Safe and Sound: Single Women Seek Secure Housing Options

A gate around several single-family homes in this California community provides privacy and safety for residents, particularly single women.

A gated community in California provides privacy and safety for residents, particularly single women.

Many homebuyers — both women and men — prefer homes in safe neighborhoods, but single women, whether never-married, divorced or widowed, may seek an added level of security. Luckily, developers of new homes and condominiums have responded, offering single females numerous options to make them feel safer.

Single women are making up more of the “homebuyer pie” than in recent years.

A new survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors found that single women are making up more of the “homebuyer pie” than in recent years.

The 2017 edition of NAR’s annual Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers reported that single females represented 18 percent of total purchases, the highest share since 2011. Single male buyers, in comparison, represented just 7 percent of total purchases.

Despite having a much lower median income than single male buyers ($62,300 in 2016, compared to $74,000 for men), female buyers make up more than double the amount of men who are purchasing homes. This could be because women recognize the tax benefits of homeownership or because they purchase to be closer to their jobs, friends or family. The employment market has remained strong, and credit availability has eased slightly, so women also have a greater opportunity to buy than in previous years.

That means that more women are looking for homes.

“We are seeing an increase in terms of single women as a buyer sector in our area,” says Jeff Benach, a principal of Chicago-based homebuilder Lexington Homes.

Gated Communities

Both single-family homes and multifamily properties can be in gated communities, which have a perimeter of walls, fences or hedges and a main gate that limits access to vehicles, pedestrians and bicycles. Some gated communities have manned gates; others have automated systems for entry by residents and guests. Many have shared amenities such as a pool, clubhouse or tennis courts, as well as a homeowners’ association to manage things.

Lexington Homes is currently building Lexington Shore, a gated community in Hyde Park, Ill., where prices start at $424,990. Here, the attached townhomes provide a sense of community and the close proximity allows neighbors to get to know one another. Since the homes are close, it’s likely that there will be people jogging or walking dogs, and children playing, which prevents single women from being isolated in a secluded area — or living spread apart from neighbors in single-family homes.

In addition to the protection of the gates, some of the townhomes in the community have private rooftop decks, so a single homeowner can go up there to work, eat or read any time of the day without worrying about anyone lurking at ground level.

Advanced Biometrics

It’s no secret that single-family homes, as well as multifamily buildings, are going high-tech. Many homes now come equipped with advanced security and “smart home” automation systems. And some condominium developers are incorporating sophisticated biometric systems to control access to their buildings.

One example is One River Point, a riverfront condominium in Miami where prices start at $750,000. The project includes a biometric access security program and surveillance system that utilizes facial recognition technology to allow residents and employees access to the building. The system recognizes the subject as he or she walks up to the camera; there’s no need for keys, fobs, access cards or fingerprints. Residents will also use “virtual key” entry systems on a cell phone or tablet to enter their units or private access areas.

“Miami is safe, but security and privacy are important lifestyle factors,” says Shahab Karmely, the developer of One River Point. “Technology offers us the opportunity to provide cutting-edge secure and safe environments without intruding on the privacy of our residents.”

Another Miami-area condominium offering enhanced security is Porsche Design Tower in Sunny Isles Beach. One of Porsche Design’s unique features is an automated lift system that transports residents — while still inside their vehicles — directly to their residence and their private “sky garage.” The system ensures the security of each resident because it transports them directly to their own unit, ensuring privacy and the ability to enter and depart without notice to a valet.

The Ultimate in Security: A Private Island

For women seeking the ultimate in security — and who have the cash to pay for it — Fisher Island may be a good choice.

An exclusive paradise off the coast of Miami, Fisher Island was recently named the wealthiest ZIP code in Florida and the fourth wealthiest in the United States. Only residents, Fisher Island Club members and hotel guests can access the island — via ferry — and, to gain clearance onto the island, they must present a photo ID. Residents must clear guests in advance before they can board the ferry.

The island also has a full-time team of security experts, who patrol the island on golf cart and by boat 24/7.

Female residents, club members and hotel guests feel secure because no one can follow them onto the island — or just drop in without permission. And women can feel safe jogging at any time of the day or night.

Of course, residents will pay a premium for all that peace of mind. Prices for condominiums on Fisher Island run from just under $1 million to $35 million.

Other Alternatives for Women Seeking Security

Of course, there are other alternatives for single women looking for a safe place to live. House-sharing not only helps homeowners cut expenses but also provides a companion. According to AARP, house-sharing is becoming increasingly popular with female baby boomers and older women because of the financial, emotional and physical benefits of having a roommate, one of which is peace of mind.

Living in a building with a doorman and valet can also provide an enhanced feeling of security for single women. And, finally, installing a state-of-the-art security system — and having it connected to a central station — is an excellent way for single women to not only feel safer, but be safer.
 Robyn A. Friedman is an award-winning freelance writer and copywriter who has been covering the real estate and housing industries for over two decades. She writes the "Jumbo Jungle" column for The Wall Street Journal, is a real-estate and personal-finance columnist for City & Shore magazine, covers celebrity real estate for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and also contributes regularly to Commercial Property Executive, Multi-Housing News and numerous other publications. 

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