Homeownership and the single girl

I had some friends over for dinner, themed as the meeting of lapsed and current comic book geeks. It was boy, girl, boy, girl, with a difference being the girls were property owners and the guys were renters. Anyway we’re talking about various things comic and non-comic related and Nora and I get to chatting about home repair things like sanding. The guys start zoning out a bit. We’re talking power tools, POWER TOOLS! And the guys are zoning out, what’s wrong with them? On other tangents of home repair, stuff breaking down, and such the guys start getting smug. Ha, ha! We don’t have to deal with that nah nanny nah nah.
There are a lot of things that are a joy and a frustration with being single and owning a home. Then throw on the being female part and it adds another layer. First off, there is only one income and one person dealing with the repairs, maintenance and improvements. Sometimes you can get your friends to chip in their labor for the price of tasty beverages and snacks, but for the bulk it is all on you. A plus of being single, is I don’t have to compromise on what it is I want. I can paint the house whatever color I desire and any other improvements are limited only by my finances. Being female is problem when it comes to dealing with some tradesmen. I don’t like being talked down to and I don’t like dumb assumptions about what I want because I’m a woman. Also the weak girly arms and the lousy upper body strength in general is annoying when taking on some household tasks, like hanging drywall. I mean, I could do it, but I tire out easy.
I know I’m not a freak of nature, as about 1/2 of single women are homeowners. I mean once I figured I was going to stay in the DC metro area for a length of time, it just made sense to buy something, after several years of renting.
I remember a male colleague (a renter who I might say earned 2x more than me) asking me about my decision to buy in relation to a guy I was dating at the time. My answer was “what about him?” I didn’t see a ring on my finger, so whomever I was dating had no relationship to my homebuying wants or needs. Over dinner with the comic book geeks, we girls tried to explain to the guys, that should Mr. Right come along, we ain’t moving. We do like our houses, they fit very well into our lives, and unless he has something that is amazingly better than our homes (which we put in hours and days of sweat equity in), we ain’t moving. He’ll have to rent out his property. Besides, most of the (datable) guys we know are renters. Course, I’m willing to move for a house closer to the metro, a Mercedes, swimming pool and room for a pony.
Going back to another point, being the only income for this household, and being the only one in the household, a household of one, impacted what I could buy and where I could live. I could rent a better location, closer to the metro but buying, even before the crack fueled crazed housing prices was hard. I didn’t make that much, entry level professional’s salary and qualified for some housing programs, but even with that, there just wasn’t a lot in my price range, especially for a fee simple (not a condo) house. Almost everything I saw needed work. From the research I did, I knew what metro-able neighborhoods I could afford. Logan, no. U-Street, maybe something falling down. Columbia Heights, only east of 11th, maybe. LeDroit, eastside of 2nd. Now, as a single homeowner the problem is with inaccessible equity I can’t tap into because of the single income. The notion of ‘safe’ was another issue, as a single woman, I had to play around with. I mapped out Shaw according to my comfort level, coloring streets and blocks by my willingness to walk down them. Do I worry when coming home at night? Depends. If I am feeling unsure, I take a cab or grab a 90something bus from U Street.
With the current housing prices I don’t know if a single woman can buy a house in Shaw. She’s got to be making a lot of money if she can buy because even shells are going for well over 200K. There are condos coming up, but throw on condo fees and that’s a big monthly payment. I don’t know if the streets are safer or if I’ve gotten more comfortable. The gangs of kids are more annoying than scary.

8 thoughts on “Homeownership and the single girl”

  1. As a single, male homeowner I definitely empathize with the challenges you have with home upkeep and improvements. I hate it when my married/coupled friends ask me what I’m working on, you really expressed the words I want to say to them: that I’m single-income and only got two hands so I can only do so much. I’m not very handy to begin with so the most I can do is maintain the house from falling apart. So I think having helping hands available is the big crux for us single folk, regardless of gender, though I do sympathize with your struggles to deal with heavy duty lifting/hauling yourself.

    You mentioned that “as a single homeowner the problem is with inaccessible equity I can’t tap into because of the single income” — could you elaborate on that? I’m not very familiar with this disadvantage single homeowners face.

    Great blog btw! I live up in the northern fringes of Columbia Heights and I gain a great sense of solidarity with what you are facing in Eastern Shaw!

  2. Thanks for your site and blog! I’m a homeowner in Shaw and have found your comments and information very helpful. I can empathize with your sitation, although I co-own my home with my partner. We are both female, and have the same problems with the contractors. And oh so right about the kids in the neighborhood. I love kids, and want to help. I’m actually a volunteer for Big Sister/Little Sisters, but the behavior of the kids in our neck of the woods is really awful.

  3. Greenliner,
    Regarding home equity. Two incomes can borrow more money than one. So my single income can only borrow/ be able to make the monthly payments, for a limited amount. That limited amount is less than the equity in my home. For example, say I have $200K of equity, but I can only borrow $75K against that equity, there is $125K worth of equity I can’t get to. If I married and had my hubby as a co-signer (?) we might be able to borrow $100K or more. Yes, I could sell the house and get the whole $200K and stay single, but where would I move?

  4. I live a few blocks down and I face the same kinda situation. (I’m a single male homeowner) I definitely get the single income versus expenses issue. I have kinda resolved that by keeping a running list of what I wanna do, hafta do, and fantasize doing. By the time the tax refund comes around, something rears its ugly head. This year its the porch. I think the other thing you may have not touched on is that there is added expenses in a gentrifying nieghborhood. Example: litter patrol. I find myself spending a few hours every week supressing
    “neglect”. This entails picking up trash, mowing vacant lots, and walking the block to make sure vacant buildings are locked. Seriously, I feel like the city needs to be paying me! I think we can all agree that being a single homeowner isn’t “sexy” to most people. Was anyone given thought to what happens if you do find someone and decide to have kids? Despite the ridiculous assessment on my house, I doubt I can afford private schooling in the city.

  5. Sorry, MM… This is such pertinent topic I felt compelled to respond on a different aspect: the flak I also get from singles about homeowner related activity! Ugh! I hate it. I have male and female coworkers who can see the benefits of homeownership but want to own something on top of Gallery Place! I had a carpool-mate seriously inquire into a 800K condo with a 38K salary. RIDICULOUS. When I suggested a rowhouse, he laughed! He stopped laughing when I told him that with a roommate, I paid about half of what he did. He completely shutup when I told him I had a quarter mill in equity (on paper). You’d think all these numbers might make me more attractive to the opposite sex. Not so. My apparent willingness to forgo Irish Times for Home Depot isn’t lauded. Sigh… When I tell them what I did on the weekend, their eyes also gaze over. I guess I will hafta call them from St Thomas when I retire early to have the last laugh!

  6. tenchiindc,
    That reminds me I was talking to another single homeowner and we were talking about taking old paint off the walls and doors, basically stripping. And Jon (other homeowner) remarked that stripping sounds so much more sexier when it doesn’t involve 50 year old alligatored paint.

  7. To the women that was taunting the carpoolmate about her equity. Technically thats not wealth. Why??? Because the market your in is one of the two most volatile. Do you really think these homes are worth 300-800 grand?? How long do you think thats gonna last?? Are employers gonna compensate with these astronomical home prices to offer a salary to math them. This happened in the early 80’s when people’s home values crashed just like the tech stock market. If i was you, i would seriousily consider cashing out in the next year or so and get that cash in hand. You might not be able to buy back in but there are other markets far more affordable than dc. GReat site by the way.

  8. I don’t think DC housing cost will go down, they might stabilize in a few years. Look at NYC and the cost of housing there…

Comments are closed.