How Single Women are Transforming the Real Estate Market
According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) 2019 trend report, 18 percent of recent homebuyers were single women, in contrast to 9 percent of single male homebuyers. Why are so many more women buying homes of their own—and what does this mean for sellers who want to appeal to this growing demographic?
Why real estate may be more important for women. When the NAR report asked respondents why they wanted to buy a home, the largest percentage by a wide margin answered, “The desire to own a home of my own.” Indeed, for many buyers the intangible sense of accomplishment and security provided by home ownership is a major motivation. However, for women, buying a home can have a host of benefits that make it work on an entirely different level. That’s because, for many women, the definition of success has changed—and home ownership is part of their new definition.
Women earned a majority of both academic and professional degrees. According to the Council of Graduate Schools, women currently represent 58.2 percent of all graduate students and have outearned men in both master’s and doctoral degrees for more than a decade. As they take jobs that are more stable and require more time for career-building, women may find that home ownership offers the security they are looking for and that they have more money to spend on the right home.
The wage gap means women need to be smarter financially. Despite their accomplishments in the classroom and the workforce, women earn significantly less than their male counterparts. According American Association of University Women:
- Women working full time earn 82 cents for every dollar earned by men, on average.
- Women hold nearly two-thirds of outstanding student loan debt.
- As a result of lower lifetime earnings, women receive less in Social Security and pensions, resulting in 70 percent less in overall retirement income compared to men.
Because they earn less, women tend to be focused less on disposable income and more on making smart financial decisions. For many, this includes home ownership as a more secure investment that also provides for their practical needs.
Women are marrying later in life, if at all. According to a 2018 Bank of America survey, single women prioritize home ownership more than their single male counterparts, and over many other priorities like getting married or having children. Indeed, for the many women attending graduate school and establishing their professional careers, home ownership seems to be an easier, more obvious, and more practical decision than marriage.
Women are often caretakers. The US Census Bureau’s most recent analysis of custodial parents found that 80 percent of homes with a single parent were headed by women. In addition, estimates of female family caregivers for elderly or disabled relatives range from 53 to 68 percent. That means that for many women, stability and security for themselves and those they love lies, in part, in home ownership.
Women tend to be future-oriented. By and large, studies show that women are more future-focused, making them adept at planning for future needs. While men may more successfully negotiate during the sales process, women buy real estate for the long haul, allowing them to take advantage of equity-building and appreciation. This means that they will be able to garner more of the advantages inherent in home ownership.
How can sellers make a home more appealing to female buyers? When preparing your home for sale, you may automatically think in terms of married couples with children. However, with single women making up almost 20 percent of the people looking at your home, it pays to appeal to this growing group of buyers.
Offer reassurance regarding conditions Emphasize upgrades and updates, new appliances, and other improvements so that the women considering your home won’t worry about unexpected and unpleasant surprise repairs. Consider being more accommodating on home inspection negotiations and providing a home warranty for the first year after purchase.
Focus on value-added improvements Because many female buyers are focused on the long-term, emphasize the improvements you’ve made that add value to your home. If you’re working with a limited budget for changes, choose the ones that make the home more valuable—so she is building equity from day one.
Emphasize security features Security monitoring and cameras, smart-home security systems, privacy fencing, hurricane protection, and more—these features reassure female homebuyers that they’ll feel safe in their new home. Ensure that the property description puts a focus on security features both in your home and in your neighborhood or building.
Gender-neutral marketing Many of the terms we use in writing property descriptions unconsciously speak to a heterosexual couple with children: master bedroom or suite, his and hers closets or vanities, in-law or au pair suite, among other holdovers from an older market. Instead, consider using owner’s suite, dual closets or dual sink vanities, and guest suite.
Highlight multi-use spaces A second owner’s suite or a downstairs guest unit can work in a variety of ways, especially for women who are single parents or caretakers. These can include:
- Room for elderly parents or relatives
- Room for a returning child post-college
- Room for guests or a roommate
Think beyond a single use to a variety of ways that your space can work. That way, you’re emphasizing the adaptability of the home to the way your buyer lives.
Provide rental potential Because single women don’t have a second income to draw on, they may be interested in taking on a renter in order to help with the mortgage. If you’re looking at ways to improve your property, consider finishing an apartment space above a garage or in a downstairs walk-out. This offers the buyer options that are ready to monetize on day one—and it adds value to her investment in the home.
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