With only one income, single people can have a hard time affording a home and the mortgage that goes with it. Single women, however, are making it happen much more often than single men.
Single women are buying twice as many homes as single men — accounting for 18 percent of homes purchased last year, vs. 7 percent by single men, according to a report by the National Association of Realtors. Single women also buy more expensive homes than their male counterparts, with an average value of $185,000 compared to $175,000 for men.
Married couples make up 65 percent of all home sales, most likely because they have dual incomes. Even unmarried couples account for more home sales than single men, at 8 percent in 2017.
What do single women know that men don’t? Or at least single men? Why are single women buying homes twice as much as single men? Here are some possible explanations:
Tired of paying rent
Deciding if it makes more financial sense to buy a home vs. renting is a computation many renters make eventually. Single women just make it more often than single men, partly because they see the benefits in owning a home and building equity.
Katelyn Martin, 25, a healthy living director at the YMCA in Colorado Springs, Colo., says one reason she bought a condo for $140,000 so that she could build equity instead of not gaining any as a renter.
Her boyfriend, who wasn’t helping to buy the home, was with her during much of the home buying process, and many people assumed they were buying as a couple, Martin says. But her young age was a bigger surprise to people when told she was buying her first home.
“I think people were surprised that I was making that decision,” she says. “But I wasn’t surprised to make the decision to start making my money work for me.”
A home loan was a little cheaper than her rent would have been for a similar-sized home, Martin says.
“I can handle the mortgage,” she says. “I was going to be paying the rent by myself, so why not pay the mortgage myself.”
Not waiting for marriage
Building equity was also important for Hilary Reiter, 42, a single homeowner near Park City, Utah, and owner of Redhead Marketing & PR. And she didn’t want to wait for a man to help her afford a home.
“I couldn’t keep waiting to have a partner or a husband to build my equity,” Reiter says.
Single women in eight states were dower rights are still law may have difficulty selling their home if they get married. Dower laws give a spouse a life estate interest in the property owned by the other spouse any time during the marriage — meaning the husband of a woman who bought a home by herself when single would have to sign his approval of the sale.
Amy Shropshire, 38, a marketing consultant at her firm CASK Communications in Groveport, Ohio, who bought a home as a single woman a year ago, says she learned about this law in her state while taking a class about home buying.
The laws were originally enacted to ensure surviving widows received some portion of their husband’s estate, usually between a third and a half. Dower rights derive from a common law understanding that a man is required to support his spouse.
Shropshire says the law in Ohio dissuades her “a little” from getting married as a solo homeowner, and that it would be an issue she’d have to talk about with a potential spouse. One option might be to sell her house when single, then buy another home jointly as a couple, she says.
That law aside, Shropshire she bought her home because it made financial sense in many ways. It’s a good investment that she may turn into a rental property at some point, allowed her to diversify her investments, and the $760 monthly mortgage, which includes taxes and insurance, is a much better deal than the $900 monthly rent she was paying.
“A big part of it was this is my next investment step,” she says.
Planting roots a priority
After living 85 miles from her parents as a renter for five years, Shropshire says she wanted to return to her hometown and be closer to friends and family.
She moved back in with her parents while looking for a home to buy, which took her a year and a half as she kept getting outbid on homes or found homes that were priced too high for what she and her real estate agent thought they were worth, Shropshire says.
Single women may also be less worried about having to relocate for work than single men are. Martin, who has a steady job in Colorado, says she could probably find a similar job in another city if she had to. She says she plans to stay in her home at least three to five years, but could rent it out if she had to.
“I’m at a point in my life where I really enjoy my job and I wanted to be here for awhile,” Martin says. “It felt wrong to be a renter.”
For Reiter, who bought her home two years ago, buying a home that cost her almost double her monthly rent still required her to move 10 minutes outside Park City, Utah to a bedroom community.
“The biggest sacrifice I made was leaving town and not having everything at my doorstep,” says Reiter, adding that being a homeowner is worth the tradeoff.