It wasn’t until I was sitting in the title company’s office and signing the closing papers for my house that I came to realize I had a lot of internalized beliefs about what buying a home meant. Specifically, what buying a home as, ‘Tami Mitchell, A SINGLE WOMAN,” meant. I was astonished by the thoughts that passed through my head – the rules and beliefs I had unknowingly internalized.
I hadn’t realized that deep down I held the belief that buying a home on your own was not something women did unless they had given up hope of finding a partner. Whoa. Did I actually believe that? Turns out: I did. A small laugh escaped me, and the thought: “I never thought I’d be doing this alone.” I shook my head. Internalized sexism was running rampant in my brain.
Unbidden thoughts flowed as I paged through the documents. I was taken aback by the wording of the legal document: “Tami Mitchell, A SINGLE WOMAN,” over and over again. I was sideswiped by how emotional the closing was and overwhelmed by the commitment I was making not only as a single woman – but as a single disabled woman and the beliefs I didn’t know I held.
Life milestones after 30
Turning thirty set my brain on fire. I conducted an inventory of my life that revealed little of life’s checklist completed. Despite multiple attempts, I had not finished college. I was not married or even dating. I had little to no savings and I was living with my parents. There were reasons for these things – chronic illness/disability and acting as a caregiver for my Nana at the end of her life – but nonetheless, I couldn’t check a single thing off my “do life,” checklist and I was inflamed.
As parents of a disabled child, now disabled adult, my parents were very protective of me. They liked me at home where they felt it was safe, but also where they had control. I needed independence and began looking at apartments. My very low disability income and part time work wouldn’t allow for 2.5 times the market rent, and my Labrador companion didn’t make finding options any easier.
Buying a home as a single woman
Eventually, I realized the housing market was still depressed after the 2008 crisis. My family had a history of renting, and buying a nice home was reaching for the star. Once you arrived, you realized the light of the star had blinded you to all the added costs of being a homeowner, ultimately making the trip a vacation and not a homecoming.
I found a down payment assistance program with my county and a low income first time home owner’s grant program offered by a bank issuing first time homeowner’s FHA loans. If I could find a house for a low enough price, the monthly cost would be less than a studio apartment. Even less than – or close to – Section 8 housing.
Finding the right home
I found the perfect house. My minimalist self fell in love with the 500sq ft home my best friend affectionately called, “the cube,” due to its square shape. It was just big enough for me and my large dog to have space to stretch. Smaller is great in terms of keeping it kept up due to my disabilities, and smaller is better for most home repairs as well.
It had a large yard – perfect for me to garden and my dog to run and play, but it was $100,000 and out of my price range. In February, I printed out a picture of the cube and put it on my vision board – the only time in my life I have ever made a vision board. I continued the search all the while watching the cube.
It dropped to $92K. Then $87K. It was impossible for me to believe it remained unsold, but tiny homes and minimalism had not yet swept the nation. On to $72K and in May: $67K – a price I could afford. I immediately made an offer.
My full price offer was rejected. The full price offer they accepted was from a married couple. Tami Mitchell, a single woman, was not enough. I was heartbroken and mourned the loss of the life I had imagined in that home and resented the cost of not being farther along in my “do life,” checklist.
My agent got me on as a backup should the deal fall through, but with such a low price I held no such expectations and continued my search.
Actually buying a home by myself
The call came in July. Did I still want the home? Did my offer stand? Resounding yes!
In the whirlwind of the moment, I was completely sunk into the logistics, the financials, and making it all work. Arrangements for several inspections due to the multiple programs involved in closing meant I was coordinating calls, contractors, and running to the store for carbon monoxide detectors.
But it. Was. Happening. Here I was signing the actual papers. Here I was buying this house alone. On my own. As a single woman. A disabled single woman. And my internalized beliefs attacked out of nowhere as I flipped through the many, many pages required by my – technically – 3 mortgages.
“Tami Mitchell, A SINGLE WOMAN.” Was buying a house making a commitment to stay in one place and would therefore make me unattractive to partners? “Tami Mitchell, A SINGLE WOMAN.” Was my owning a house going to intimidate future partners? “Tami Mitchell, A SINGLE WOMAN.” Would I be able to work long enough to pay off the house? Or would my disabilities take it away from me? “Tami Mitchell, A SINGLE WOMAN.” What would happen to my home in a relationship? “Tami Mitchell, A SINGLE WOMAN.” How would I protect my asset in a relationship?
And later, as my chronic, degenerative health conditions worsened: How do I protect my home from being clawed back by Medicaid if/when I end up in assisted living or die?
In the frenzy of buying a home I was lost in the whirling minutia, but in the moments of quietly signing all those papers, my internalized sexism and ableism came to the forefront. How much of my “do life,” checklist had been impacted by the rules and beliefs I had unknowingly internalized about what a single woman, or a disabled single woman, could do? How many opportunities are being lost to women because of internalized sexism or ableism?