All the Single Ladies… are Buying Homes

The news and research about women and money can be disappointing at times. Women earn less than their male counterparts, pay harsher workplace penalties for pursuing parenthood, struggle more with debt, and save less for retirement.

But there’s one area of personal finance where single women are outpacing men in the U.S., and it’s a significant one: home ownership. Data from the National Association of Realtors shows that single women account for 17 percent of homebuyers in the U.S., compared with 7 percent of single men.

Women have been ahead of men in NAR’s data since 1981, but the gap has widened even further in recent years, said Jessica Lautz, NAR’s managing director of survey research and communications. Property values and mortgage lending imploded after the 2008 financial crisis, and low interest rates have made lending more appealing to new, more frugal buyers.

Single women are also likelier than single men to be parenting on their own, Lautz noted, and therefore likelier to seek stable housing for raising children. There were 8.6 million single-mother households in 2011, more than three times the 2.6 million single-father households.

“If you have children, it’s definitely going to play a role in where you’re thinking of living and how,” Lautz said. “And a mortgage can provide financial security. I think women, even with lower incomes, want a place where they can have roots and really own a place. The psychological desire to do that is great.”

With that comes an increase in financial sacrifices women are willing to make to own a home, Lautz said, such as taking a second job or working their budgets to save for a down payment. “They really value home ownership, and they’re willing to give up a lot to have a home of their own.”