|It may be surprising to some,
but nearly half of all purchases made at Home Depot and Lowes
are made by women. This may be due in part to the fact
that single women now
represent the fasting growing component of home buyers in the
the National Association of Realtors, married couples were
buyers in 61 percent of all housing purchases last year.
Single women represented the second largest share of the market,
purchasing 21 percent of homes and condos in 2005, up from 18
percent in 1997.
Single men accounted for 9
percent of residential real estate transactions. Unmarried
couples were involved in 7 percent of housing purchases. Joint
purchases by other unmarried people accounted for the other 2
Who are these single women?
Why are they buying real estate in such large numbers? And
how do they differ from single men and married couples?
The answers to these questions
are found in a new report -- "Buying for Themselves: An Analysis
of Unmarried Female Homebuyers" -- released two months ago by
the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University.
The Harvard report characterizes
unmarried female buyers as "a diverse and highly segmented group
comprised of single mothers, young singles, middle-aged
divorcees and seniors" who purchased more than $550 billion in
real estate between 2000 and 2003.
"Unmarried female buyers are
older than married and unmarried male buyers, have higher shares
of minority buyers, have lower incomes and, consequently, much
greater incidence of housing affordability problems," the report
But despite affordability
problems experienced by single women, their share of the market
has dramatically risen while the share of married couples has
dropped sharply. The report gives several reasons for this
* A 20 percent increase in
the number of unmarried women in the past decade, partly due
to the fact that women are delaying marriage in favor of
education and careers.
* Fewer adult women than men chose to live with their
parents, opting to form their own households instead.
* The economic upside of owning -- which has been emphasized
heavily by the media -- enhances the view of a growing
number of women that marriage is no longer a pre-requisite
to buying a home.
* Divorced women have accumulated equity in homes they owned
with spouses and can use that wealth to buy their own homes
as their set up their own households.
Previously married women
accounted for nearly two-thirds of unmarried female buyers while
more than half of unmarried male buyers have never been married.
This partially explains the younger average age of male buyers
(37) relative to unmarried female buyers (42).
Another major difference between
single male and female buyers is their living arrangements.
Among buyers profiled in the
Harvard report, about 45% of single women lived alone, compared
to 55 percent of single men. Only 15 percent of the men
are single parents, in contrast to 30 percent of the women.
Unmarried female buyers have
considerably lower incomes than single men who buy homes.
"Their $37,000 median income is fully $11,000 less than for
unmarried men," the report states.
Although unmarried adults of all
had a combined market share of nearly 40 percent of home
purchases for the past several years, real estate developers and
marketers are only now beginning to notice the value of the
According to the Harvard report,
one developer in Southern California has targeted single
women by offering amenities they prefer, "including smaller
units, gated access, fitness facilities, social interactions
with neighbors, and other organizational and convenience
KB Home, a home builder in Cary,
North Carolina, is targeting single men as potential buyers of
its new condominiums.
The condos were designed with the single male in mind: stone
floors, stainless steel appliances and glass-walled showers
instead of tubs in the master bathrooms.
The pitch is working. Single men have bought nearly half the 23
townhouses sold in the project's the first phase.
While single people are still
more likely to be renters than owners, that reality is changing.
One of the reasons singles are shifting from renting to owning
is the tax breaks associated with home ownership: the ability to
write of tax and interest payments.
So all you single renters, listen
up. Buy now and lower your tax bill
come April 2007.
Unmarried America 2006
Thomas F. Coleman, Executive Director of Unmarried America, is an
attorney with 33 years of experience in singles' rights, family
diversity, domestic partner benefits, and marital status discrimination.
Each week he adds a new commentary to Column One: Eye on Unmarried
firstname.lastname@example.org. Unmarried America is a nonprofit
information service for unmarried employees, consumers, taxpayers, and