Why Single Ladies Are Buying a Place of Their Own

July 11, 2016 | By

Kristen O’Connor, a first-time homebuyer who closed on a home last September, says she’s “a little bit of a rarity” among her friends as a single woman with a mortgage.

“I can’t pick out another person like me in my close-knit group who has purchased a house,” says O’Connor, a 30-year old attorney in Nashville. “Most of them are either married and buying or buying with a significant other if they’re not married.”

But O’Connor is far from alone. As it turns out, single women have been the second-largest homebuying group behind married couples since at least 1981, when the National Association of Realtors® started tracking the household composition of homebuyers. That trend is consistent among first-time and repeat purchasers.

Single females make up 15 percent of all homebuyers, according to the 2016 National Association of Realtors Homebuyer and Seller Generational Trends report. The percentage increases for older buyers: 20 percent of buyers between ages 51 and 60 and, 19 percent between ages 61 and 69 are single females. That’s compared to the 9 percent of all homebuyers who are single males.

Single women

(Photo: Kristen O’Connor’s home in Nashville, Tennessee.)

Although O’Connor may not personally know many single women who are buying homes, she said she’s not surprised by the statistics.

“Generally speaking, women in general like to have our own space,” she says, adding that she needed a home where she could have a home office to work remotely. “We like to have something that’s ours, especially with so many more careers that provide flexibility in the workplace.”

While single women have been the second-largest buying group for decades, there has been a slight downward trend since about 2009. Factors behind that trend include tightened credit conditions that have hampered both single male and female buyers, a drop in first-time homebuyers in general, and tighter inventory in some markets.

“They are still a strong force in the market,” Jessica Lautz, managing director of survey research and communications with NAR, says of single women. “When purchasing a home, they are overwhelmingly buying a home of their own but also for life changes.”

Out of about a dozen homes O’Connor considered, a four-bedroom, 3.5-bathroom newly constructed home in East Nashville stood out. The three-story property has space for guests and a home office, she says. It’s also only half a mile away from downtown Nashville.

Room to Grow

Nashville’s relatively affordable home prices helped attract O’Connor to the area when she moved in September 2014 from Virginia Beach. Many of O’Connor’s friends live in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., where homes are among the priciest in the nation.

But price may not be the main reason women choose one region or community over another. “When purchasing their homes, [women] want to live close to friends and family, so they want a sense of community. This tends to be different than what you would see from a single male perspective.”

Kristen O'Connor

(Photo: Kristen O’Connor stands in front of her home in Nashville, Tennessee.)

For young men 18 to 34, living at home with parents has been the dominant living arrangement since 2009, according to the Pew Research Center’s analysis of Census data. In other words, men in that age group are more likely to be living in the home of their parents than with a spouse or partner, while the reverse is true for young women.

Pew Research Center and NAR haven’t detailed what may be driving gender preferences for living arrangements, but, Lautz says, “Single females often are heading out on their own at an earlier age to establish their household.”

O’Connor purchased the house with a potential future household in mind but primarily as an investment. While she calls her neighborhood “sought-after,” she thinks the three-story setup is not ideal if she and her boyfriend marry and have children. O’Connor says she may live in the home for only three or five years before renting it out.

“[Prices] here are getting out of control, so there are a lot of opportunities,” she says.

Sound Investment

Since O’Connor moved into her home, there have been seven new homes built on her block, and an eighth home just broke ground two doors down.

In such an up-and-coming neighborhood, O’Connor counts herself as lucky for having a homebuying process that was relatively quick. Before she saw the house for the first time, she had already met with a loan officer. Three days after her home visit, she submitted an offer, and it was accepted within an hour, she says.

“It really is an empowering thing to say you own a home,” O’Connor says. “I recognize now it’s not an opportunity everyone gets to have, and I’m very fortunate that I’m in a position to do this.”

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