Home loans for single moms: Loan programs and assistance

November 11, 2022 - 10 min read

Are there home loans for single parents?

While there aren’t specific “single parent home loans,” there are several mortgage programs that can meet the needs of single moms and dads. These loans could help you get around the problem of lower income when buying a house as a single parent.

There are also assistance programs that can offer money toward your down payment, as well as homebuyer education programs and one-on-one counseling to guide you through the home buying process. All in all, buying a home as a single parent may be easier than you think.

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Can I buy a home as a single mom or dad?

Of course, there’s no such thing as a “typical” single parent. Some are wealthy, while many are working hard to juggle both child care and their personal finances.

If money’s not an issue for you, and you have a 20% down payment for the home you wish to buy, you can easily get a conventional mortgage (one not backed by the government), provided your credit history is healthy and you don’t have too much existing debt. Your next step is to find a lender you like the look of and then get preapproved for your mortgage.

But life’s not like that for many single mothers and fathers. You might find that money’s often tight and that your credit score takes occasional hits. Still, you, too, could become a homeowner if you find the right financing program.

Home buying requirements for single parents

Every lender will want to be sure you can comfortably afford your monthly mortgage payments and the additional expenses that come with homeownership. Lenders calculate that affordability in the context of your current monthly budget, using something called your debt-to-income ratio (DTI).

DTI compares your monthly, pre-tax income against your ongoing debts — including your future home loan — to make sure you have enough cash flow to support a mortgage payment. If your existing debts plus your estimated mortgage payment are within 43% of your gross income, you should be able to qualify for a home loan.

As importantly, you’ll need a fair credit score, which could be anywhere from 580 to 620 or higher depending on the minimum credit score requirements for the loan program you choose.

Single parent home loans

If money’s a little tighter on your single income, you might be looking for a mortgage loan that has looser eligibility requirements. Luckily, many common loan programs are flexible in this regard. Home buyers can choose from a wide range of low and even no-down-payment home loans depending on their needs.

Here are a few of the more common home loans for single moms and dads.

>Related: Basic requirements to buy a house: 6 Must-haves for buyers

Conforming loans (3% down)

Conforming loans are a type of conventional loan that conforms to rules laid down by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. You’ll need a down payment of only 3% of the home purchase price and a credit score of 620 or better. But you’ll have to pay private mortgage insurance (PMI) until you’ve reached 80% home equity

FHA loans (3.5% down)

Backed by the Federal Housing Administration, FHA loans have a low down payment requirement of 3.5%. And at 580, the credit score threshold is lower than with conforming loans. Keep in mind that you’ll pay for mortgage insurance premiums (MIP) until you sell, refinance, or pay the loan amount in full. For this reason, many buyers choose a conforming loan if their credit score is 620 or higher

USDA loans (zero down)

USDA loans are backed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). No down payment is required. But you must buy in a designated rural area (which includes 97% of America’s landmass) and have an average or below-average income for the place where you want to buy.

You still have to pay mortgage insurance premiums with USDA, but at a lower rate than other types of loans. Expect to need a credit score of 640 or higher. This is a great choice if you and the home are eligible

VA loans (zero down)

VA loans are backed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and open only to veterans, service members, and a few closely related groups. They come with zero down payment, no continuing mortgage insurance, and usually the lowest interest rates of any mortgage. Credit score requirements vary by lender and range from 580-660. VA mortgages are almost always the best loans for those who are eligible

State-run home loan programs

In addition, all states and many cities and counties have their own home buyer programs, most of which offer down payment assistance for those with qualifying low incomes. Nearly all state-run home loans are based on one or more of those in the list above. But they may come with lower interest rates and other perks for first-time home buyers. You can see a list of state home buyer assistance programs here.

Single parent home buyer assistance programs

Additional programs could help you purchase a house despite financial hurdles. While these home buyer assistance programs are not restricted to single parents, they’re often intended to help buyers on low or moderate incomes, and many single moms and dads fit the bill.

  • Good Neighbor Next Door: This home buyer program helps single moms and dads who are also teachers, emergency medical technicians, law enforcement, or firefighters. Qualifying buyers enjoy up to 50% off the list price, provided the home purchase is through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD homes are typically located in revitalization areas. Learn more about the Good Neighbor Next Door program in your area
  • Habitat for Humanity: A non-profit housing organization active in all 50 states. Eligible participants will receive assistance in constructing their own homes with the help of qualified volunteers. You can apply for the program online or speak with your local chapter for more details
  • Housing Choice Voucher Program: Available through select public housing authorities, this voucher program offers public housing residents a path to homeownership through their local HUD program. Check with your local authority to see if it participates.
  • Homeownership for Public Housing Residents: A program that authorizes public housing authorities in various states to sell units to existing residents and other low-income households in its service area. Check with your local public housing authority for more information
  • National Homebuyers Fund: Non-profit housing organization that offers affordable mortgage rates and down payment assistance for both returning and first-time buyers
  • Operation Hope: A non-profit organization that provides HUD-certified coaches to help first-time home buyers improve their financial situations and identify potential home buying assistance programs in their communities

Home buyer programs vary by region and state, but some operate nationwide.

In addition to the resources above, your real estate agent or Realtor will likely be able to point you in the direction of available options in your community. You should compare these programs to see which suits you best — just as you should with mortgage lenders.

Down payment assistance for single parents

Along with home buyer counseling, down payment and closing cost assistance programs are available in every state and can help single parents become homeowners. Each down payment assistance (DPA) program is different. But they usually provide up to several thousand dollars, or 3%-5% of a home’s purchase price, in assistance.

Down payment assistance generally comes in one of these four forms:

  1. An outright grant that never has to be repaid
  2. A forgivable loan, with zero interest and no repayment, that is forgiven over x years, (often 5-10). Once that time’s up, you owe nothing, provided you haven’t sold the home, refinanced, transferred ownership, or paid back your main mortgage
  3. A deferred loan, also typically with zero interest and no payments. But you have to pay back the full amount when you sell the home, refinance, transfer ownership, or pay back your main mortgage
  4. A low-interest loan (“second mortgage”) that you pay back in equal installments over a set term, often 10 years. This is paid back in parallel with your main mortgage so you have two payments each month

Many programs offer more money or looser guidelines in areas that have been designated for regeneration. So, if you don’t mind buying your first home in a neighborhood that’s currently less desirable (but has prospects), you may be able to move more quickly.

Some state housing agencies also offer mortgage credit certificates or vouchers. This type of housing assistance gives qualifying borrowers a break on their federal income tax, even if they take the standard deduction instead of itemizing deductions.

Down payment assistance requirements

Home buyer assistance usually comes with the following conditions. You must:

  • Be a first-time home buyer (meaning you haven’t owned a home in the last three years)
  • Complete a homebuyer education course
  • Choose a mortgage lender from a list approved by the DPA program
  • Have a household income at or below average for the area where you’re buying
  • Not have significant savings or other assets
  • Meet a minimum credit score threshold (often in the range of 580-640)
  • Buy a home in an area covered by your DPA
  • Buy a home within local purchase price limits

Each DPA is largely free to set its own eligibility rules and to decide how much to give applicants. So we can’t tell you whether you’ll be in line for help nor how much you might receive. But you can find out by doing a little research on your own (Google “down payment assistance in [your area]") or by asking your mortgage lender what’s available locally.

Single parents: Buying a house with a low income

A common home loan issue for single parents is one we’ve mentioned already: Your debt-to-income ratio or DTI. There are two reasons for that:

  1. Household income is an important component of DTI, and you have only one income to throw into the calculation
  2. Many single moms and dads have a harder time staying on top of their finances and have higher existing debts than some two-parent families

But don’t panic if your debt burden is high. Because it may not be as bad as you think. Your DTI is calculated by adding up all your monthly debt payments and dividing those by your pre-tax household income. Debt payments include:

  • Your new homeownership expenses (mortgage, property taxes, homeowners insurance, and sometimes homeowners association dues)
  • Minimum payments on credit cards
  • Installments on other loans, like auto loans, student loans, and personal loans

You don't count items on which you can economize, such as food, gas, utilities, phone bills, and so on. You can learn more about DTIs by clicking this link.

Most lenders regard a 36% DTI as “good.” But many are happy with 43%. Some types of mortgage loans allow up to 50%, providing you’re a good borrower in other respects — which usually means you need a good credit score. For example, FHA loans and Fannie Mae HomeReady loans allow 50% DTIs. Freddie Mac’s Home Possible loans can go as high as 45%.

Strategies to help you buy a house as a single mom or dad

Buying a home as a single parent presents unique challenges. But there are creative strategies you can often use to overcome those roadblocks. Here are a couple of examples.

Use alimony, child support, and renter income toward your mortgage

Your salary isn’t necessarily your whole income. Other funds you receive regularly may boost your income and your home-buying power. For instance, as a single parent, you may receive alimony and child support. Mortgage lenders count those as part of your income. (You can learn more about eligible income sources for a mortgage here.)

In addition, both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may allow you to include rental income as part of your household income. Suppose you make $4,000 a month in salary and you plan to rent out a bedroom in your new home to a border for $600 a month. You can add that $600 to your $4,000 for DTI purposes.

Consider a co-borrower or co-signer

If you’ve read all the above and are still convinced you can’t get a mortgage loan, you may have one other way to qualify. And that’s by getting someone either to co-sign the mortgage or to become a co-borrower.

But don’t get too excited about this idea until you’ve finished reading this section. Because there can be serious downsides to such an arrangement. If you persuade someone to co-sign your loan, that person’s credit score won’t make much difference. But their income will be added to yours when your DTI is calculated, which should make it much easier for you to get approved.


If someone is a mortgage co-borrower, they don’t necessarily need to live in the home with you. But they will be obliged to make monthly payments — including yours if you fall short — because their rights and duties are equal to yours. So, if they fall short, you’ll be the one obliged to make up the shortfall.

It’s easy to imagine ways in which co-borrowing would work well. Maybe you have an old and trusted friend or family member who’s also a single parent and who also wants to become a homeowner. You could share chores and child care, as well as the home. Or perhaps you’d like to buy a home with your aging parent(s).

You don’t necessarily have to share your living space, either. One option may be for you and your co-borrower to buy a two-unit, multifamily residence, where you occupy one unit and they occupy the other.

Downsides of a co-borrower or co-signer

Co-signing and co-borrowing can have huge downsides if things go wrong. A co-signer is guaranteeing your loan. So they could be liable for your whole loan amount if you default. They’d also likely see their credit ruined if it came to that.

Meanwhile, co-borrowing is a long-term commitment. If one of you wants to leave before the other, the one staying may have no choice but to sell up. Again, you’re jointly and severally liable for the mortgage, meaning if one of you stops paying, the other will have to pay — or risk foreclosure.

There are no upsides to co-signing someone else’s mortgage, and the potential downsides can be life-changing if the loan goes bad. So don’t be upset or offended if someone refuses — even if that person is a very close family member or friend. You’re asking them to put their own finances on the line.

Co-borrowing at least provides some upsides while the arrangement goes well. And often things do go well for as long as it suits both parties. But there are still significant risks if things start to go wrong.

Where to find home buying assistance as a single parent

Many people are pleasantly surprised by how easily they qualify for home loans as single parents. Others have to spend some time improving their credit scores and DTIs before they apply. But finding the help and advice you need should be easy.

A good place to start is with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). It provides lists of homebuyer education programs and down payment assistance programs by state. Simply click on the name of the state where you want to buy, and then keep clicking links until you drill down to the information you need.

According to that website, “HUD sponsors housing counseling agencies throughout the country to provide free or low-cost advice. Search online for a housing counseling agency near you, or call HUD’s interactive voice system at: (800) 569-4287.” A good housing counselor should do much of the heavy lifting for you, advising on whether you’re likely to qualify for a mortgage, helping you to pick the right type of loan, and guiding you to your best choice of DPA.

Happy house hunting!

Peter Warden
Authored By: Peter Warden

The Mortgage Reports Editor

Peter Warden has been writing for a decade about mortgages, personal finance, credit cards, and insurance. His work has appeared across a wide range of media. He lives in a small town with his partner of 25 years.