Vol 7 No. 27 - March 28, 2007

Single women courted by lenders

By Louise Bolger
sun staff writer

In 1973, when my husband and I purchased our first home, the mortgage application asked for my name.

That was it.

Even though I had a very good job and a salary close to my husband’s the mortgage bankers excluded my income from consideration for a mortgage. All of that changed in 1974, when Congress amended the Fair Housing Act to stop sex discrimination and help couples with two incomes qualify for financing.

If this step hadn’t been taken by Congress, today’s fastest growing segment of home buyers – single women – wouldn’t exist.

The media, from CBS news to USA Today to The Bradenton Herald, have been reporting on the increase of single women purchasing single family homes and condominiums on their own. Any why not. Young women today are far more independent than their mothers and grandmothers and are accustomed to making their own decisions regarding finance, children and even whether or not to marry.

More women than ever attend college and have larger incomes. Women tend to live longer and since half of marriages end in divorce there are more single women in the marketplace than ever before. In addition, the natural female "nesting" instinct makes them the demographic group builders and Realtors should be targeting.

According to the National Association of Realtors, single women last year bought one of every five homes sold – nearly 1.5 million.

This trend is remarkable when you compare it to 1981’s statistics when single women and single men bought virtually the same number of properties. Single women are now buying double the number of homes of single men. In fact, single men buyers have slipped by a full percentage point during the past year.

Women creating a source of wealth, and a secure haven by owning their own homes, is a relativity new phenomena in our society where men historically provided the means for shelter.

Mortgage lenders have created new programs and have expanded existing programs to aid single women in qualifying for home loans. Lenders will now count child support, and allow women to use some alternative forms of credit history such as phone bill records to prove credit worthiness. They will also consider divorced women as first time buyers even if they previously owned a home with a former spouse in order to qualify them for first time buyer programs and assistance.

All of this has not been lost on homebuilders who are starting to design homes with features preferred by women. Primarily all women want more security than men including gated communities with more street lights and courtyard designs providing a stronger sense of security. Women also prefer smaller maintenance-free homes and condominiums with of course larger closets, landscape maintenance included, energy efficient appliances and amenities like gyms, pools and game rooms.

Sixty percent of homebuyers in the country are still married couples, but single women are the largest growing trend by far, and that’s a fact that everyone in the real estate industry should note. The large number of smaller homes and condominiums for sale on Anna Maria would seem to be the perfect fit for single women of all ages.

If you’re a single woman tired of waiting for Mr. Right to come along to get your piece of the American Dream, it’s now easier than ever to do it on your own. If you’re a real estate professional, pay attention to this growing trend of homebuyers. 1973 may seem like ancient history, but it’s just a blip on history’s time line.

Who knows what the next real estate trend will be?

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