Money

6 tips for women buying property alone

It can seem daunting, but with planning and the right advice buying a home alone can be a smart move.

There's a saying that "the 21st century is the age of living single". Judging by statistics, it's also a time for living alone with one-in-four Australian households being sole occupied - and, increasingly, many of these households have female residents.
The days of women waiting for their perfect match to swoop in so they can buy a home with their "significant other" have, for gone. Increasingly, women are doing it for themselves.
Not only do more women own their own homes than men, they're also more likely to be active in the housing market in the near future, according to Westpac's home 2018 ownership report.
And, as Elaine Davies, a single mum who is now a property buyers agent and author comments, women are making up for lost time.
"Only 30-ish years ago single women in Australia couldn't get a mortgage unless they had a dad or brother or some other male prepared to go guarantor for them," she says.
Elaine Davies knows how it feels to buy a property alone. (Source: Supplied)
But, as Elaine knows first hand, even if the research is showing that single women are leaping into property ownership, women over 40 can still be slow starters.
"Maybe like me they find themselves divorced with little children to look after and a career that was put on hold a few years ago and suddenly they just have only what they get in their property settlement to sustain them and put a roof over their broken family's head, " says the author of Mind Body Sold: Your Holistic Guide to Buying Property Like a Pro.
"Or maybe they've been waiting for their knight in shining armour and finally realise they can't wait any longer.
"The reason women are single is not important, it's how they can get the confidence to get out there and become property owners, if that's what they'd like. Yes, it's daunting and overwhelming and a little scary to be solely responsible for finding a house, getting a mortgage and then paying that mortgage but there are people like me around to advise and help."
At the age of 40, Elaine went from being a married stay-at-home mum of a toddler who was paying off a sizeable mortgage on a family home to being suddenly a single mum who needed to find a job and somewhere else to live.
"I was scared, unsure and totally unprepared. This was not what I had planned. But I needed to make a plan," she recalls.
She got a job and with her lump sum from her divorce settlement, she bought "a cave" of an apartment.
Over the years she has helped many other women in similar circumstances, or single women looking to invest in property and she's come up with this advice - and, make sure you read on as it's not all fiscal because Elaine knows when a woman buys a home, she invests emotionally as well.

Set goals - but the don't need to be hairy and audacious

"Chances are you're a normal person and don't know everything about money and investments," says Elaine. "So while it's good to have an overall goal, chunk the journey to this down into baby steps."
She cites examples like:
  • This week I'll book a meeting with a mortgage broker
  • I'll work out what I can afford to pay back
  • I'll create a household budget
Elaine's takeaway advice: "Don't be too scared of being cash poor but asset rich. There are always ways to trim back on spending."

Visualise your future

Visualising your future clears your mind, Elaine says. "Elite athletes do this - they see their wins in their mind first, sometimes thousands of times, before they see it in reality.
"See yourself successfully buying an investment property, within a certain time frame. See the property itself in glorious 3-D technicolour."

Make lists

Lists put everything in black and white, and they serve at least two purposes - a list clears your cluttered headspace and committing it to paper helps it lodge in your memory.
Elaine says these are the must-have lists for any woman looking to buy property:
List 1 - Your must-haves such as balcony, open space kitche/living, good light, backyard, renovated bathrooms, lock-up garage, close to transport and cafes, etc.
List 2 - Your deal breakers such as overlooked by neighbours, on a busy road, no parking, needs renovation, no outdoor areas, high strata costs.
List 3 - Build a memory-nudging spreadsheet with columns for anything from bedrooms and bathrooms to gutters and roofing.

Scrutinise property like a pro

Buyers agents and real estate investors know how to scrutinise a property to work out its value today and its growth potential. Over that, they layer personal needs like those mentioned in List 1 and 2.
Elaine says pull together a house hunt tool kit which you take to every inspection. Your toolkit includes:
  • Your smart phone - to take videos and photos (don't count on your memory).
  • A tape measure - you don't want to have to buy all new appliances or furniture because your new property can't fit your existing house contents.
  • Your imagination - you really need to be able to visualise how you will make this property look.
  • Your boldness - don't be scared to look under rugs, behind cupboards and check for mould, because sometimes vendors are trying to hide faults with properties.
Then add all relevant information to your spreadsheet.

Understand the real estate agent's true motivations

Remember, no matter how charming and accommodating the selling agent is, they are being paid, A LOT, by the vendor to sell their property. "They are never working for the buyer," says Elaine.
"That doesn't mean you come in with teeth gnashing ready to battle because people do business with people they like.
"What it does mean is that you do your own price research and that means hitting the streets."

Research the property price like this

Elaine swears by spreadsheets - and once you've found a property you want to buy it's time to create your second spreadsheet.
This sheet has four columns:
  1. The address
  2. The number of bedrooms/bathrooms/car spaces
  3. The last sales price
  4. The last sales date
"Next, search the internet for comparable recent sales to build a true picture of what the property is worth, and put these on your spreadsheet, under your chosen property," says Elaine. "This will also make you an area expert and stop you paying too much."

Have your deposit ready when you make an offer

When putting in an offer don't tell the agent too much, too early - because they're job is to get the best for their client, the vendor.
If you're serious about buying, go in with a signed contract and a deposit cheque.
"This is the equivalent of dropping a suitcase of money at their feet," Elaine says. "Any other kind of offers are mere love letters which give the agent the opportunity to gazump and manipulate.
"Having a cheque also shows the agent that you're serious - because buyers have been known to change their minds too!"
Elaine Davies is a Sydney buyers agent. Her company is New Road Property.