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Friday, January 3, 2014

The solo-household movement: Way of the future?

Single households
Over 25% of U.S. households consist of single occupants
By Sam Dixon

Solo homeowners may have once been looked upon as lonely individuals in an unfortunate situation. But that couldn't be further from the truth for those who are living solo with mortgages today. In fact, the solo household movement is much more than a trend; it may indeed by the way of the future.

Selfish singles?

Many of those who have chosen to live alone with a mortgage were often regarded with the assumption that they were selfish individuals who were unwilling to share either their space or their lives with another person. But their actual stories vary widely. Some are experiencing the aftermath of a divorce or the loss of the spouse, while others are pursuing their career goals.

In countries like Canada, over 27 % of households have only one occupant who is paying the home loan. This is far higher than the 13.4% recorded in 1971. All told, over three million homes in Canada are single-occupancy households.

In the United States, 28% of all households are occupied by single occupants. In Sweden, that number shoots up to 47%. And so why does it seem like there are more solo-living singles than ever before?

The economics of living alone

There are many factors which are influencing the single-living trend. One is the fact that developed countries allow for a higher amount of personal wealth. This means more of an ability to sustain more expensive single-occupant dwellings. As well, this higher amount of personal wealth makes it possible for individuals to meet the financial obligations of a mortgage without the need for the financial support of a second occupant.

Statistics have also revealed that people are not only living longer, but divorcing more often and marrying later on in life. This has also helped to maintain the steady stream of singles who now carry a mortgage solo.

Mortgage payments are easier than many think

While it may seem like a daunting task, owning a home and living alone with the weight of a mortgage on their hands, it's true that many singles are doing just that. And some have tapped local resources to find individuals who need a place to stay. Renting rooms in exchange for money does mean more people in a home, but can also help to boost the ability to make mortgage payments should illness or other events take a single homeowner away from their employment for a time.

Additionally, it is noteworthy to mention that while an economic downturn can mean problems to some, for others it can mean opportunity.  For example, there are amazing deals to be had for would-be home buyers from short sales or auctioned properties.  This means that a single person who wishes to live alone could find that home ownership is now within their grasp. 

Conveniences and conundrums

Many single homeowners relish the fact that there's no one to please but themselves. This can mean everything from painting the walls whatever color they prefer to the ability to park in the middle of the driveway without the need to move their vehicle for someone else.

Of course, whether tethered to another or not, there are worries expressed by both the single and attached homeowner. Those who are attached worry about their ability to maintain their current lifestyle should something happen to their partner. Those living alone have only themselves to rely on should they become ill.

Those who lament about what a single homeowner will do if they are not living with someone have been known to comment about the frightening aspects of not having anyone to rely on in times of emergency. But many singles rebut that with the fact that there is a strong support system in place, even if it isn't evident with the physical presence of a live-in companion.

Some singles have even gone so far as to tout their superiority as far as resourcefulness is concerned. Living alone means finding ways to do things on your own, such as getting your own tea when sick, or traveling to the drug store for prescriptions.

Of course, there is no right or wrong where it comes to a person's choice to live alone or not; but the differences between the two lifestyles, along with individuals' reasons for them is certainly enlightening.

About the author: Sam Dixon recommends The IOU Calculator, a site dedicated to helping consumers navigate the process of obtaining a home mortgage.

Image license: Napoleon Cole, Creative Commons