Women become a force in home buying
The antiquated notion that a "woman's place is in the home"
has a more modern twist.
Women are finding their places in homes, all right,
and in record numbers. But this time, they're crossing the thresholds
of single-family residences sans spouses.
In fact, single women have been out-muscling single
men as first-time home buyers at a rate of about 2-to-1 over the
past five years, National Association of Realtors research indicates.
In 2002, approximately 18 percent of all first-home
buyers in the United States were single women while just 9 percent
were single men, according to preliminary data from the National
Association of Realtors' forthcoming Profile of Homebuyers and Sellers.
Those numbers are up from 2001 tallies, when single women constituted
15 percent of the home-buying market and single men constituted
"Women need a sense of financial security, and
they obviously see a home as a sound investment," says Walter
Malony, industry-trend specialist for the NAR. It's also far easier
for single women to get a mortgage than it was two decades ago,
Setting the stage were several changes in lending
standards, including a general relaxing of underwriting/down-payment
requirements for home purchases and the FHA's push to allow single
parents to count child support as income.
Protracted low interest rates and low down-payment
programs also contribute to the trend, say analysts, as do chronically
high divorce rates.
The single-woman home-buying phenomenon is not just
a U.S. phenomenon. In Great Britain, the same segment is forsaking
rental flats for self-owned homes at an even higher rate. More than
21 percent of British first-time home buyers in 2002 were single
women, according to Her Mortgage, which specializes in women home-buyer
The rise in single female buyers
Back in the states, some of the country's top residential
real estate firms have seen their customer base of single women
buyers grow sharply in recent years, including Pittsburgh-based
Howard Hanna Real Estate Services, which has 65 offices in Pennsylvania,
Ohio, West Virginia and New York.
Single women now comprise about 20 percent of the
operation's first-time buyers system wide, says Helen Hanna Casey,
the company's president.
"We see more families encouraging their daughters
to own homes -- and not just be content to wait until they get married,"
she says. "Women are making more money and they are exerting
more control over their destinies."
Single men, on the other hand, don't show the same
nesting instinct, she says. "And their parents don't seem to
be as concerned about the same type of security for them."
Women are also no longer bound by the notion that
they must buy a house for life, so they are less apprehensive about
buying a lower-cost abode because they realize they can sell with
relative ease in this more transient, move-up society as their lives
change, according to Casey.
"We have women who might have rented for 20 to
25 years who are now buying in new (suburban) communities for a
different lifestyle. Then we see a lot of young people who have
moved back here from Washington, New York or Boston. They are buying
new homes instead of moving back with their parents."
Casey said the single-woman home-buyer push began
in earnest about eight years ago and has not abated.
Steven Lowenstein, a Realtor with Coletta & Associates
of Cincinnati, said he too has seen an increase in the segment.
Women shop harder for homes
Lowenstein notes a distinct difference in the house-hunting
habits of women, which may contribute to the trend. "Women
will go out and look at homes all day long, eight days a week,"
he said. "Men? Well, you have to just about drag them out."