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What to expect if you’re single, gay and looking to buy a house or condo

Getting on the property ladder can be an intimidating prospect for singletons

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Hooking onto the downtown property ladder is a difficult and intimidating prospect for the average new home or apartment buyer. For single gay and lesbian urbanites, getting onto that ladder is even more elusive.

With moderately habitable lodging going for no less than $250,000 in most urban markets – a number staggering to many first-time single buyers – it’s common for singletons to rent places they can’t afford to own. 

For most housing professionals, single people are a bit of an oddity, accounting for less than a quarter of their client base. Most singles simply don’t have the means to buy downtown in today’s competitive market. Two incomes are always better than one.

“Single people don’t necessarily need less space than a couple, so they need to make their money stretch a lot further,” explains broker Jennifer Stewart.

“It can definitely be challenging, but it’s not impossible.”

Toronto Royal LePage sales representative Geoff Hartle agrees, saying that if you can afford to pay $1,400 in rent each month, chances are you can afford to buy. The problem is, many can’t.

“When sitting in your parents’ basement at 22 and dreaming that you’ll be living in a downtown loft, well it’s not going to be like that,” says Hartle. 

Compromise is key.

“I’ve never had a client that wasn’t able to buy something in the area they rent in,” Hartle says. “If you want to be downtown, you’re going to be downtown. You’re not going to buy a loft in the suburbs just because you want to be in a loft.”

To give potential buyers an idea of what they can afford, Hartle offers this simple equation:

“The average square foot price runs from $400 to $600 dollars a foot. Do the math of how big a place that gets you.”

Chances are, compared to what many are accustomed to renting, this doesn’t amount to much space. It’s this issue that irks most of Hartle’s single potential buyers.

“For example, a common concern I get is ‘Where do I put my dining-room table?’” he says. “Well, you’re not going to be able to fit a dining-room table. Again, you have to compromise.”

Stewart has a similar experience with her single clients in Ottawa.

“A lot of people are renting apartments that are bigger and more comfortable than the ones they’re buying, so sometimes they feel like psychologically it can be a step down,” she says.

Both realtors suggest single buyers create a wish list in terms of location and type of building, and work from there in tandem with a broker. While the list must have sway room, Hartle warns that departing from the list too much will lead only to a negative outcome.

“It’s important that the first condo they buy is saleable down the road,” Hartle explains. “When you get to a low price point, it’s easy to buy something in a cheap building that seems like better value, but three years down the road, when there’s newer product on the market, it makes it harder to sell.”

There are creative ways to stay within the confines of a wish list. One idea Stewart suggests to her single clients is purchasing a duplex and renting out one of the apartments. And for those without cars, she suggests buying a condo with parking and renting out the parking spot.

“All the extra income will help,” Stewart offers. “There’s other solutions than the suburbs.”