.”

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