MReport September 2020

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10 | M R EP O RT FEATURE W hen it comes to the subject of single female homebuyers, there is good news and not-so-good news. On the positive side, this demographic con- tinues to outpace its male counter- parts in the pursuit of homeown- ership. However, the number of single women looking to purchase homes has been declining for years, and younger single women have yet to fully make their presence felt in the housing market. According to the 2020 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report published by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), married couples are still the dominant force in the housing market, accounting for 61% of transactions, while unmarried couples trailed behind at 9%. For those approaching homebuying on their own, single first-time female buyers made up 17% of the market while single first-time men buyers trailed at a 9% share. Yet the share of single first-time women buyers has been falling since 2006, when it peaked at 27%. Also during 2006, the number of repeat single women buyers was 18% and the percentage of all single women buying homes was 22%. Today, the percentage of repeat single women buyers is 17%—a scant difference from 14 years earlier—while the percentage of all single women buyers is now at 17%, a 5% decline. In its new report, NAR de- termined that women between the ages of 65 and 73 were the group with the highest share of single female homebuyers, at 22%. NAR also found the median age of single women buyers to be 54. Single female millennials are not front and center in the housing market, NAR noted, with only 14% of single female buyers within the younger millennial demo- graphic and 12% within the older millennial segment. What is driving this data? According to Jessica Lautz, VP of Demographics and Behavioral Insights for NAR, several econom- ic factors are combining to work against single women. The Uphill Struggle " I believe it's due to housing affordability," she observed. "Single female buyers generally have lower household income, and so it might be more difficult for them to enter the market, especially as home prices continue to increase." Indeed, the most recent data from the U.S. Census (covering 2018) determined that average gender pay gap was roughly 18.9%, which means that a woman working at full-time, year-round job only earns 81.1% as much as her male counterparts. Lautz also pointed to a seesaw effect has oc- curred with women in unmarried relations becoming more active in homebuying. "In looking at the first-time homebuyer share who are single females, we continue to see a de- cline there," Lautz continued. "But what has also happened is that we've seen a rise in roommates who are purchasing together and a rise in unmarried couples who are purchasing together. It's very possible that people are partnering up to try and purchase a home with dual incomes." Miki Adams, EVP at CBC Mortgage Agency, acknowledged that many single women are coming to the housing market with a lesser financial advantage than other buyers, especially if the women are single parents. "Single moms really struggle much more than any other any other group of homebuyers," she said. "First, they've got the disad- vantage of earning less than their male counterparts. They struggle to keep up with the costs of food, shelter, clothing, education, childcare—and not just normal childcare, but afterschool care, summer care. Plus, there are utili- ties, transportation, and the list goes on. So, for those managing it alone, it's easy to see how buying a home can seem like an impos- sibility." Compounding that perceived impossibility are financial hard facts that go against many women. The U.S. Census Bureau has determined that 25.7% of families headed by women with no husband present are below the poverty level and 40.8% of those households have children below 18 years, while 48.4% have children under five. There are 2.7 million mothers between the ages of 25 and 34 who are either not married or are living with a partner, according to the Census Bureau. The Factors Behind the Facts H owever, Adams cautioned that the downward tra- jectories from 2006 to 2020 are not necessarily unique to single women homebuyers. "Back in 2006, that was before the housing market crash," she said. "After the housing market crash, impacted families and those who are millennials now may have shown a hesitancy to get back into the housing market. That might be have something to do with such a drop." Adams added that the high per- centage of single female homebuy- ers in 2006 could also have been fueled by the looser underwriting standards of that time, coupled with the proliferation of subprime loan products. The result of that environment, she recalled, was catastrophic for many. The Glass Roof What factors are holding back single female homebuyers? MReport speaks to the experts. By Phil Hall

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