The stereotypical female fairytale may have once been; finish school, fall in love, find a partner, buy a house, fill said house with children – but that’s an old story. Today, women are taking charge of their narrative and redefining traditional timelines. This includes buying a home before, or instead of, life partnership and children.
The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) confirms that women are emerging as a driving force in real estate. Their 2019 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers reports that “single, female buyers accounted for 11% of the homes purchased in 2019”. Single women are also purchasing homes in greater numbers than single men. “7% of first-time home buyers and 18% of repeat home buyers were single women, while 7% of first-time home buyers and 8% of repeat buyers were single men.”
Single Women See Homeownership as Financial Security
Single women may perceive homeownership as a sound financial investment that will help level the playing field between them and their male counterparts. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, women continue to earn less than men for the same jobs. In 2018 they made 82 cents for every dollar men earned (less for women of color). Women typically pay more for personal care products (pink tax), and they face difficulties advancing in the workplace. The NAR article Celebrating the Single Female Homebuyer notes, 46% of single women made financial sacrifices to purchase a home of their own, proving just how important the purchase is to them.
For Alexa Klorman, who was quoted in the article, Single Women are the Home Buying Group that Won’t Quit, and who closed on a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan in 2018 at the age of 31, “It was a combination of wanting an investment and knowing that, when I did the calculations, for me to rent a nicer apartment would have cost me what a mortgage would cost.”
How The Fair Housing Act Works to Protect Female Homeowners
The road to homeownership for the single woman has been long and bumpy. And while it may seem like their time has finally arrived, the fight for equality is ceaseless. Qualifying for a loan on a single income is more challenging than pursuing a loan as a dual-income couple. And qualifying for a loan as a single woman can be even more difficult.
The Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968 to promote equality in the housing sector. The original act did not identify women (or any gender) as a protected group. In fact, until the act was amended in 1974, most women were only allowed credit with the signature of their husband or father, even if they were contributing financially to the household.
According to Lisa Rice, president, and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance, “Under the Fair Housing Act, landlords can’t charge women more for a rental, or refuse to rent to them, based on their sex. Nor can they be excluded from learning about products or opportunities.” And while those assurances may seem sufficient, of the 500,000 complaints recorded by the NFHA since 1996, only 7% of them have been based on gender discrimination.
Rice believes gender discrimination is often under-reported and states, “Policies like these disproportionately impact women because they earn less, are often the primary family caregiver and are the most likely victims of domestic violence.”
If you feel you’ve been the victim of housing discrimination based on your gender (or any factor) there are resources available to you.
- Use your landlord, property manager’s, or housing authority’s discrimination complaint procedure.
- File an administrative claim with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
- Consult an attorney to file a lawsuit in federal or state court.
Buy a Home Singly, But Not Alone
A large investment like buying a home deserves a large amount of planning and research. Enlisting the help of an experienced REALTOR® is a great first step. Not only can your REALTOR® help you understand what you can afford, but he or she can also help you find grants and financing programs in your area.
Nikki Merkerson, who purchased her first home at 29, is encouraging other young, single women to make the leap into homeownership. She told House Beautiful these women should, “Think of it as an investment opportunity and a way of not starting your life in the negatives. Now, millennials are starting their lives 30k plus in debt. If they’re renting, they should consider buying. And if they can’t do it themselves, get with friends, buy something together, and build wealth early.”