“I am woman, hear me roar,” lyrics written by singer-songwriter Ray Burton, sung by Helen Reddy, and released as a single in 1972; the song became a celebration for women’s empowerment. Forty-four years later single women are singing that tune in real estate.
According to the National Association of Realtors’ 2015 Profile of Buyers and Sellers Report, single women now represent the second largest home-buying group. At 54 percent, married couples retain the rights to the largest buying segment. Single females made up the second largest group with 15 percent of the home-buying market.
In 1981, the first year the data was tallied, single women comprised 11 percent. A four percent increase over 34 years may not jump out as significant, however, it’s far more remarkable when compared to a decline in male single homeowners from 10 percent in 1981 to 9 percent today.
In fact, in every year since 1981, single women bought more homes than single men by a considerable margin.
Jessica Lautz, the National Association of Realtors manager of Member and Consumer Survey Research, says women often find it more important to put down roots in their community and near their families than men do. Call it a stronger nesting instinct.
“We have consistently seen that women place a high value on homeownership regardless of relationship status,” Lautz says. “The data suggests that women desire a place to call their own and are willing, even if they are at lower incomes, to make financial sacrifices to get there.”
Drilling deeper into data from their buyer and seller’s report, the National Association of Realtors revealed that the median age of single women buyers is 50 years old and their median income is $49,000. The majority buy single-family homes with three bedrooms and two bathrooms. Location matters, too. “They often want to buy to be close to friends or family,” says Lautz.
In 2015, the difference in home ownership between those without a high school degree and those with a bachelor’s degree or more was 28 percent, nearly double the 15 percent gap reported in 1990, according to a new report released by First American Financial Corp.
And if the relationship between education and home ownership continues, single women will likely command an even stronger presence in real estate. This is evidenced by Pew Reserach Center data revealing approximately 45 percent of Millennial women ages 18 to 24 are enrolled in college compared to 38 percent of men.
All this data is not to say that buying a home as a singleton is easy. Many single women say they struggled mightily to scrape together the money for a down payment, or to get qualified for a mortgage on one income.
Another challenge for single women lies in a disparity in home ownership values. In a report last week, Realtytracreleased analysis showing homes owned by single men on average are valued 10 percent higher than homes owned by single women.
Further, homes owned by single men tend to appreciate 16 percent more than homes owned by single women. In Maine, the average home value gains for homes owned by single men was 35 percent higher than those owned by single women.
Inequality in pay rates for women is another obstacle single women face when buying a home.
According to 2015 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Women earn less than men on average – 19 percent less in 2015 – giving them less purchasing power when it comes to buying a home,” said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at RealtyTrac. “So it’s not surprising to see the 10 percent gender gap in average home values between single men and single women homeowners; however, the slower home price appreciation for homes owned by single women demonstrates that less purchasing power is also having a domino effect on their ability to build wealth through homeownership as quickly as single men.”
Throughout history women have been survivors. Faced with adversity, they have overcome great obstacles to protect and shelter themselves, their liberty and their loved ones. When challenged, you can hear them roar these words from Reddy’s song:
“You can bend but never break me
‘Cause it only serves to make me
More determined to achieve my final goal
And I come back even stronger
Not a novice any longer
‘Cause you’ve deepened the conviction in my soul.”
If you, or anyone you know is a single woman who would like to join the growing number of their peers in homeownership, have them contact their local Realtor. This column is produced by Rick Bisson and his family, who own Bisson Real Estate with Keller Williams Realty of Mid-coast and Sugarloaf.