Buying a home is a costly and intimidating venture.
Add being single and a mom, and it feels like you barely have bandwidth to think about it between work, kids’ doctor appointments, and needing this thing called sleep.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be as hard as everyone makes it out to be.
New and existing home loan and down payment assistance programs can make homeownership achievable and affordable even for busy moms with stretched budgets.
- Single mother down payment assistance programs
- Best loan programs for single moms
- Can single mothers get zero-down home loans?
- Using child support and alimony to qualify
- Can a lender deny me for applying as a single mother?
- First-time buyer status if you owned a house with an ex-spouse
- Lean on your real estate professionals
- When to work on homebuying
- Home loans for single moms can help you become a homeowner
Single mother down payment assistance programs
Down payment assistance (DPA) programs are available in nearly every state, county, and city in the U.S.
Most are available to those at or below their median income for the area. As a single person without a dual-income household, there’s a high chance you are eligible for most programs.
The best way to find assistance is to Google search: “[state] hfa”, filling in your state. You will find your state’s housing finance agency (HFA) which administers the programs. Look for one that fits your profile.
Just a few examples of programs you might find are:
- $30,000 for Tacoma, Washington homebuyers
- 3-5% forgivable DPA for Florida buyers
- Full down payment grant in Texas
These programs were found in a matter of minutes with a simple search.
Another great resource is the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) list of state homebuyer assistance pages. This government agency lists statewide, city, and county programs in each state. Some examples are:
There are thousands of programs across the country and it’s never been easier to find one.
National DPA programs are harder to find, but they are out there.
Empowered DPA: The Empowered DPA Program offers a 3.5% down payment assistance grant which covers your entire down payment on an FHA loan. First-time buyers with typical incomes for their area are eligible. It’s offered in every state except Washington.
Good Neighbor Next Door: Buy a home at half price with just $100 down if you’re a police officer, teacher, firefighter, or EMT.
National Homebuyers Fund: Up to 5% down payment assistance for eligible buyers.
Chenoa Fund: This is a 3.5-5% down payment assistance program. However, the assistance comes in the form of a repayable or forgivable loan, but the buyer must make a certain number of on-time payments to have the loan forgiven.
Best loan programs for single moms
The best home loan programs for single moms are lenient on income.
By definition, you’re a single-income household and therefore need to spend a bigger percentage of your monthly household income on your mortgage payment.
These loans also provide accommodations for lower credit scores in case you’ve had a hard time keeping up with bills in the past due to a divorce or the challenges of being a single parent.
If you don’t need to live in the city, check out a USDA loan. While it is reserved for “rural” areas, many suburban towns and cities are eligible. It requires no down payment, meaning you just have to come up with closing costs.
Many lenders will accept credit scores down to 600, so you don’t need perfect credit.
You have to be within income limits, but they are not restrictive at all. Most single mothers will be well within limits.
Perhaps the best thing about FHA loans is that you can have low income and still qualify.
Lenders allow a debt-to-income ratio of up to 56.9%, meaning you can spend nearly 57% of your income on your future home payment plus all other debt payments. Most loan types cap “DTI” at around 43-50%.
FHA also allows credit scores down to 580.
Freddie Mac Home Possible®
Home Possible is a conventional loan that requires just 3% down. You can get reduced mortgage rates and mortgage insurance, potentially saving you hundreds per month.
You must make 80% or less of your area’s median income. You can check your Home Possible income eligibility on Freddie Mac’s income tool.
Freddie Mac HomeOne®
This is another 3% down conventional loan. It’s different than Home Possible because it has no income limits. You can use down payment assistance for the entire down payment plus closing costs.
For both Freddie Mac programs, you need a 620 score, so you might choose FHA if your score is lower.
Fannie Mae HomeReady
HomeReady is similar to Home Possible, except that it’s offered by the other leading conventional loan agency, Fannie Mae.
You can buy a home with 3% down if you have a 620 credit score and an income at 80% or less of your area’s median income.
Section 184 Loans for Native American buyers
You can buy a home for just 2.25% down on or off reservation land if you are an enrolled member in a federally-recognized Native American tribe.
You can use tribal assistance for the entire down payment and closing costs. Use this Section 184 calculator to see how much it would cost upfront and monthly to buy a home.
VA loans for single moms in the military
You earn eligibility for this zero-down loan by serving in the military. After just 90 days of active duty, you may be eligible.
These loans require no monthly mortgage insurance, saving the homebuyer hundreds per month, plus they are lenient on debt-to-income ratios and credit scores.
Can single mothers get zero-down home loans?
A zero-down home loan is simply a loan that requires no down payment. There are plenty of options on the market because you can make certain programs zero-down by using gift funds or down payment assistance.
For example, an FHA loan becomes a zero-down loan when you cover the 3.5% down payment with a financial gift from family or down payment assistance grant. The down payment is still required, it’s just covered by someone else.
You can also use strategies to cover closing costs, which typically equal about 2-4% of the home’s price. You can request a credit from the seller, lender, and Realtor. In this way, you may be able to get into a home with little or no money out of your own pocket.
Current mortgage rules allow you to buy a home with zero funds of your own. It takes some creativity, but it’s entirely possible with most mortgage programs today. Don’t think you need to save $10,000, $20,000, or $50,000 to buy a home. It’s simply not true.
Using child support and alimony to qualify
If you’re a single mom, you may receive child support, alimony, or other court-ordered maintenance. Most loan programs let you use this income to qualify if you meet certain conditions.
For FHA loans, you must supply:
- A divorce decree or legal separation agreement detailing the support
- Bank statements verifying receipt for the past 3 months if court-ordered or 12 months if voluntary
- Evidence that the support will continue for 3 years
For instance, if your child is 16, you would not be able to use child support to qualify, since it would end in two years. If your child were 10, you could likely use it.
It’s a sad fact, though, that many ex-spouses don’t pay their court-ordered support. This is why lenders want to verify that you’re actually receiving the income. If alimony or child support has been spotty, the lender can average out total support over the time period received and use that for qualifying income.
By law, you do not have to disclose spousal maintenance unless you would like to use it to qualify.
Can a lender deny me for applying as a single mother?
A mortgage lender can’t discriminate based on familial status. By law, they must look at the numbers only to see if you qualify for the home loan.
First-time buyer status if you owned a house with an ex-spouse
Many down payment assistance programs and special loans require you to be a first-time buyer.
But what if you owned a home with an ex-spouse but are now separated?
Did you know that U.S. Code of Federal Regulations includes “a displaced homemaker or single parent” in its first-time homebuyer definition, even if that person co-owned a home with their ex-spouse? If you find a suitable program, it’s worth pointing out to the lender or assistance administrator that you qualify as a first-time buyer as the government defines it.
Lean on your real estate professionals
One of the challenges of being a single mom homebuyer is that you can’t divide homebuying responsibilities. You can’t say “you research good neighborhoods and I’ll gather financial documents.” It’s all on you.
But you can lean on your real estate agent and loan officer heavily.
Here’s a secret: They both work on commission. If you don’t buy a home, they don’t get paid. Present yourself as a serious, creditworthy buyer. At the same time, let them know you will need lots of help.
They will do whatever it takes to close the transaction. Don’t hesitate to ask for help finding loan programs, down payment assistance, neighborhood advice, recommendations on home features, and more.
Any real estate professional worth working with will have no problem going above and beyond to get you into a home.
When to work on homebuying
Buying a home feels like a second job for a few months. That’s normal and totally expected.
But don’t let that deter you from starting. It helps just to embrace the extra work and make a plan.
On a personal note, I’m no single mom, obviously, but I am a parent of a 5, 14, and 17 year old. I’m up at 6:00 AM to 10:30 PM daily, and much of that time is spent caretaking. I can’t imagine doing as a single parent.
When I’ve worked on personal goals in the past, it’s usually by waking up earlier or staying up later. So that’s one solution. You could also use a day or two of vacation time while the kids are at school or childcare to organize your paperwork, get a pre-approval, and start a preliminary home search.
I’ve used lunch breaks and 10-minute breaks at work to knock out small tasks and get personal things done. Hopefully, your work will accommodate such a plan.
Again, I have no concept of what it will be like for you as a single mom to buy a home (and I’ve probably already mansplained enough). You are an intelligent, strong person who is fully capable of this goal.
Home loans for single moms can help you become a homeowner
There are plenty of tools for single moms to become homeowners, from low-down-payment loans to grants to other assistance.
There’s often a solution to help you buy a home much sooner than you thought possible.