Most consumers today aren’t aware of some of the discriminatory lending practices of long ago. Well before the implementation of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, banks and other lending institutions could deny someone a mortgage application for a variety of reasons, many of them flat out discriminatory. It might surprise you to know that a bank could legally deny a couple a mortgage application because the woman might get pregnant and have a baby soon. Or deny a woman a home loan altogether simply because she was female, and didn’t have a male’s signature on the loan. Not kidding.
But a recent report published by the National Association of Realtors using numbers gathered by the real estate brokerage Redfin, single women have been taking the home buying business by the horns. How much so? According to the report, the number of 45-54 year old single female home owners soared 120 percent from 1982 to 2012, the latest numbers available.
Further data digging shows that single female homeowners comprised 18 percent of home ownership compared to the 10 percent owned by single men. These figures cover a period from the mid-1990s to the end of 2012.
Both numbers have surprised many in the real estate industry. Single women are buying homes at nearly twice the pace as single men. What’s causing this trend?
There are some that point out that someone can do a lot with statistics to try and prove a point. Yet the data is spread out over a significant period of time, with one study over a 30 year period and another over 20 years. When looking at these wide samples, the numbers can’t lie.
The U.S. Census Bureau first began collecting data on single households in 1982. Since then, single female homeowners have outnumbered single male homeowners.
During the first years of that period, single females were more likely to have been awarded a home during divorce proceedings. That type of forced single female ownership contributed to the numbers initially but the demographics kept changing.
Divorce became less and less of a stigma over time and men as well as women found themselves single again as they approached middle age. The likelihood of a female-headed household is much greater now than it was when “married couples with 2.5 kids” was the norm.
In addition, as women’s independence grew, they no longer felt they had to find a man to marry but instead graduated from college or entered the workforce or both. Often, college degree plus job equals house.
Lower Pay Doesn’t Stop Women from Owning
More women with jobs means more women have the ability to afford a mortgage payment on their own. Women’s pay is increasingly on the rise compared to men, according to a report by the American Association of University Women, as of the end of 2012. Yet, women still only earn 82 cents for each dollar their male counterparts earn one year after graduation.
Are Women Just More Responsible than Men?
Women still make less and ultimately that disparity will be a thing of the past, but that doesn’t means single women can’t afford a mortgage. They can but they decide to buy what they can afford and feel comfortable paying each month.
And even though women earn less, they tend to handle their credit more responsibly then single men, according to Experian, the credit reporting giant. Single men are delinquent on a mortgage payment 7 percent more often than women, and carry more debt.
I Thought Women Were More Risk-Averse
New studies have found little or no difference between men and women when it comes to taking risks. According to a Wall Street Journal article, a Columbia University study gauged various types of risk, like social and recreational risks.
Some earlier studies measured financial risk only, in which men came out ahead probably because they were more accustomed to taking financial risks. The Columbia study found that some people were timid in some risks, but bold in others.
Buying a home is a financial risk, but it’s also a social risk (Will I like living in a new area? What will people think of my home?). Seeing that women are not as risk-averse as people once thought, and they are often more responsible with their finances, it makes sense that they are dominating the home purchase market.
Cities with Most Successful Single Women
Is this a national trend? Yes, but there are areas where higher concentrations of successuful single women can be found. Which cities boast the highest percentage of successful single women? The top five are:
- Arlington, VA 24%
- Alexandria, VA 22%
- Cambridge, MA 22%
- Washington, D.C. 22%
- San Francisco, CA 21%
These numbers take into consideration single women between the ages of 25 and 39, who have at least a four year college degree making more than $65,000.
So, Why are Women Buying more Homes?
We may never know the exact answer to this question. There are probably many factors in play. All we can do is look at the numbers and conclude that women are becoming an increasingly important part of the home buying market.