How To Navigate Homeownership As A Single Woman

Buying a home can be overwhelming for anyone. A survey by revealed that for every five first-time home buyers, two experienced anxiety throughout the purchasing process. Who wouldn't be scared when it comes to making one of the biggest purchases of your adult life? From applying for a loan and finding a real estate agent to making an offer, negotiating with a seller, and finally closing, there are a lot of moving parts. And that's all before you're responsible for paying off the mortgage every month. If you're single, these are things you may be handling on your own.

Katie Barish, executive vice president of purchase at Rocket Mortgage, told PopSugar that "the biggest thing for a single person to remember is simply that they will bear the full burden of the cost of owning a home." That not only includes the down payment and monthly mortgage but repairs and renovations as well.

So, while the idea of going at it alone can be a heavy weight on your shoulders, don't let that hold you back from making the leap if you're a single woman looking forward to becoming a homeowner. Here's what you should know to approach the process with confidence.

Lower your debt and build an excellent credit score

Determining your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) is one of the first steps in measuring your ability to afford a home. The DTI ratio is calculated by dividing your total monthly debt, such as student loans, rent, and credit card payments, by your gross monthly income. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, this figure reflects your ability to repay your loan. A good DTI ratio should be around 36% or less, but shouldn't surpass 43% (via The Mortgage Reports).

Most lenders demand a DTI of 43% or less to qualify for a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac conforming loan, the most frequent type of loan home purchasers apply for. If your DTI is above 43%, prepare for a bumpy ride. Even if your loan is approved, it might go through additional underwriting, meaning a deeper look into your credit background and a longer closing time.

Reviewing your credit score is a good next step. Falling between 300 and 850, your credit score affects your mortgage rate, so be cautious of your credit card use if you're planning to be a solo homebuyer. A credit score above 700 reflects a good credit standing and might help you get a lower rate. Scores of 629 and below suggest you've mismanaged your credit, meaning you're a high-risk borrower and may end up paying a higher rate as a result (via Experian).

Save for a down payment and secure your income

A large down payment can allow you to borrow less and make your monthly payments more manageable. "If you can save at least 20% for a down payment, your chances of approval will be significantly increased," David Bitton, co-founder and chief marketing officer of DoorLoop, told The Balance. A significant down payment also helps maintain the home's equity, which is the difference between the appraised value of your property and your loan balance if the housing market goes south.

Even with stable employment, the risk of changes to your income exists. If you're worried about your ability to make your mortgage payments during unexpected situations, you might want to consider mortgage protection insurance. It prevents you from losing your home by paying off the outstanding balance of your loan in the event you suffer an illness or an injury that prevents you from working (via Insurance Business America).

And while these tips can help you navigate the home buying process, the most important one is to know when to walk away. It's okay to save for a larger down payment or wait for a home in a more affordable neighborhood to come on the market. When your dream of owning a home becomes a reality, you'll want to be able to enjoy it to the fullest, without the stress of wondering whether or not you can afford it.