Single women are buying more and more homes on their own

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When the pandemic locked down the nation, Kristin Howard had lived in the same one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles for 16 years. Suddenly his house became his office and his space went from adequate to cramped.

So Howard decided to buy a seat. After struggling to find a home in his price range in the notoriously unaffordable Los Angeles housing market, Howard landed a single-family home for $760,000.

Howard made the purchase as a single woman, and soaring home prices made the process difficult. “It was extremely stressful,” she says. “Everything is so expensive.”

By buying a house solo, Howard unknowingly joined a trend: single women are a growing force in the housing market.

The National Association of Realtors says single women made up 19% of all homebuyers in 2021, a share that has been trending upward since hitting a low of 15% in 2014. Single men only make up 9% of buyers, while couples, married and unmarried, make nearly 70% of transactions.

A separate Bank of America survey found a similar house before spouse trend: 65% of single women who buy a home said they preferred not to wait until marriage to buy a house, and 30% of women who already own a house they bought when they were single.

It’s time to “start my life”

Madison Fox, 22, joined the trend last year when she bought an 800 square foot home in Bay City, Michigan. Fox is single and works as a pharmacy technician, and she views the rent as a waste of money.

“I just wanted to get out of my parents’ house and start my life,” she says.

While Fox starts earlier than most, many single women decide not to find a partner until they become landlords, says Lynn Toomey, founder of Her Retirement, a financial education company.

“Because people are delaying marriage until later in life, women aren’t waiting for the ownership part of the traditional coupled decision to buy a home,” Toomey says.

What is driving the trend

For single women buying a home, financial stability is an important part of the calculation, says Jessica Lautz, vice president of demographics and behavioral insights at the National Association of Realtors.

“Women have a very strong preference for home ownership,” says Lautz. “They think it’s a good financial investment. They are also willing to make financial sacrifices. They traditionally have lower household incomes and are willing to cut back on other areas of their lives to access homeownership.

In a sort of paradox, single women earn less money on average than single men but are more eager to buy homes, Lautz says. This could reflect the certainty and stability that comes with a monthly mortgage payment, as opposed to renting at a time when monthly rents have risen sharply.

“Knowing exactly what your payment will be for the next 30 years, especially if you’re a single mom, could be incredibly important for women,” Lautz says.

Tenants also face the possibility that the landlord may not simply increase the rent but decide not to renew their lease. This is what happened to Toomey – its landlord chose not to renew its lease which expires this spring. The surprise prompted Toomey to start shopping for a home in Massachusetts.

“I know I’ll have a lot more peace of mind owning rather than renting,” she says.

The Financial Challenges Facing Sole Buyers

Home values ​​have soared to record highs during the pandemic, and this price spike is making it difficult to buy homes for those closing a deal with just one paycheck.

Howard, who works as a marriage and family therapist, had received stock options from a previous job, and those stocks had appreciated enough that she had money for a down payment. Still, Howard struggled to bid aggressively enough to squeeze out other buyers in a booming market.

“I would bid high, and someone would rush in and pay it all in cash,” Howard says.

Howard eventually submitted an offer which was accepted, and she moved into her new place in March 2021. Homeownership created a new challenge: her monthly payment is more than the cost of her rent-controlled apartment, so Howard took on a second job to help meet his higher housing expenses.

“I manage,” she said.

How to enter the housing market on one salary

Buying a home can be a daunting task even with two incomes. Single-income buyers should be extra careful when entering the housing market.

  • Take a realistic look at your finances. If you’re drowning in credit card debt or having other financial problems, fix those problems first. “Ensuring you’re financially ready to buy a home is the most important starting point for any buyer, but it could be even more important for single buyers on one income,” says Robert Heck, vice president of mortgages at Morty, a mortgage marketplace.
  • Increase your credit score. Your credit score is the most important factor in determining the mortgage rate you’ll pay, so pay all your bills promptly and don’t run up large balances on your credit cards.
  • Find First Time Buyer Programs. Toomey is tapping into Massachusetts’ grant program for first-time buyers. Most states and some cities offer down payment assistance for first-time buyers.
  • Be ready to do battle. Although the supply of homes in the United States has eased somewhat in recent months, it is still a seller’s market, characterized by tight inventories and aggressive competition among buyers. Full-price offers remain common.
  • Shop for a mortgage. Once you find a location, be sure to research your mortgage options. Shopping around for a home loan can save you thousands of dollars over the life of your mortgage.
  • Don’t forget maintenance costs. One of the disadvantages of home ownership is taking on the responsibility for repairs. Pipes leak, appliances break and roofs wear out.

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