Did you know that single women are the fastest growing segment of the real estate market making up 25% of home buyers, whereas men make up only about 9%. That means that 1 in four home buyers are single women. Some say women are more conservative than men when buying a house, sometimes intimidated by the idea of renovating or having to maintain a home by themselves. However, we have met many female clients who have not only bought and renovated their own home, but have gone on to become the landlords of multiple rental properties.
That being said, single woman in the market for a new home often have real concerns about personal safety, as well as the security of her property. Worries about keeping up with home repairs, and fear of being taken advantage of by a crooked contractor or another trade professional, also rank high on the list.
The tools you’ll need: Even with a newer home, drains still get clogged, shelves and drapes still need to be hung, and nail holes must be patched. For such basic improvement and upkeep projects that don’t require the help of a professional, you’ll need confidence and a good set of tools.
*Assemble a tool kit. A basic set should include: finish hammer, set of screwdrivers (or single multi-head model), pipe wrench, utility knife, needle nose pliers, wire cutters, measuring tape, level, putty knife, and small saw.
*Build your skills. In addition to the women-only tool and DIY tutorials offered at home centers, many community college and vocational schools offer co-ed courses in basic carpentry, plumbing, and electrical. Check out the CMHC website for some great resources like, General Maintenance and Repair, Your Home and Your Health and A Guide To Landscaping. Also, consider volunteering with Habitat for Humanity – you’ll learn how to swing a hammer from the pros and make a valuable contribution to your community.
How to avoid unfair treatment: For those times when you do need a pro, keep in mind that a good contractor, plumber, painter, or landscape professional is someone who has the skills and experience to deliver a quality job at a fair price.
*Find reputable trades people by asking friends and family for referrals. See How to Hire a Contractor for more details.
*Contact professionals directly and ask for the names and phone numbers of some of his or her other clients—and actually call them.
*Get multiple bids on any job; typically the ones in the middle price range are the most realistic.
*Get everything in writing. A contract should always include the start and end dates, a payment schedule (never pay in full for work that isn’t completed to your satisfaction), materials and labor costs, a detailed project description, proof of insurance, and a clause stating the work will conform to local building codes. For more on contracts, see The Canadian Home Builder’s Association’s, Hiring a Professional Contractor — Get it in Writing!.
How to protect yourself: You’d be surprised how much you can learn about a neighborhood just by spending some time exploring local hangouts such as coffee shops and parks and simply by roaming around and talking with people who live or work there.
*Drive or walk around your prospective neighborhood at various times. If you usually get up early and stroll to the local market for a newspaper and morning coffee, make sure there’s activity on the streets at that hour. And if you jog or walk the dog after work, see if other like-minded folks are out and about doing the same.
*Take a ride. If you rely on public transportation, enlist a friend to take the train or bus to the new neighborhood to make sure you both feel secure on the route. When you actually get to your destination, check to see how many people disembark with you. A safe stop is typically one where lots of people are coming and going.
*Visit the local police precinct and check crime stats for the area.
*Consider a security system for the property itself. Many new models will not only alert you to intruders, but will tell you if the hose to your washing machine has burst, or detect when there’s smoke or CO2 in the air. Again, CMHC has some great tips – check out their web page, How to Lock Out Crime.
Here’s another bit of trivia – the First Foundation team is currently made up entirely of women, save our CEO, Gord McCallum. We have all gone through the mortgage process ourselves, be it single or as part of a couple, and are sympathetic to the sometimes daunting process of the buying a home and applying for mortgage financing, regardless of age, gender or experience. We believe knowledge is power and it’s our mission to pass along our experience and our expertise in order to make the home financing process a positive, empowering experience for all of our clients. Call us today!