Stephanie had been renting for a long time and had tried a few times before to end the vicious renting cycle. However, she ran into frustration with the first-time homebuying process. Hear the lessons she learned, and the techniques that finally led her to getting her keys to her first home.
Interview With A Single, Female First-Time Home Buyer In 2022
How to Buy Your First Home As A Single Female
Do you think you can’t buy a home because of your student loans or it’s too tough to buy as a single lady? Maybe you’ve tried to buy, but it feels like this housing market is some sort of a sick version of Hunger Games. Instead of me telling you, “You can do this,” you’re going to hear from Stephanie and how she overcame all of that and a lot more, and she did it. It’s time for another real first-time home buyer story.
It’s another one of your favorite episodes and interview with a recently closed first-time home buyer. This is Stephanie. She’s very excited to be here. She told me that she’s sorry she doesn’t have blinds. That’s how new she is to her home. I told her it gives her a nice glow of home ownership with all the sunlight behind her. Stephanie, tell us, when did you get into this home?
I closed on May 25th and moved in on June 17th.
I’m going to jump right into it then. You had a little crossover or extra time from your apartment into this.
I knew I wanted to take the time to pack. I paid for the extra month of rent. It gave me time to come here and get things cleaned out. I got the carpet shampooed and took some measurements so that I could start to think about what I wanted to put where.
People ask me about their closing costs. I know everyone tries to stretch as far as they can but I always try to tell people, “Think about the fact that you might want to cover it for an extra month.” I have some episodes where I talk about the fact that it can be okay because you pay your mortgage backward and you pay your rent ahead of time. You don’t have a payment for a little while, so you can work that crossover. I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back to the beginning. Tell us what brought you to the decision to find my crazy show and decide to buy a home.
I had been renting for a long time. I turned a milestone age so I felt like it was time. I was sick of renting. I had been looking at the real estate listings to see what was out there. In January, I thought, “I wasn’t happy where I was living.” I was like, “I can’t move into another rental. If I’m going to move, I’m going to move to a home that I’m going to own.” That started me getting serious about it.
I was looking at what was out there and hearing the news about the low inventory and rates might go up. I thought, “I have to do this now.” I wanted to find a resource that could break it down for me and explain things to me. I’m a moron. I needed something that was very rudimentary and what you need to know without any BS. I googled, “How to buy a home podcast,” and yours came right up.
That’s very helpful to have a name, How to Buy a Home. I appreciate that. I try to say that I’m going to break it down to you like you’re in kindergarten. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m not thinking like a moron, but it is one of those things because it’s interesting. You’re very put-together and articulate. You seem like a smart lady. We have had nice conversations getting this together even though I was the idiot who couldn’t figure out how to turn on the show. You’re not 21 and fresh out of college trying to figure out how to buy a house, but the breakdown was important to you. Through friends, family, or anything else, are you the kind of person who was going to research no matter what they told you anyway?
Yeah, pretty much. I was also looking for a certain set of things. I wasn’t looking for a center hall, colonial with four bedrooms and a huge backyard. I was very specific about what I wanted. I had some concessions that I was willing to make. There are some people that I do talk to about real estate like my brother and one of my friends. I try to get their input. For the most part, I went with my gut. Your show certainly helped.
It’s very personal. A lot of people think, “I’m going to talk to my uncle. He buys and sells a lot of houses.” When it’s your own place that you’re buying, it becomes a whole different situation. I get so many people that reach out to me and ask me a question. They’re like, “Should I do it or not?” I’m like, “You gave me a paragraph. I need to know all twenty chapters of your life.” Once you made that decision and started researching, what did you find surprising about the process or something that you didn’t know? Were there any big things or revelations that changed your path for you?
One revelation is I was listening to one of your episodes. I knew because I’m a single person that I would probably need to borrow from my 401(k) to make a down payment, which a lot of people tell you not to do. I knew that I would have to do that. It gave me some hesitation and a little anxiety. It’s a milestone age. One of the things you said is, “You have to think of it as diversifying your investments.” That made a lot of sense to me because I could keep socking money away into my 401(k), look at the number, and be all proud but I would still be renting. That rent would still go up. It made a lot of sense to me, especially how I could also recalibrate my contribution so that I’m not putting my entire paycheck into my mortgage. With all of that, I was like, “I didn’t even think of it that way.” It made me feel a lot better about the direction I was going in.
It’s such a powerful tool. The hard part about that is I can’t put the explanation of borrowing against your 401(k) in a 30-second TikTok. I come from a place of empathy and compassion and I understand that that’s scary, but when you are near our milestone ages as both of us love to say, you start freaking out a little bit for a couple of different reasons.
You’re thinking, “How much time do I have left? Everyone told me I was supposed to start these retirement accounts at 22.” The other thing too is as you get older, diversifying your portfolio is a very important part of what you do. That’s why I had to dedicate full-hour episodes to that because I will get people that say, “I didn’t know I could even buy a house with 650 credit.” I’ll get people to say, “I didn’t know I could buy it without 20% down.”
Here’s one of the things I’m proud of. Something that I’ve been working with is helping people who are hitting milestone ages realize that the diversification of your portfolio is the smarter long-term move, especially when it’s a one-time non-taxable event that happens because we’re told we can’t withdraw. I’m 52 and I feel like I’m just starting over in life with this whole thing with the show. I love the fact that we’re being able to pull from that. Were there any other obstacles and things that popped up, granted either you didn’t listen to every single episode or I missed something?
I did start with a realtor. She didn’t have my back. I’m not looking for a big house. It’s just me. It’s not like I’m going to be putting down $1 million on something. I felt like I was pushed to the back burner. She would send me listings that I could tell she didn’t research them and what I was looking for. That’s when I reached out to you. You hooked me up with Stacy, who’s amazing. That was a hurdle.
There were times when I would go look at a place. It didn’t check all my boxes but it was close to where I thought I wanted it to be. It had some of the things that I wanted, but there would be ten other people. The inventory issue was concerning. I would go look at a place. Stacy and I would get together. She would do her homework and tell me how to look into the offer that I wanted to make. The next day, we would find out somebody came in and offered cash over asking. That stuff was disillusioning but I was like, “I’m going to find it. It’s out there.”
People don’t like to hear it or think about it but no matter what the market is doing, the buyers are going to be in a position where they think, “This isn’t what I thought it was going to be.” If the market is going down, then they will have plenty of time to think about it. They’re like, “The market is going down so I’m going to offer them way lower than the list price.” The seller might not take it.
That’s the situation you’re in. That’s why it’s Boy Scout or Girl Scout time now. Prepare because you might find it. The way I usually do it is I’ll call people. We will set it up and spend the first Saturday with a lunch in the car, water, and granola bars. We will see 10 or 12 properties all over the place and then think about it. Next week, we funnel down. You can’t do that now. You’ve got to do all that stuff ahead of time.
It’s the Hunger Games.
I had a buyer say something to me. I believe they offered their child as a tribute to get a home. It’s neat. I appreciate the fact that I had a conversation. It’s so funny. I’ve got 278 unicorns across the country. Stacy is great. It’s a valuable resource. I had a conversation with a guy. I’m south of Los Angeles. In Los Angeles proper, I’m having the hardest time because it’s someone who has their eye on the bigger prize. It’s like what you ran into.
I finally had a conversation with this guy who’s 26 years in the business. He said, “I’m at a boutique.” Every time I call a Beverly Hills boutique real estate place, they’re like, “We’re doing $4 million and above. That’s you.” I’m like, “Nope.” I’m glad that you found it. There are those people out there who can still give you that great service.
Besides finding an experienced realtor who’s going to give you that service, how about for our single ladies? That’s a big one. I’m sure you don’t have the same tip that would apply to everybody. Do you have any tips for people out there? Is there anything in the process like budgeting, credit, planning, and shopping for homes? Are there any tips for first-timers?
I made sure that I found a broker that I liked because I did shop around. I started with my bank. I felt like they were going to treat me like a transaction. They weren’t going to treat me like someone that needed some support. I had a lot of questions about the whole financial part. I found this awesome broker. I had a team of women. My broker has a company called Mortgage Sisters.
It’s her sister and her, and then Stacy and me. I had these great women behind me every time I had a question, no matter what. I knew I would have a lot of dumb questions, but they always took the time to answer them. They didn’t talk to me like, “Listen here, little lady.” They were very open. There was never a dumb question that I could ask. They were supportive.
That’s incredible to hear. I’m married for many years. I go through that with my wife when she has to take the car into the shop. There’s the, “Listen here, little lady,” crap. Fortunately, in real estate, it’s a strong representation of women. Eighteen percent of the highest growing bracket of buyers are single women. My wife bought a house without me. We weren’t dating yet. She was smart but her brother walked her through the whole thing. She was like, “Thank God, he’s so smart,” and having that guidance. That’s so cool. I love that you had that strong group behind you. People are reading and they’re excited about the tips. Are there any major pitfalls? You tried this a couple of years ago. What would you say would be the big difference between thinking about it at one point and not pulling the trigger and then getting to this point now?
Crunch the numbers and see what is possible. I didn’t think I could afford a mortgage but I had to think, “I’m already paying X in rent and saving this amount. Why not put it into a mortgage payment?” Crunch your numbers. You never know what you might be able to afford. Don’t be so crazy about paying down student debt. I have student loans.
I thought, “I’m going to have to pay that off before I can get a mortgage.” I’ve been paying it off. I’ll pay it off eventually but I didn’t want that to stop me from thinking that I couldn’t get a loan, and also be able to think outside the box. I ended up not buying in the town that I was living in. I went a little outside of the city. That’s where I found this place. This place is awesome. It’s everything I wanted.
It looks incredible from the little bit that I can see. It’s interesting. Those are three big points. I read through the lines because I have a realtor’s brain. When you’re crunching the numbers, crunching the numbers doesn’t mean, “Go get an approval.” It means to look at the whole big picture. You not only talked about getting some money from your 401(k) to help with the down payment because there’s simple math behind that. Do I try to save up $30,000, $40,000 or $50,000? Do I borrow it for myself? You’re a together person who constantly is putting money into things. You reduce that saving contribution so you could increase your mortgage payment.
I had been saving a set amount every payday. I took away from that. I’m not saving as much, but I’m not renting. My mortgage payment will stay the same and my salary will go up assuming, with salary increases and things like that. This makes sense. The money is in there. I just have to rejigger things.
It’s true. There’s so much math behind it. If you are putting out to a 401(k) monthly, that’s a contribution you can reduce if you have the mindset and the understanding that your home is the same type of long-term appreciating asset as a 401(k). If you’re putting money into a savings account, a lot of people will be like, “I don’t want my monthly payment to go up $500.” I’m like, “You contribute $1,000 into a savings account. Maybe cut that in half.” You said that the reduction there and other great things.
Think outside the box. You may not find what you want in the city that you’re looking at.
Do you work from home or do you commute?
I do work from home full-time. I was commuting into Boston and living 7 miles outside of Boston. We have a lot of people who were leaving the city and moving into a suburban area, which is what Quincy was or is. Those prices were skyrocketing. I could have gotten a crappy condo for I paid for what I have here. No offense to the city of Quincy, but I just wasn’t finding what I wanted.
With every place that I looked at in my price range, there was something I wasn’t going to get. There was some concession that I would have had to make. It wasn’t worth it to me. One day, I was discouraged. I reached out to Stacy. It was right after we found out that a place was bought in cash way over asking. I said, “I’m going to have to widen my search.” She was like, “That sounds like a good idea.”
I went online and found the listing for this place. I had seen it but I went past it because I didn’t think I could afford it. It was in my range but I thought, “That’s too much.” I went back to it and looked at the pictures again. I said, “It’s 45 minutes away from where you are but it has everything you want.” I have lived in Salem before. I figured, “I know the neighborhood. I have friends there. I’ve got to do this. It makes sense.”
It’s so good for people to hear someone else saying that besides me. I can’t figure out what everyone’s quality of life is and what their personal goals and dreams are but their local realtor will be able to after they work with them for a little while. I don’t think there was any offense to your previous city. Your previous city, Quincy, would say, “We’re bougie. It costs more money to live here.”
That’s cool. If you’re going to be working from home, that can be a big difference between a condo where you have to set up your office in your living room or not having the extra space. It’s an exciting adventure. I tell people all the time that you’re going to find out when you start, “Can I afford to live in the picket fence where I grew up?” When I started in real estate, none of my friends could afford the neighborhood we grew up in. Our parents were all darn lucky. The neighborhood exploded.
I helped them get houses outside of the neighborhood. Eventually, they moved back but it takes time. This is incredible. I’m so happy for you. I’m so appreciative that you took the time. I’m glad the show helped you find your superwoman team. That’s so awesome and neat. Are there any closing thoughts for all buyers out there who might be getting frustrated in this market besides, “Know your stuff and be ready to compromise?”
Don’t give up. You will find something. It’s out there. Do your homework. You can do this.
I love it. That was perfect. You’re a soundbite queen. Are you in broadcasting?
I’m in marketing.
I’m going to stop this, and then you and I are going to talk. Thanks so much. Congratulations to you.
Thank you for everything. I appreciate it.
That was a fun interview for me. Stephanie said she hit a milestone age but she looks fantastic. I’m still saying that milestone was 25 years old, but maybe she’s a little older than that. Hearing stories from someone like her at that milestone age who maybe has a couple of extra years of renting more than you Gen Z people reading this. It is exhilarating for me because it helps to show how this process can be navigated by anyone at any point in their life, even a life-experienced individual like herself. She still didn’t have it all figured out.
She said that she wanted to ask dumb questions. Those are her words, not mine. She was looking for resources to help explain everything to her. She was a moron. Again, it’s her words, not mine. She said she wanted rudimentary explanations with no BS. That is a smart buyer. You’ve got to know what you don’t know, embrace the education, and do your homework. Once she did all that, she still found out that it was great to lean on that powerful group of ladies that she had or her superpower team of strong women.
She tried a few years ago. She had been through all the horror stories you hear about. She got beat by cash offers. At that time, she felt like her realtor didn’t have her best interests at heart. What did she do? It’s what a lot of you out there do. She had to take a step back. Once she opened her mind and stayed focused, she found something amazing with her unicorn team or that super strong woman team that she had, and then made it happen. If you’re like her and you can’t bear the idea of renting again, then follow her lead.
She had realistic ideas when she was going into it. She said she already had some concessions in mind when she started looking. It’s the way it works. Most people don’t look under their maximum loan amount. They’re trying to get the absolute most out of whatever they can get their loan amount for. Getting ready for those compromises was a good tip. The other big one that I thought about was everyone told her the 401(k) was a bad idea. I’m not saying that dipping into your retirement is the right thing for everyone, although if you’re young, it can be a good thing to diversify early.
I am saying that it is not a terrible idea for many of you people out there despite what everyone tells you. She decided to go with her gut. She did the research and realized that using her retirement funds was simply a way of diversifying her investments for the long goal of her financial stability. Remember, that a home is a forced savings plan. You have so many options when it comes to not only perhaps borrowing against your retirement to have a non-taxable event to help you with your down payment, but you can also look at adjusting your monthly contributions.
If you’re already making contributions into your savings account or your 401(k) account and you’re looking to figure out how to adjust to a new higher monthly payment, maybe then it’s adjusting and reducing a little bit of those contributions into something that you know is a forced savings account or an appreciating asset. Maybe that’s the right thing for you. Look at the whole big picture like Stephanie did. If you’re looking for details on that, they’re in Episode 58 and Episode 22 and probably sprinkled throughout the show and other places.
There were so many great lessons there. I hope you took some mental notes. Here are a couple of other nuggets of wisdom that I want to make sure you’ve heard about. Have some crossover time on your moving day. I can’t say this enough. Do not try to end your lease on the day that you move in because closing dates are fluid. I’ve seen this one play out more than a hundred times. Trust me when I tell you that you will be so happy that you have a few days of crossover or not even days but a few weeks of crossover.
The little extra money that you’re going to pay for so-called paying double rent for a little while is going to be so worth it to you. The crossover thing is important. I got into how you’re not paying 4, 5, 6 or 7 weeks on your mortgage until you move in because you pay backward but that’s another episode. The key is even if you did have to double pay for a couple of weeks, it’s well worth it. You can do all the little things that you want to do to the home before you move in.
Another one of her great tips was to shop for lenders. She went to her bank. She had been going there for years. Remember, it was a milestone age for her. She has been banking as an adult for a little while there. She realized that they weren’t going to treat her like a customer or somebody that needed support and had a lot of questions about this gigantic financial transaction. Once again, it’s a big tip for everybody out there. At this show, we always recommend you go to the realtor first, not to a bank or an online lender, but that’s what the internet is going to tell you to do.
This is my biggest hack. Don’t do that. Get yourself a good realtor first and start working out your plan. That realtor can give you recommendations to hopefully, a local mortgage broker. You’re going to have a few different people of those that you can choose from. They’re all going to give you similar rates to what you’re going to get from the bank or the online place. The only difference is they’re going to treat you like a person and give you the service that you deserve. Her next tip was to crunch the numbers. You’ve got to see what’s possible out there.
She didn’t think she could even afford a mortgage but she crunched the numbers. Here she is. She told you to think outside the box. She eventually went outside the city that she first started looking in and found everything that she wanted in that town outside the city limits. By doing her research, she figured out it was a choice of staying in the city and getting a crappy condo versus getting the beautiful home of her dreams in another city. It worked out for her because she was working remotely. Think outside the box. Finally, my favorite thing she said is, “Don’t give up. Do your homework. You can do this.”
This podcast was started for YOU, to demystify things for first time home buyers, and help crush the confusion. After helping first timers for over 13 years, I knew there wasn’t t a lot of clear, tangible, useable information out there on the internet, so I started this podcast. Help me spread the word to other people just like you, dying for answers. Tell your friends, family, and perhaps that random neighbor you REALLY want to move out about How to Buy a Home! A really easy way is to hit the share button and text it to your friends. Go for it, help someone out. And if you’re not already a regular listener, subscribe and get constant updates on the market. If you are a regular and learned something, help me help others – give the show a quick review in Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts, or write a review on Spotify. Let’s change the way the real estate industry treats you first time buyers, one buyer at a time, starting with you – and make sure your favorite people don’t get screwed by going into this HUGE step blind and confused. Viva la Unicorn Revolution!
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