Going it alone? You're far from alone. Some 44 percent of adults in the nation are unmarried, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Yet due to lending standards that tend to favor dual- income households, single home buyers have accounted for only a quarter of the overall market share in each of the past two years, according to the National Association of Realtors.
That's not hard to believe on Long Island, where home prices can be out of reach for one-income buyers. For instance, the median sale price for a home was $470,000 for Nassau County and $333,500 for Suffolk as of August, according to the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island.
Meanwhile, average personal income is just $70,761 for Nassau and $55,221 for Suffolk, according to the most recent statistics released by the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis. Even with manageable debt and good credit, single buyers at those income levels would be looking at homes in lower price ranges, says Bryan Smith of Embrace Home Loans in Hauppauge.
While home loan qualifications vary, Smith offers an example of a more realistic scenario for a single buyer earning Nassau's average income: "If you had a 20 percent down payment on a $300,000 home, that would be a home that you could afford without stretching any boundaries," Smith says. For a single buyer earning Suffolk's average income, the price range would be even lower, he says.
These types of limitations may lead Long Island singles to seek out communities with ample rental options, as well as neighborhoods where one income is enough to buy a home. Single buyers also may be able to improve their qualifications with the help of a co-signer or a government program, Smith says. For instance, they can apply for an FHA loan -- a home loan insured by the Federal Housing Administration, giving lenders some flexibility to accept lower down payments or offer better interest rates.
These challenges don't have to stand in the way of Long Island singles who want to live on their own. In this installment of Newsday's Best Places to Live series, we highlight a sampling of great Long Island communities with housing options priced right for going solo.
Great place for homes for rent
Singles can find great digs in Long Beach -- with or without a down payment. The city is a renter's haven, with 124 rentals on the market as of September, the most rental listings of any Nassau County community on MLSLI.
Homes for rent are priced from $1,000 per month for a one-bedroom apartment to $6,200 per month for a four-bedroom duplex. For those who are ready to buy, there are 414 homes for sale in Long Beach, ranging from $99,000 for a co-op studio apartment with a $539 monthly maintenance fee to $3.3 million for a four-bedroom contemporary home, according to MLSLI.
For singles craving a social scene, Long Beach has it all, says Frank DeLucia of Petrey West Realty Inc. in Long Beach. "There are a lot of young people," says DeLucia. "It's a lively town. You have the beach, the restaurants, the bars. What else do you need?"
Long Beach is a pedestrian-friendly city, with wide sidewalks and walk-to-town convenience for shopping, nightlife and public transportation.
The city also boasts a new 2.2-mile boardwalk to replace the one that suffered irreparable damage from superstorm Sandy in October 2012. In the summer, it's easy for singles to mix and mingle there at casual events such as outdoor concerts and craft fairs.
Long Beach | $1,800 a month
This three-bedroom, one-bathroom Colonial in the West End of Long Beach features an enclosed porch, and the 30-by-60-foot lot includes a backyard -- a rarity for the area, says listing agent Randy Scott of Petrey AB Corp (516-371-3339). The home is also for sale, listed for $329,000.
Great place for a downtown scene
Singles surveyed by the National Association of Realtors preferred a community with diverse housing options and an area where they can walk to shops and restaurants -- exactly what Huntington is known for.
The housing stock runs from one-bedroom apartments to waterfront estates, along with a typical Long Island assortment of Colonials, capes, splits and ranches. Home prices in Huntington range from $214,000 for a one-bedroom co-op with a $563-a-month maintenance charge to $3.499 million for a four-bedroom postmodern on the water. There are 39 homes for rent, with rents ranging from $1,100 for one bedroom and shared use of common space to $9,500 for a six-bedroom Colonial.
The downtown known by locals as Huntington Village (although it is not an incorporated village) boasts a broad and eclectic mix of establishments for wining and dining, as well as a number of entertainment venues. The Paramount features well-known performers -- for instance, rock band Limp Bizkit played there last week and comedian Bill Cosby will perform there tomorrow night. There are two movie theaters in town -- one features screenings of foreign, classic and independent films, while the other offers a more mainstream lineup.
Huntington | $2,400 a month
This apartment on the second floor of a two-family home is close enough to walk into town for errands or entertainment -- and with three bedrooms and two bathrooms, there's enough space for a roommate or two to share expenses. It's listed with Deborah Sande of Daniel Gale Agency Inc. (631-427-6600).
Great place for other singles
Singles seeking singles will find plenty in Patchogue, where well more than half the population is unhitched. In fact, 59 percent were unmarried as of 2012, according to census estimates. Some 40 percent had never been married, 17 percent were previously married and another 2 percent were separated.
Thanks to downtown redevelopment, the village is well on its way to becoming a social hot spot. "Patchogue is up and coming. It's made a big turnaround," says Christopher Colucci of Realty Connect USA LLC. "Main Street is awesome. They always have things going on."
There's no shortage of nightlife in the area, thanks to an assortment of restaurants and bars, Colucci says. And it's easy to take the party across the bay during the summer months -- there's a Fire Island ferry terminal in Patchogue.
Local entertainment options range from the casual to the cultural. The BrickHouse Brewery & Restaurant, a microbrewery, features a variety of beers on tap, live bands, art installations and fun social events such as karaoke and open mic nights. The Emporium, a nightclub on Railroad Avenue, features DJ dance parties and live music performances. The Plaza Cinema & Media Arts Center holds film screenings, discussion groups, speaker events and live performances. And the Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts features live shows, including comedy, music, theater and dance.
Home prices in Patchogue range from $58,500 for a one-bedroom co-op apartment with a $693 common charge to $779,000 for a four-bedroom Colonial, according to MLSLI. There are 21 rental listings, with monthly rents ranging from $975 for a one-bedroom apartment to $3,800 for a four-bedroom Colonial.
Patchogue | $199,000
This two-bedroom, one-bathroom ranch has been completely renovated. It features an open floor plan and a new kitchen with stainless steel appliances and granite countertops. It's listed with Christopher Colucci of Realty Connect USA LLC (631-575-1070).
Great place for single-friendly home prices
When it comes to buying into your neighborhood of choice, being single has its advantages over sharing your home: If you have the flexibility to accept fewer bedrooms, you may find more choices at more affordable prices, even in typically costly areas.
That's true in Great Neck, which made Forbes' 2014 list of the most expensive ZIP codes in the country last week.
The highest-priced home for sale in Great Neck is a $10.75 million nine-bedroom waterfront contemporary with views of the New York City skyline.
Three-bedroom homes in Great Neck start at about $550,000 -- well above the $300,000-or-so comfort zone for Nassau's average single-income buyers. But thanks to copious co-ops, there are 94 homes for sale in Great Neck for $300,000 or less.
Buyers should note that FHA loans are not available for co-ops and that common charges will affect affordability, advises Bryan Smith of Embrace Home Loans.
Even with those limitations, Great Neck has plenty of options: Prices range from $88,000 for a studio with a $450 monthly maintenance charge. Most co-op apartments priced at $300,000 or less are one-bedroom units, but 15 have two bedrooms, starting at $212,000 with a $761 monthly maintenance charge.
Great Neck offers an easy commute to Manhattan -- a convenience coveted by singles of all ages, says Joan Evans of Turn Key Real Estate.
"Number one is the train," Evans says. "A lot of the co-ops are walking distance to the Long Island Rail Road, and we have an express train that's only 25 minutes to the city."
Local amenities attract buyers too, says Evans.
"Great Neck Plaza is the heart of it -- it's the new shopping center," she says. "We also have wonderful little shops and boutiques in what is called the Old Village."
Nearby entertainment includes free outdoor concerts in local parks and a movie theater and an art center, and dining options include a variety of ethnic cuisines.
And it's a great place to grow into, too, Evans says -- families love the schools, parks and children's sports leagues, and older residents enjoy the senior center and local activities for retirees.
Great Neck | $165,000 as is or $189,000 with updates
This one-bedroom, one-bathroom unit is in the Park Grace co-op. It's a two-block walk from the Long Island Rail Road. The apartment, which has a $654 monthly maintenance charge, is listed with Joan Evans of Turn Key Real Estate (516-829-2205).