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Single women have come a long way in real estate
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But it's not just younger women who are doing the buying -- women of all ages are taking the homeownership plunge solo.

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"It used to be younger professional women doing the buying," says Phipps, who says he's now seeing more middle-aged women and seniors buying homes on their own. "We're kind of seeing that become more common."

But, often they are not looking at the same homes, says Drew. Older women are likely to buy homes that are newer and more expensive. "They are more likely to have reserves from wealth accumulation," she says.

And that shows up in how they pay for the home, says Drew. Twenty-eight percent of women are able to buy a home without a mortgage, she says. (For single men the figure is 27 percent and for couples, 20 percent.)

But for most women, mortgages are a must. And 40 percent put down less than 5 percent for a down payment.

What do women want?
While it's hard to generalize, real estate professionals have noticed that women, on the whole, seem to be looking for a home that is secure and free of maintenance worries.

Condos and town houses, in particular, seem to be a very popular solution. For solo female buyers, "condos and townhomes are definitely more popular," Stevens says.

Looking at buying habits from 2000 to 2003, Drew found that condos made up 15 percent of the home purchases for single females, as opposed to 12 percent for single men and just 5 percent for couples.

Single women also are looking for smaller homes than their married counterparts, she says. One-third of single women purchased two-bedroom homes. By contrast, 84 percent of married couples purchase homes with three or more bedrooms.

"They are also more likely to own older homes," Drew says. "Part of it is price; part of it is location." Single women are more likely to buy near a city center where housing stock tends to be older.

 
 
Next: Your house: a home and nest egg all in one
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