Why are Single Women Buying Homes?

Happy young lady sitting between stacks of brown boxes on the floor of a new home.

The real estate market saw a big leap from single female buyers in 2016. But what’s triggering them to buy a home?

Single ladies, put your hands up! And if you want to buy a new home, raise them even higher.

A recent report from the 
National Association of Realtors shows that 2016 was a big year for single female homebuyers. The report found that by 2017, single women accounted for 17 percent of homebuyers throughout the U.S. — making single women the single biggest buying demographic after married couples. Their single male counterparts accounted for only 7 percent.

But what exactly is leading all these ladies to the real estate market? Turns out there are lots of reasons why single women are buying homes — and they might not all be what you expect.

“It is outdated to assume a single female can’t afford to buy a home or is only interested in lower-priced options,” says Michelle Swindell, senior business development manager with Bank of America. “Women are increasingly looking to become homeowners and have started to build equity, regardless of relationship status.”

Outdated indeed: Before the Fair Lending laws were passed in the 1960s, the single women market was basically non-existent. But today, that’s clearly not the case as more and more women are receiving degrees, no longer getting married or postponing marriage and progressively seeking higher wages.

“Data shows that women today earn bachelor’s degrees at greater rates than men,” says Swindell. “This trend in higher education is leading women to feel more informed and confident in their ability to own a home without help from a roommate, spouse, partner or family member.”

Triggers for Single Women to Buy a Home

According to the 2016 Home Shopper & Buyer Insights Study by Builders Digital Experience (disclaimer: Builder Digital Experience is the parent company of New Home Source), these are the top five triggers of homebuying for single women:

1. Tired of Current Home 

Thirty-five percent of single female shoppers said that being tired of their current home was a trigger for buying a home.

“While this is one perspective, another way of looking at it is that single women now have a stronger desire to own their home,” says Romana King, a licensed Realtor with Century 21 and real estate columnist with MoneySense. “According to National Association of Realtors research, 30 percent of single women buyers just wanted a place they could call their own, while 10 percent of these buyers wanted a bigger place than what they currently rented.”

2. Favorable Home Prices

About 23 percent of single female homebuyers listed favorable home prices in their area as a homebuying trigger.

“Even as home prices continue to increase in some areas, there are many 
down payment assistance programs and responsibly designed mortgage products today to help creditworthy borrowers become homeowners,” adds Swindell.

3. Increasing Rent

Also at 23 percent, single female home shoppers listed an increase rent as an important trigger.

“Buyers are feeling more confident in housing due to stabilized values and a solid job market and they are comparing the economics of 
buying versus renting,” says Swindell.

4. Favorable Interest Rates

At 20 percent, next in line is the favorable interest rates trigger.

“Even though they are rising, interest rates are still considered low from a historical perspective,” suggests Swindell. “Women aren’t necessarily basing their homebuying decisions solely on interest rates, but are focusing on satisfying their needs based on what they can and want to afford.” 

5. Increase in Income 

Despite the still sizable 
income gap between men and women, 18 percent of female homebuyers listed an increase in income as a homebuying trigger. 

“While women continue to earn less than their male counterparts, the average income is still rising and this puts more money into the house portion of their monthly budgets,” says King.

In fact, the 
U.S. Census Bureau has reported that income growth has increased at its fastest rate since the recession.

How Have These Triggers Changed From the Last Few Years?

“Single women currently shopping for a home are driven mainly by being tired of their current home, followed by favorable home prices and increasing rent, but there’s an interesting story to see what is not motivating them as much as it used to,” says Julie Ward, director of consumer research and insight with 
NewHomeSource.com.

For example, in 2012, 16 percent of single women cited getting married as a top trigger for buying a home. In 2016, that trigger was down by 3 percent. In addition, favorable home prices and interest rates have significantly fallen, while a safer neighborhood and increasing rent are leading triggers in 2016. According to the BDX study, these are the purchase triggers that have seen interesting changes (for easier comparison, see the infographic below):

  • Favorable Home Prices:54 percent of single females in 2012, 23 percent in 2016; 54 percent of single males in 2012, 33 percent in 2016; 54 percent of total singles in 2012, 27 percent in 2016.
  • Increasing Rent:16 percent of single females in 2012, 23 percent in 2016; 24 percent of single males in 2012, 20 percent in 2016; 19 percent of total singles in 2012, 22 percent in 2016.
  • Favorable Interest Rates:42 percent of single females in 2012, 20 percent in 2016; 46 percent of single males in 2012, 24 percent in 2016; 44 percent of total singles in 2012, 21 percent in 2016.
  • Increase in Income:13 percent of single females in 2012, 18 percent in 2016; 18 percent of single males in 2012, 23 percent in 2016; 15 percent of total singles in 2012, 20 percent in 2016.
  • Seeking a Safer Neighborhood:6 percent of single females in 2012, 13 percent in 2016; 10 percent of single males in 2012, 17 percent in 2016; 8 percent of total singles in 2012, 15 percent in 2016.
  • Getting Married:16 percent of single females in 2012, 13 percent in 2016; 15 percent of single males in 2012, 14 percent in 2016; 16 percent of total singles in 2012, 13 percent in 2016.
  • Desire to Live Closer to Family/Friends:10 percent of single females in 2012, 14 percent in 2016; 9 percent of single males in 2012, 13 percent in 2016; 10 percent of total singles in 2012, 13 percent in 2016.
  • 2012 and 2016 comparison of the different triggers that make male and females buy new homes.
Drew Knight is a freelance writer for Builders Digital Experience (BDX). You can find him online at LinkedIn.

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