Owning a home is part of the American Dream. We saw it on TV with Ozzie and Harriet, The Cleavers and even the Addams Family. Then came the Bunkers, the Brady Bunch, the Huxtables and even the Simpsons. They were all families that owned their own home.
But how about single Mary Tyler Moore? She lived in an apartment.
The good news is that this is changing and everyone associated in the real estate business had better take notice. Single female homeowners have become a powerful force.
While more women may be setting aside marriage and children, many are embracing the world of homeownership. Rather than assuming “they can’t”, they are asking “Why not?” and even better, “Why not me!”
It is beginning to cause a seismic shift in the industry that will affect how homes are marketed. It will impact mortgage brokers and real estate agents. But perhaps most of all, it will positively impact more and more single women who are deciding to take the plunge.
The Significance of the Single Female Homeowner
According to the National Association of Realtors, of all the homes sold in 2017, over 18% were sold to a single female homeowner. That number is up significantly from 1981 when only 11% of homebuyers were a single female and an increase of 3% from just two years earlier. That 18% represents an all-time high and there’s no reason to think it won’t continue to rise. In fact, in 2016 there were over 110 million singles in the United States. That’s 45% of the over 18 population.
Most of them are women, and more single women are now homeowners than single men. Real estate agents may not hear them roar, but they had better return their phone calls.
These numbers may surprise some but that may be due to some stereotyping. Single female homebuyers aren’t all “young”. Yes, she may be a young professional who chooses the single life, but she may be a more established professional who never married or who is now divorced or even widowed. She may or may not have children or may be in a non-committed relationship.
From their 20’s into their 60’s, single female homeowners are a powerful force that seems to be getting little attention. But make no mistake, if you are a member of this group, you currently represent about 1 in 5 homebuyers. That is significant.
Factors Impacting the Increase
The increasing market for single female homeowners is partly due to ever-increasing rents in many communities. Sure, home prices are increasing as well but interest rates have remained near historic lows. Many are recognizing that purchasing a home can serve to protect them from these annual rent increases.
More single women are recognizing that becoming a homeowner is a significant part of a long-term financial plan.
Many are realizing there is little return on years and years of paying tens of thousands of dollars in rent. They may decide to wait on getting married or having a family but many are moving forward with the purchase of a home. Rather than investing in a long-term relationship or worrying about 2.4 children, this is a group more than satisfied with their careers, the single life and in building their future.
Many are finding home ownership can play a big role.
Challenges Facing the Single Female Homeowner
All homebuyers face a set of challenges. There’s the challenge of saving a 20% down payment, for example.
While a 20% down payment is preferred to qualify for some of the lowest interest rates available, there are alternative financing options that require much smaller down payments.
Credit doesn’t have to be perfect either. Secondary mortgage companies and private loans will often look past some past financial mistakes.
Many single women are also recognizing that a home purchase doesn’t have to be permanent. They can buy something smaller as a “starter” home, just like most other demographics. A 20 or 30-year mortgage does not require you to live in a home for decades.From their 20's into their 60's, single female homeowners are a powerful force that seems to be getting little attention. But make no mistake, if you are a member of this group, you currently represent about 1 in 5 homebuyers. That is significant. Click To Tweet
Rather than viewing a home as something that ties them down, more singles are seeing it as an investment tool that will lift them up and propel them forward.
Those with deep concerns about security can consider living in a condominium or gated community. Today, there are multiple “smart” security systems and cameras that can help ease those concerns. Maintaining a property is a concern for most homebuyers. Budgeting 1-3% of a home’s value annually for maintenance should cover most issues.
Those who prefer not dealing at all with maintenance can consider buying a condo or living in a community with an HOA that takes care of outside maintenance.
The reality is there are answers to the concerns of single female homeowners and more women are making the decision to work through them. Many are discovering it is worth the effort.
Preparing to be a Homebuyer
Preparing to be a homebuyer as a woman may be as much about attitude as it is about finances.
If it is something that you would like to explore, here are some tips:
- Recognize buying a home doesn’t necessarily mean permanence, nor is it necessarily final.
- There are solutions to maintenance issues if you plan and budget for them.
- Know your credit score and seek to improve it.
- Start saving for a down payment. The bigger the better, but it may not have to be 20%.
- Understand the difference even small interest rate changes can have on payments.
- Check all your financing options. Compare rates and terms.
- Start thinking about your “must haves” and “can’t haves” in a home.
- Don’t buy a home that maxes out what you qualify for. Allow room for taxes, insurances, repairs and upgrades.
- When you find something you like, make sure you get a home inspection before completing the purchase.
- Seek the help of a real estate professional and get a “buyer’s agent” who works for you, not the seller.
Single female homebuyers are far from alone. They are a growing force in the industry and deserve attention and respect. Those interested in purchasing a home shouldn’t let marital status, or anything else for that matter, stop them.
Mary Tyler Moore would be proud.