There are loan programs, along with home buying assistance programs, that can help put the dream of homeownership within reach for single mothers.
“It can be tough to support a family on one income. But, if a single mom has decent credit, they could qualify for a mortgage,” says Mark Gundersen, a senior loan officer at Shelter Mortgage Company in Saint Charles, Ill.
If you’re a single mom and looking to buy a home, here are some of the loan programs that might work best for you.
Single parents have a harder time qualifying for some mortgage loans
Single women accounted for 20 percent of all first-time home buyers in 2021, according to the National Association of Realtors Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers.
This makes single women the second most common type of home buyer, behind married couples. Single male buyers came in at just 11 percent of first-time buyers.
Less than a decade ago, only 14 percent of home buyers were single women. But the NAR’s report shows that single women — and single mothers in particular — still face challenges.
- Single female home buyers tend to be a few years older than single male home buyers
- The median price of homes purchased by single women is about 25 percent lower than the median price of all homes sold
Yes, the number of single, female home buyers has increased. But these statistics don’t reflect the number of women who tried to buy a home but did not succeed.
Rising home prices complicate home buying for single women
In many real estate markets across the U.S., the rising price of homes is also pushing the dream of homeownership out of reach for many single mothers.
“With the lower end of the housing market — smaller, moderately priced homes — seeing the worst of the inventory shortage, first-time homebuyers who want to enter the market are having difficulty finding a home they can afford,” said NAR Chief Economist, Lawrence Yun.
Hope for single mothers who want to buy their own home
There is hope for single moms looking to get a new home loan. Local housing finance authorities or “HFAs” (a quick Google search can help find yours) have housing counselors available to talk through options for your financial situation.
Options include loans that are well suited for single-income home buyers, along with grants or loans that can help cover your down payment and closing costs.
These programs can vary by city or state, so it’s important to talk to someone in your area.
“There are usually income and purchase price limitations depending on the county you are going to buy the house in,” says Gundersen. “But, those who qualify can get down payment assistance and below-market interest rates for some programs.”
Single mother down payment assistance programs
We’ll start with down payment assistance since making a loan’s minimum down payment is a heavy burden for many single-income home buyers.
Down payment minimums vary by loan type, and loans backed by the VA and the USDA don’t require them at all.
Still, according to NAR’s 2021 survey, the median down payment amount for first-time homebuyers across all loan types was 7 percent.
For a $300,000 home, a 7 percent down payment would require $21,000 in cash — a huge hurdle for most home buyers.
Single mom first-time home buyer grants
Down payment assistance programs can help single mothers across the U.S. clear their down payment hurdle.
With over 2,000 DPA programs nationwide, home buyers in every state can find a local program they may qualify for.
Some examples of assistance programs include:
- Pinellas County, Florida, First-time Homebuyer Program helps with down payment and closing costs assistance with a $7,500, zero percent interest loan that is deferred until you sell, refinance, or payoff the home
- Maryland’s Department of Housing and Community Development offers grants and deferred loans to help with down payments
- The Missouri Housing Development Commission provides forgivable loans to help cover down payments or closing costs
Every U.S. state and territory has some sort of assistance program. Check0 the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) state-by-state guide, to find yours.
Many programs require recipients to attend first-time home buyer classes. A few programs provide help through tax credits or vouchers, but most issue grants and loans.
Grants never have to be repaid. Some loans are forgivable if you stay in the home long enough. Most have low interest rates or charge no interest.
Best home loans for single moms
Mortgage lenders don’t brand their loan products for specific demographics such as single mothers. But several types of loans offer attributes many single mothers may need.
For example, each loan type below has low down payment requirements, less strict credit requirements, and/or different mortgage insurance requirements.
“You should investigate these loan options for your situation with your lender,” says Gundersen.
FHA loans come with the backing of the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). Because the FHA insures the loan, lenders can usually offer lower mortgage rates and require only 3.5 percent down even when borrowers have less-than-stellar credit.
You could borrow with a minimum credit score of 580 in most cases. Some borrowers can get approved with a credit score as low as 500, but you’d need to put 10 percent down. And, it’s harder to find a mortgage lender willing to OK such a loan.
FHA loans require at least 3.5 percent down, but home buyers don’t have to use their own money. Family members or friends can contribute — and borrowers can use a down payment assistance grant or loan.
FHA mortgage insurance is permanent
One of the downsides of an FHA loan is the mortgage insurance premium (MIP). Part of the premium is paid upfront and another part gets added to your monthly payments.
Conventional loans require mortgage insurance, too, unless you put 20 percent down. But private mortgage insurance (PMI) on a conventional mortgage can go away once you pay the loan balance down to 80%.
“For FHA loans, you will pay mortgage insurance till the end of the loan even if you paid off 50 percent of the principal. It’ll be there until you refinance or sell the house,” Gundersen says.
This extra cost can be worthwhile if it allows you to stop paying rent and become a homeowner sooner. Once your credit score and debt-to-income ratio improve, you could refinance out of the FHA loan to eliminate the extra mortgage insurance.
If a single mom is eligible for a VA loan — either through her own military service or as a surviving spouse of a vet — it could be the best loan program out there for her.
VA loans are available to military veterans and their families with no down payment required, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs does not require mortgage insurance — just a one-time, upfront funding fee.
On top of that, VA loans tend to have some of the best mortgage rates — which means lower mortgage payments — in the market.
“You are getting an unbelievable deal with this loan, which is well-deserved,” Gundersen says. “You have no mortgage insurance and there are no down payment requirements.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers a variety of loans to help low-income and moderate-income buyers in rural areas.
But “rural” can be a misnomer. Most ZIP codes in the U.S. qualify as rural, including many suburbs of popular, metropolitan cities.
USDA loans have very low interest rates and no down payment requirement. Plus, the mortgage insurance premium is lower than that of FHA loans.
But USDA loans do have maximum income limits. Typically, your annual salary can’t exceed your area’s median income by more than 15%.
USDA Guaranteed loans come from private lenders, just like any other type of mortgage. The USDA also has a Direct Loan program for low-income buyers.
Gundersen says that you may end up needing at least a 5 percent down payment of your own money to get approved for a conventional loan.
But conventional mortgage products like Fannie Mae’s HomeReady™ require only 3 percent down. And, HomeReady lets you document income from a boarder or roommate to boost your loan application.
Borrowers will need a pretty good credit score and credit history. They’ll also need a lower debt-to-income ratio when compared to an FHA loan.
But if you put less than 20 percent down, you will pay private mortgage insurance for a while — until your loan balance dips to 80% of the home’s value.
You can choose from 10-, 15-, 20-, and 30-year fixed to pay off the loan’s principal and interest.
Home loans for single mothers FAQs
Can I buy a home as a single mom?
Absolutely. The home buying process is open to anyone whose credit score and monthly income meet their lender’s minimum requirements. Single mothers who face financial challenges can find help through local down payment assistance programs. Choosing a loan with a low down payment requirement helps, too.
Are there programs to help single parents buy a house?
Single parents who want to buy a home can find help through a variety of programs, especially down payment assistance programs and first-time home buyer loans through a local housing authority. These programs are designed to help anyone overcome the financial challenges to becoming a homeowner — so they may not be branded as “single parent loan programs.”
How can a single parent save for a house?
It’s hard to save money when your monthly budget is already stretched thin. You have to be reasonable when deciding how much you can save each month. Once you’ve decided how much you can save, set up automatic deposits into savings on every payday so you don’t have to think about it. And be sure to explore down payment and closing cost assistance programs in your area. They could help you buy without a huge savings account balance.
Do single parents get help with mortgages?
Anyone with financial challenges — including single parents — can get help buying a house. Local housing authorities offer loan programs; local governments and some non-profits can help with the down payment.
Does child support count as income for a mortgage?
Yes, child support payments can count as income on your mortgage application. You will have to show proof that you’ve received the payments regularly for the past six months and that the payments are scheduled to continue for at least three more years. Check with your loan officer about your loan program and your lender’s specific requirements.
How can I improve my credit score for a mortgage?
Making regular, on-time payments on your student loans, auto loans, and credit cards can help improve your credit score in the months before applying for a mortgage. You won’t need perfect credit to get a mortgage, but increasing your score should open up more home loan options and give you access to more competitive interest rates.
Check your home buying eligibility
There are tons of programs that help single moms get approved to become a homeowner instead of a renter.
Get a free eligibility check and be on your way to giving the gift of homeownership to yourself and your kids.