More than at any time in history, women are not as focused on putting a ring around their finger as on their own front door
Lucy Van Pelt:
I know how you feel about all this Christmas business, getting depressed and all that. It happens to me every year. I never get what I really want. I always get a lot of stupid toys or a bicycle or clothes or something like that.
What is it you want?
Lucy Van Pelt:
Lucy got it right when it comes to what women really want. At a recent Sotheby’s International Real Estate conference one of the most interesting demographic presentations involved single women home buyers. Vice President of Demographics and Behavioral Insights Jessica Lautz of the National Association of Realtors® presented research that one in five buyers is a single woman. According to the 2020 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, single female buyers accounted for 19% of first-time home buyers and 17% of repeat home buyers while 11% of first-time home buyers and 9% of repeat buyers were single men. These women are also putting their money where their lip glossed mouths are. Single women buy homes for an average of 6% more than their single male counterparts. The median age of the first-time single female home buyer is 33 while the median age of the single female repeat buyer is 59. Middle-aged women are a real estate force to be reckoned with.
Many single women have experienced the patronizing moment of anyone from a car salesperson to a banker asking where her husband is. Or they might get investing advice, like “don’t choose stocks on an empty stomach.” And who can forget the famous Sex and the City episode where Carrie Bradshaw realizes she has spent her potential down payment for an apartment on Manolo Blahnik’s.
More than at any time in history, women are not as focused on putting a ring around their finger as on their own front door. According to a Bank of America Homebuyer Insights report 73% of women say owning a home is a top priority over getting married. Clearly, for middle-aged women, a man is not a plan. And this is far more than an addiction to HGTV. It’s about women taking control of their finances and their futures understanding credit, equity and growth. While overt discrimination against women has been outlawed in real estate by the Fair Housing Act for over 50 years, small changes have only come about recently such as changing all references to a “master” bedroom to a “primary” bedroom and instead of a “family” room it can be a “bonus room” or “home office.”
Another reason to pay attention to this growing market? The Urban Institute cited higher credit scores and lower debt-to-income ratios for single women compared to single men. Also, those women tend to put down a higher down payment than men and default on loans less frequently.
What else is growing the increase in this segment of the market? Women on both sides of the transaction. Middle-aged women have grown in power not only as real estate agents but as mortgage brokers and loan officers. And the brokerages and financial companies which are recognizing and empowering the women in their workforce are reaping the financial benefits. Real estate is a career where women in their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s are the dominant players.
There is an infamous local story of a casually dressed single woman walking into a local real estate office without anyone much giving her attention until a new young female agent said she would be delighted to help her with a rental. Well, that can do attitude turned into a $500,000 rental so do the math on that commission. Don’t judge a woman by her Crocs.
Single women’s buying decisions differ from other demographics such as the importance of convenience to friends and family as an influencing factor. Being a part of a community will affect where they want to buy. What else is very important to them? Cue Snoopy… their pets. The French bull dog has to give a paws up as well.
Another demographic playing into the trend is the aging boomer population and their children who are concerned with their care. According to the Pew Research Center, women are more likely than men to be providing primary care to an aging parent (13% vs. 7%). And those who are not married (15%) are more likely than those who are married (7%) to provide most of the care to a parent. This makes multi-generational homes also attractive to middle-aged women buyers with room to accommodate a parent or parents. Think extra living space on the ground floor.
For real estate agents, paying attention to this segment of the market is a key to expanding their business. According to Lutz, single women are most likely to use an agent referred to them. Women also valued the knowledge and communication skills of their real estate agents more than other buyers.
Important to note, speaking of single women is by no means describing a monolithic entity but one of diversity. Each buyer has a specific and personal set of needs and goals. Any agent worth Lucy’s respect should seize this opportunity: listen to them, educate them, support them and help them reach that all important goal. Home.
Heather Buchanan is an agent at Sotheby’s International Realty working with buyers, sellers and renters in the Hamptons [email protected]
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