When I decided to buy my first property, I was single. I considered a condo, but instead, I decided to purchase a semi-detached Leslieville house split up into a duplex. At the time, Leslieville was much more first-time buyer-friendly — at least when it came to fixer-uppers.
My plan: I would live in one unit and rent out the other. I would use the rent to help fund the mortgage and fixes around the house. In retrospect, I didn’t put much thought into the fact that I was single when I did the transaction, but my single-hood definitely influenced my approach to real estate.
Now, after years in real estate, owning properties, working with shrewd singletons, along with personal experience, I've put together this advice for all the singles in search of or considering home ownership.
1. Stop waiting for life to start
I am a little embarrassed to admit this, but when I bought my first place, I thought, “Should I buy this house? What if I meet someone next month? Maybe I should wait …”
For some singles, I think this should-I-wait-and-see mindset can develop. Despite the many ways people live nowadays, some of us still look to move along the comfortable trajectory of falling in love, getting married, buying a house and having kids. It could feel less stressful to follow a predictable order. But, over time we learn things don’t happen so predictably, on time or in order. If you fall into the traditional trajectory, it is extremely beneficial for a single person to own a condo in Toronto. In fact, I'd say, the most successful real estate couples are the ones who have each bought properties when they were single. Then, when they both sell their two condos, they have much more equity for their together-purchase.
2. Know thy risks
When you buy a property on your own, it’s just you. There are some really good things about that. You get to make all the choices ... the location, the decor, everything! No compromise (well, within budget). Sure, there is risk when it's only you. If you were to lose your job, for example, you don't have a partner's finances to fall back on until you get back on your feet. So try to have a little extra nest egg. If you don’t have one, consider a roommate for that extra cash. Bottom line: protect yourself with a backup plan.
3. Choose your area wisely
Listen, I don’t think you need to live in that all-singles condo where no kids are allowed. Still, you don’t want to stranded in a transit-unfriendly suburb, where it could take hours to get yourself in a social setting. (Note: The Costco checkout is not a social setting.)
One of the benefits of being single is the time you have to socialize with other human beings. So, make sure you are in a place where you can maximize this benefit. You want to live in a place where meeting for brunch or getting to your spin class or a grabbing a coffee is easy. If it’s too hard to get there, you won’t leave your home — especially in the winter.
4. Know what kind of single you are
Some singles are very homey. They love to invite friends and family to dinner and have a circus unfold around them. They like to live in big houses with private backyards. Others like to travel and explore and learn. They see their home as a base between visits and excursions. So these two singles need two very different properties. If you know what kind of single you are, you’ll buy the right property. If you’re not sure, then see my next point.
5. Bring a buddy
Always bring a friend or family member along for property viewings. They know you well and can guide you in the right direction. Plus, it’s always good to have someone around for a second opinion. (But, as a single, you reserve the right to reject that opinion entirely.)
It is very easy to be single nowadays, particularly in a city like Toronto. At this moment, singles carry some pretty impressive numbers, particularly single women: They are one of the largest growing buyer demographics in Canada right now. So you’re in good company.
As of the last census, there are more single people living in Canada than ever before. Though most singles buy property on their own, I am seeing more creative purchasing among single friends.
I can’t promise Aunt NosyPants won’t keep asking why you don’t have a boyfriend or a girlfriend, but I can say there are many singles out there — of all ages. In fact, at some point in our lives, most of us will be single for a period of time. And we may be making real estate decisions as a single person.