Single women may not have as much buying power as single men, but they aren't letting that stop them from achieving homeownership. While a 2018 Zillow study indicates single women can only afford to purchase 39 percent of U.S. homes on the market, they are buying them at a rate that far exceeds that of single men, who are able to purchase more than half of the homes currently for sale.
Eighteen percent of homebuyers in 2017 were single women, according to the National Association of Realtors. Meanwhile, only 7 percent of single men bought a home last year. The association notes the percentage of homebuyers who are single women has risen for the last three years and is up from 11 percent in 1981.
As for why women are buying homes in greater numbers, professionals in the real estate and finance industries point to delayed marriages, higher incomes and personal satisfaction as main catalysts.
[Read: The Guide to Buying a Home.]
Reasons single women buy homes. Shant Banosian, a branch manager with Guaranteed Rate in Waltham, Massachusetts, and one of the company's top loan officers, says his experience mimics that of the NAR findings. "My second-biggest class of homebuyers is single women," he says, adding that they account for about 20 percent of his buyers. Banosian says he has a significant share of women buyers who earn six-digit incomes and find it makes more sense financially to buy a home that will gain value rather than rent.
However, it isn't only working women who want to buy a house. "At least once each month, one of our 60-something, single female clients schedules a meeting with us to discuss the best way for them to buy a home," says Drew Kellerman, founder of Phase 2 Wealth Advisors in Gig Harbor, Washington. "In most cases, these successful ladies are retired," he explains. Many times, the single women are looking to downsize after retirement, the death of a spouse or a divorce.
Maria Daou, an agent with Warburg Realty in New York City, notes parenthood is what spurs some women to buy a home on their own. "More women are choosing to remain single and have a child or children on their own and want to own a home to raise their kids in," she says. The Pew Research Center found 53 percent of unmarried parents in 2017 were solo moms.
[Read: The Guide for First-Time Homebuyers.]
Obstacles to overcome. Despite making up a sizable portion of the buying market, single women don't necessarily have a simple path to homeownership. "I think there is still a stigma attached to being a single woman and buying a home, especially when it comes to a New York City co-op board," Daou says. These boards have the power to approve or deny sales at co-op properties in the city. "They might think that a woman or a single mom will have trouble covering the maintenance and mortgage while raising a child alone and keeping a career going."
Saving up for a down payment can also be challenging for a single woman. Zillow estimates it will take a single person 11 years to save up for a 20 percent down payment on a typical U.S. home. In an expensive housing market like San Francisco, it could be decades before a single woman has saved enough to make a purchase.
Still, those in the industry have an optimistic outlook. "Your average single woman is making more money than they did in the past," Banosian says. As incomes increase, it could be only natural for unattached females to gravitate toward property purchases. "It's empowering to be a homeowner," he notes.
Community is important. While both men and women may be looking for similar things in terms of space, value and location, single females may place a greater emphasis on safety and the surrounding community. For instance, Banosian remembers one single female client who didn't want to be on the ground floor of a building because of safety concerns.
"They also want a solid promise of security in their new spaces," says Carly Frieling, a financial advisor with Northwestern Mutual. She notes women often show a preference for condominiums rather than single-family homes. Condos are not only lower maintenance, but they are found in community settings, which single homeowners might find appealing for safety reasons.
Daou, a single mother herself, says women might seek out places where groceries, schools and parks are all in close proximity. "By being in an area where everything is close by and there is a tight community, single moms can rely on neighbors as well," she says.
Financial considerations for single women. Without a partner's income to supplement their own, single women need to ensure they don't overextend themselves financially. "Budgeting for a house is a lot different than budgeting for rent," Frieling says "With owning a house comes the property taxes, maintenance [and] potential renovating expenses, as well as the insurance."
Women must also consider the right way to finance a purchase. In particular, retired women may have multiple sources of money, such as brokerage accounts, retirement funds and pensions, from which to pay for a home. While they may have enough in investments to pay cash, Kellerman cautions against liquidating too many assets to buy a home. Meanwhile, a large mortgage payment could cause cash flow issues that impede someone's quality of life. "Often, we'll arrive at a balanced recommendation that doesn't tie up too much of their wealth in their home while keeping their mortgage payment small and manageable," Kellerman says.
Despite the challenges, many single women are finding ways to make homeownership a reality. If current trends continue, it won't be all that unusual to find a new neighbor is a woman who has made the purchase alone.
The Best Places to Live in 2018
What are the best qualities of your hometown? It may be the fact that it’s easy to get around, there are plenty of job opportunities or that it attracts new residents every year. To determine the Best Places to Live rankings, U.S. News looks at data on the country’s 125 largest metro areas, including the cost of living, job market, crime rates, quality of education and more. The data is weighted based on the responses from a survey of more than 2,000 people throughout the U.S. to determine what matters most to them when picking their next place to live. Read on for the 25 Best Places to Live in the U.S. in 2018.25. Boston
Metro Population: 4,728,844
Median Home Price: $399,458
Median Annual Salary: $64,080
Beantown takes the No. 25 spot, earning recognition for its strong job market. However, Boston’s job market, net migration and desirability scores all dropped slightly compared to its ranking in 2017, when the New England metro area ranked the No. 8 Best Place to Live.24. Asheville, North Carolina
24. Asheville, North Carolina
Metro Population: 441,724
Median Home Value: $223,600*
Median Annual Salary: $40,330
Making its first appearance in the Best Places to Live rankings, Asheville receives its highest scores for quality of life – a measure that combines health care, education, crime and commute data – as well as desirability, which is based on a Google Consumer Survey of 2,500 people throughout the U.S.
(*The median home price for Asheville was not available, so median home value is listed.)23. Boise, Idaho
23. Boise, Idaho
Metro Population: 663,680
Median Home Price: $221,475
Median Annual Salary: $43,040
Idaho’s capital makes the list with high scores for population growth due to net migration and housing affordability compared with its median annual household income. However, compared with previous years, Boise fell back in its perceived desirability among U.S. residents, ranking No. 74 in that category.22. Charlotte, North Carolina
22. Charlotte, North Carolina
Metro Population: 2,381,152
Median Home Price: $200,942
Median Annual Salary: $49,600
Like Boise, Charlotte saw its largest year-over-year ranking drop in desirability, where it ranked No. 44 out of the 125 largest metro areas in the U.S. Still, Charlotte gets high scores for its low cost of living and growing population due to net migration.21. Lexington-Fayette, Kentucky
21. Lexington-Fayette, Kentucky
Metro Population: 495,193
Median Home Value: $161,600*
Median Annual Salary: $43,620
Lexington-Fayette is a small but flourishing metro area with a low cost of living compared to median household income, as well as an average morning commute of just 21.3 minutes – putting it in the top 20 places on the list for shortest commute – and high levels of college preparedness among high school students.
(*The median home price for Lexington-Fayette was not available, so median home value is listed.)20. San Francisco
20. San Francisco
Metro Population: 4,577,530
Median Home Price: $790,233
Median Annual Salary: $69,110
Despite being one of the most expensive places to live in the country, San Francisco is a top market to find a job and continues to reign as a desirable place to live among U.S. residents. Still, an increased cost of living and slowed population growth due to net migration are significant factors in San Francisco’s fall from the No. 16 spot last year.19. Phoenix
Metro Population: 4,486,153
Median Home Price: $235,333
Median Annual Salary: $47,540
With roughly the same population as San Francisco, Phoenix is on the list at No. 19. With a median home price one-third than that of San Francisco, according to real estate information company Zillow, Phoenix jumped into the top 20 this year from No. 44 in 2017.18. Dallas-Fort Worth
18. Dallas-Fort Worth
Metro Population: 6,957,123
Median Home Price: $210,181
Median Annual Salary: $50,350
The largest metro area in the top 25, Dallas-Fort Worth's highest score is for population growth due to net migration between 2012 and 2016, when the area saw a 5.6 percent increase.17. San Jose, California
17. San Jose, California
Metro Population: 1,943,107
Median Home Price: $932,108
Median Annual Salary: $78,990
San Francisco’s Bay Area neighbor and the capital of Silicon Valley, San Jose slides from the No. 3 spot in 2017 to No. 17 this year. While San Jose saw drops in desirability and affordability, the area maintains its hold on the No. 1 job market in the U.S.16. Madison, Wisconsin
16. Madison, Wisconsin
Metro Population: 634,269
Median Home Price: $238,375
Median Annual Salary: $50,830
Madison takes the No. 16 spot in the Best Places to Live ranking, in large part due to the metro area’s growing job market. The Madison metro area boasts an unemployment rate of just 2.4 percent and a median annual salary of $50,830, just above the national average of $49,630.15. Salt Lake City
15. Salt Lake City
Metro Population: 2,361,981
Median Home Price: $280,894
Median Annual Salary: $46,221
Salt Lake City is recognized for its strong job market, ability to attract new residents and overall quality of life. The biggest contributor to the Utah capital’s top-15 ranking is the fact that it’s one of the 10 most affordable places to live out of the 125 metro areas considered.14. San Antonio, Texas
14. San Antonio, Texas
Metro Population: 2,332,345
Median Home Price: $200,667
Median Annual Salary: $45,210
San Antonio moves up nine spots in the Best Places to Live ranking this year, with particular growth in its desirability among U.S. residents. San Antonio is also the 16th fastest-growing metro area, with a population increase of more than 6.5 percent between 2012 and 2016 due to net migration alone.13. Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina
13. Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina
Metro Population: 1,786,119
Median Home Price: $227,814
Median Annual Salary: $52,669
The Raleigh and Durham metro area continues to be an attractive place for people to consider living, thanks to its affordability and job market. Research, technology, education and health care are consistently growing industries in the area.12. Grand Rapids, Michigan
12. Grand Rapids, Michigan
Metro Population: 1,028,173
Median Home Price: $166,608
Median Annual Salary: $43,610
Ranking highest on the list for quality of life, this western Michigan metro area comes in just outside the top 10 on the overall Best Places to Live ranking. Grand Rapids has particularly high scores for its quality of education, short commute time, low rates of property crime and murder and general happiness among residents, per the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, which examines residents' satisfaction with where they live and their physical health, combined with the area's economic stability.11. Nashville, Tennessee
11. Nashville, Tennessee
Metro Population: 1,794,570
Median Home Price: $236,267
Median Annual Salary: $45,780
Nashville moves up two spots from last year, with many U.S. residents viewing the Tennessee metro area as a desirable place to live. People are also acting on that feeling, as Nashville has grown by 6.7 percent between 2012 and 2016 due to net migration alone.10. Seattle
Metro Population: 3,671,095
Median Home Price: $403,650
Median Annual Salary: $61,170
Seattle rounds out the top 10, with its consistently strong job market and high desirability among U.S. residents as a place to live. But the Emerald City falls four spots from 2017, when it ranked No. 6 in the overall Best Places to Live list.9. Minneapolis-St. Paul
9. Minneapolis-St. Paul
Metro Population: 3,488,436
Median Home Price: $237,367
Median Annual Salary: $55,010
Minnesota’s Twin Cities metro area takes the No. 9 spot after scoring No. 17 in 2017. The primary reason for the eight-spot jump: In addition to a steadily strong job market, population growth due to net migration and affordability, Minneapolis-St. Paul saw a sizable increase in the area’s image as a desirable place to live among U.S. residents.8. Washington, D.C.
8. Washington, D.C.
Metro Population: 6,011,752
Median Home Price: $368,642
Median Annual Salary: $68,000
The nation’s capital maintains a strong job market – the third-best, after San Jose and San Francisco – with job opportunities in both the public and private sectors. The District of Columbia is also considered desirable among U.S. residents polled, ranking 25th out of the 125 metro areas considered.7. Huntsville, Alabama
7. Huntsville, Alabama
Metro Population: 440,230
Median Home Value: $159,800*
Median Annual Salary: $52,960
Making its first appearance in the Best Places to Live ranking, Huntsville is the smallest metro area in the top 10. This northern Alabama metro area is the most affordable place to live out of the 125 largest metro areas in the U.S. and offers a flourishing job market, with many local companies focused on science, technology, engineering and math.
(*The median home price for Huntsville was not available, so median home value is listed.)6. Portland, Oregon
6. Portland, Oregon
Metro Population: 2,351,319
Median Home Price: $349,675
Median Annual Salary: $53,960
Portland jumps 26 spots this year, making its way to No. 6 from No. 32 in 2017. U.S. residents view Portland as a highly desirable place to live, and it takes the No. 2 spot in that category. Additionally, a strong job market and consistent growth in population due to net migration over a five-year period leads to the Rose City’s rise in the rankings.5. Fayetteville, Arkansas
5. Fayetteville, Arkansas
Metro Population: 503,642
Median Home Price: $182,508
Median Annual Salary: $44,980
The fast-growing metro area in northwest Arkansas has long been a strong contender in the Best Places to Live ranking, and this year is no different. Low cost of living compared with household income, strong population growth due to net migration and high quality of life scores all contribute to Fayetteville’s No. 5 ranking for 2018.4. Des Moines, Iowa
4. Des Moines, Iowa
Metro Population: 611,755
Median Home Price: $181,217
Median Annual Salary: $49,420
Des Moines takes the No. 4 spot this year, with continued growth in its job market, sustained net migration to the metro area and solid quality of life scores. Des Moines also maintains a low cost of living compared to the median household income.3. Denver
Metro Population: 2,752,056
Median Home Price: $362,492
Median Annual Salary: $55,910
Denver inches back another spot from No. 2 in 2017 and No. 1 in 2016. Denver remains a strong metro area with a flourishing job market and is desirable to U.S. residents, but migration to the area has slowed over the last couple of years.2. Colorado Springs, Colorado
2. Colorado Springs, Colorado
Metro Population: 688,643
Median Home Price: $255,233
Median Annual Salary: $49,450
Colorado Springs makes a jump this year from No. 11 in 2017. High marks for college preparedness among high school students, a flourishing job market with multiple military bases as well as industries from aerospace to tourism and high desirability contribute to Colorado Springs’ spot near the top of the ranking this year.1. Austin, Texas
1. Austin, Texas
Metro Population: 1,942,615
Median Home Price: $278,608
Median Annual Salary: $50,830
For the second year in a row, Austin is the No. 1 Best Place to Live in the U.S. The capital of Texas continues to receive interest from the tech industry, leading to a strong job market and high desirability among Americans as a place to live. Aside from the job opportunities, new residents are attracted to Austin for its eclectic arts and music scene, which are highlighted in the annual South by Southwest festival, which features music, film and television attractions.Read More
With more than a decade of reporting experience, Ms. LaPonsie’s work has been featured on MSN, CBS MoneyWatch, Yahoo Finance, NerdWallet and numerous other sites on the web. She has been a guest of Consumer Talk with Michael Finney and The Steve Pomeranz Show.
A native of Michigan, Ms. LaPonsie received her bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University. You can follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.