Buying a Home: Why Single Women Do It More Than Men


buying a homeIs buying a home genetically programmed? According to the National Association of Realtors, almost twice as many single women (20 percent) are buying homes than single men (12 percent). Why would that be?

Well, Century 21 thinks the reason is because women are outperforming men in the job market. According to the New York Times, as of January 2010, women outnumbered men on the payrolls of American companies. (I do love what Casey Mulligan, an economy professor at University of Chicago and a man, had to say about that: "Important milestones remain to be achieved...." Milestones like... 75 percent of the workforce? 90 percent? 100 percent?)

And the same Times story mentions why this triumph of women happened in 2010: The recession has impacted men far more than women. "Since the recession began in December 2007," it reads, "men have lost 7.4 million jobs on net, whereas women have lost 3.9 million jobs. In other words, both sexes are worse off than they were before the downturn, but men have suffered more."

Apparently, the tale is far worse that anyone imagined, however, if The Hamilton Project of the Brookings Institute is to be believed: The median wage has been stagnant since 1969, or so people thought, but it turns out, if you look at only the median wage of men, it's down 23 percent or $13,000 in real dollars since 1969.

Plus, women are just better educated than men: They are twice as likely as a man to have a college degree; they also have more advanced degrees, including Ph.Ds. They're taking over jobs that were traditionally considered bastions of male domination, like finance and accounting.
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On many college campuses, there are three women for every two men. Not that those guys are complaining, mind you....

Now, Ms. Magazine points out (along with every other article referencing the gender gap in education) that women still make less than men, and are more likely to be poor. That may or may not be true, depending on who you ask, but what is clear is that the women who make less and are more likely to be poor are buying houses at twice the rate of single men.

How can that be?

Either Ms. Magazine is overstating the case, and all this educational and career achievements of women are translating into their greater ability to buy extremely expensive things, like houses, or... there's another factor at play.

Turns out that "single women" in the NAR study does not necessarily mean "never married." A divorcée would be considered a single woman. Some 50 percent of American marriages end in divorce (although the accurate stat breaks down by first, second, third marriage and age of the people involved). Given that most divorces end up with the wife taking custody of the children, isn't it more likely that she would be the one doing the purchasing of a new home for herself and the children, while the man goes and rents a bachelor apartment or something? (Plus, there's the whole matter of alimony and child support payments, which tend to get paid by the man to the woman, naturally reducing the ability of the former to be homebuyers while increasing the ability of the latter to do so.)

Or maybe it's both: Women do make more money than men while working, are smarter with their money (35 percent of the single women buyers in the NAR survey said they cut out luxuries and sacrificed to save up for a home; we don't know what the single men buyers cut out, if anything); and if divorced, women are more likely than men to buy homes out of living situations.

Either way, the real estate industry has noticed.

Is there a useful lesson in this? I don't know. Unless you're a never-married heterosexual single guy with a job. In which case, may I recommend that you don't pay for dinner next time you're on a date until you've bought your own house?

Your date is twice as likely as you to have already bought hers.

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