The housing industry acknowledges that women drive homebuying decisions for the family, but it’s more important than ever to also look at them as the sole buyer. Single women are increasingly influencing the housing market and buy homes two-to-one compared to their single male counterparts.
Single women are the fastest-growing segment in the housing market and it makes sense given societal changes. After all, women now represent a slight majority (51%) in the total college-educated workforce and have done so since 4Q2018.
The reasons single women want to buy a home are similar to any other group, whether that’s for wealth accumulation, tired of spending money on rent, or simply the ability to make something their own. When shopping for a new home, single women often want the same thing as coupled shoppers:
“Safety is a universal element,” according to Tim Sullivan, our Senior Managing Principal of Advisory. Safety is important for all types of homebuyers, but for single women, in particular, well-lit space with a connected garage resonates. A gated community also adds to a feeling of security.
Desire for easy maintenance. While women are equally as capable as men to take care of their home, time is a valuable commodity. Homes with lower maintenance offer the lock-and-leave flexibility that is attractive to single women buyers. The desire for low-maintenance living is also particularly attractive to childless Millennials and empty nester Baby Boomers.
Overlap with other buyer types. The need for space changes with lifestage, but we see single women overlapping most with first-time buyers and families. The overlap with the former is based on the affordability constraints that come with a single income. A low monthly payment, efficient floorplans, entertainment space, and conveniences are key considerations. For the latter, single parents and families are both looking for a traditional single-family home with bedrooms for the kids.
"Our team is seeing single women homeuyers make waves in our work in master plans all the way to urban infill projects,"
The graphic below shows the markets with the highest homownership rates for single women broken out by Millennials (1980-2000*), Gen X’ers (1960-1980), and Baby Boomers (1940-1960). The pattern lines up with general homeownership trends in that the older the cohort, the more likely the individual will own their home.
Homeownership Rates are High in Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City is the only metro that lands in the top five for single women homeownership for all three generations. We examined the local nuances that contribute to the higher rate:
High homeownership rate regardless of gender and age. Salt Lake City’s homeownership rate of 67% is considerably higher than the national average of 64%, highlighting a preference in the market towards homeownership in general.
Culture of fiscal responsibility. The rent versus own equation in Salt Lake City is in favor of owning, on average, even with a low down payment. The math helps drive tenure choice across the country, but the cultural nudge towards making the best financial decision possible is a real boon to the for-sale market in Salt Lake City.
Limited rental competition. Beyond math, the rental market also doesn’t fully meet the needs of some single women buyers. As mentioned above, single parents still need space to raise their children, especially in Salt Lake City, a market where the average family size is 15% larger than the national figure. The ever-growing single-family for-rent space in some markets helps address that need, but in Salt Lake City, these types of communities are limited. This drives some would-be renters to the for-sale space.
An educated workforce. In Salt Lake City, the college-educated population is higher than the national average. When broken out by gender, 33.5% of men 25-34 years old have a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to 40.8% for women. The latter is the highest percentage of all the age groups and suggests the trend of single women buyers will continue to increase in the future. Relatively high incomes coupled with relatively low home prices allow these educated home shoppers to enter the market.
"Salt Lake City is a market that may surprise people for the high rate of single women homebuyers,"
Michelle Weedon, Senior Vice President, Advisory
Michelle goes on to explain, “When you step back and actually examine local drivers (relative affordability, smaller product options, and safe community environments), though, it makes sense and the opportunity for builders becomes clear.”
Low mortgage rates help to make owning a home with today’s pricing a possibility, even on a single income.