A woman’s life can traditionally be expressed by a series of life-changing Ms: menstruation, matriculation, marriage, motherhood, each of which carries its own mythology and rituals. There’s a much bigger M, mortgage.
For me — a divorcee without kids — having a mortgage is by far the the most momentous M of all. In the craziest of times, it’s kept me, literally, grounded, forcing me to sit still and think through all my options. If you’re lucky and careful, buying and owning your own home can provide financial and emotional security. It has for me, even with the intervening loss of several well-paid staff jobs and a high-earning husband with whom I bought the place. Today my current partner and I are applying for a new mortgage. I’m more nervous and hopeful than on my wedding day. Husbands can ( and do) come and go, but home? I hope not!
Like many women, I’m risk-averse with my money, and I hate moving, so buying a home was a good choice for me. It’s a one-bedroom apartment with a spectacular, unimpeded view of the Hudson River that has never changed in the 20 years since I bought it with my ex-husband. He’s long gone but I’m still paying our shared mortgage; today I dropped off the pile of paperwork I hope will get me and my current partner a new mortgage, at a rate more than 2.5 percent lower than our current one.
As someone who loathes invasions of privacy, bureaucracy and fiddly detail, it’s been an eye-opening experience. Last time, I simply played ostrich and let the husband handle every single bit of it. Not smart. Not mature. The night he walked out of our apartment, and our marriage, I didn’t even know which bank held our mortgage.
This time is different, although the essential problem of needing someone as a co-borrower remains the same — my writing income is a rollercoaster, while my sweetie has a steady full-time job. We now know each other’s FICO scores and have scrutinized the details of each other’s every asset and liability. Talk about getting naked. Luckily, the apartment has gained in value and I never borrowed against it, even in the leanest of times. Ironically, not having been in a great position to borrow — i.e. freelance and single — kept me out of home-as-piggy-bank trouble.
Women are buying homes more than men, according to the National Association of Realtors:
“Interestingly, single female buyers accounted for nearly twice as large a share as single male buyers for both first-time buyers (24 and 12 percent) and repeat buyers (17 and 9 percent).
Twenty percent of recent home buyers were single females, and 10 percent were single males.
More women (15.5 million) than men (11.8 million) lived alone. Among these, women were more likely than men to own their homes (56% vs. 47%).”
If you’re female, do you own your home alone? Are you happy with that choice?