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Finding the right home, with or without Mr. Right

I have a single friend sitting on the fence between buying and renting. She's financially ready to make the leap into homeownership, but hesitant about doing it solo in case she meets someone soon.

Waiting for Mr. Right can derail a number of women's homeownership plans, according to Sandra Rinomato, a realtor and owner of a full-service brokerage in Toronto.

"I can't tell you how many times a client asks what she'll do if Mr. Right comes along, and I always say if he does, then okay, you can keep the investment in your portfolio and rent it, he can move in, or you sell it and take the equity," she says. She speaks from personal experience, having at one point purchased property on her own while in a serious relationship. She was ready to start climbing the property ladder and he wasn't.

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More and more single women are entering the market, making up roughly one in four new buyers, according to Ms. Rinomato, who is currently hosting the new HGTV series, Buy Herself, focused on helping singles navigate the world of real estate.

The first step for those interested in home ownership is to run the numbers and ask themselves if they are financially stable. Start with a snapshot of your personal finances, to review where you stand with your assets, liabilities, and credit score. Then, dig into mortgage rates and get preapproved.

"If you are not preapproved, forget about starting your search. There is no reason to even look online if you have no idea how much you can afford," Ms. Rinomato says.

I see her point, but it's so tempting to click through MLS, browsing the homes you could buy if you had a little, or a lot, more money to work with. You come back to reality pretty quickly though once you start touring places that are within your budget.

"If I could pull a rabbit out of a hat I would, but we work within the budget," laughs Ms. Rinomato. Searching outside your financial scope can derail the process, or financially stretch you further than you should be if you fall in love with something a few rungs out of your reach on the property ladder.

Aside from down payment, monthly mortgage costs, and emergency funds for the unexpected, it's your responsibility to have a grasp on the countless other costs associated with buying your first place, like inspection, legal, and appraisal fees.

Ms. Rinomato says it's not unusual for solo buyers to have unrealistic requirements, so sitting down with your wish list and prioritizing your needs and wants in a place is the launch pad to starting the search within your financial parameters. A strong team in your corner is also essential for a first-time buyer, and an understanding of the steps of buying, and how to will help you make the right investment decision.

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Ms. Rinomato hopes her new TV series inspires women to at least ask if this is the right time to buy and not to hold back because they're scared, or don't think it's an option, or think Mr. Right is around the corner. More importantly, she hopes women have the courage to leap confidently into homeownership if the time and the investment is right.

Angela Self is one of the founders of the Smart Cookies money group. Read her weekly column on managing debt and saving money at the Globe's personal finance site.

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About the Author
Angela Self

Angela Self is one of the founders of the Smart Cookies, a group of five women who specialize in personal finance. They are hosts of a self-titled show on the W Network and the authors of The Smart Cookies' Guide to Making More Dough. More

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