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The Equal Credit Opportunity Act was enacted on October 28, 1974. In this compelling two-part series, Bobbie Wasserman, founder and CEO of SingleLadyEstates, delves into the surging trend of single women in the housing market. In our first article, we unravel the journey that has led to this significant shift. The upcoming second part is a must-read exploration, offering valuable insights into capitalizing on this emerging intergenerational economic force.
Since the early 1980s, a quiet revolution has been unfolding in the real estate market. Women, once sidelined, are now leading the charge in homeownership. Legislative advances, increased demand for skilled workers, the narrowing wage gap and changing societal views and lifestyles have helped women harness new financial opportunities like never before.
Women’s homeownership has moved from a niche market to an essential segment with growing influence and potential.
The real estate industry’s attention to this trend is crucial for its own growth, adaptation to changing market dynamics, and to meet the evolving needs and preferences of women homebuyers.
Buy the house. Don’t wait for a spouse
In a 2021 Bank of America survey, 87 percent of single women agree that “it’s an outdated idea that someone must be married to buy a home.” Furthermore, 92 percent of single women “agree that it would be a great accomplishment [to purchase a home on their own].”
Women are reaching that goal. According to the National Association of Realtors 2023 Home Buyers and Sellers Profile, the typical homebuyer is more likely than before to be a single woman.
Younger, single professional women have continually faced greater challenges in purchasing an affordable home compared to their male counterparts, primarily due to lower wages than their male peers, which can lead to lower credit scores and financing issues.
Yet, even with these barriers, younger women purchase homes at a higher rate, 19 percent, than their male counterparts at 9 percent, according to the National Association of Realtors Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers.
Younger women’s increasing homeownership rates can be partly attributed to a shift in generational advice, with a new emphasis on financial self-reliance passed from mothers to daughters.
Before 1974, women were often denied legal access to fundamental financial tools like credit cards and bank accounts. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act revolutionized this landscape, yet women remain with the slowly dissipating remnants of a societal bias against women’s financial abilities that goes back centuries.
Homeownership gains across ages and races
Older women are also making significant financial strides that are shifting the landscape of homeownership. According to the Urban Institute, the ranks of married women who have become heads of households over the past 30 years has soared, increasing to 43 percent in 2021 compared to just 8 percent in 1990.
Women are earning more and paying for more than half the household expenses. And, when it comes to the “gray divorce,” women opt to forge a new life on their own, purchasing new homes and investing in real estate in their 50s, 60s and 70s.
What’s more encouraging for women is that this trend, though at different percentages, reaches across all racial groups.
Continued societal shifts in how women choose to live their lives are accelerating homeownership toward unmarried women.
Coined in 2007 in China, the term “Sheconomy” recognizes the surge in female consumers around the globe. In the U.S. alone, women’s economic impact reached $8.95 billion in 2023 according to IMB.org. Higher levels of education (39.1 percent of women have a college degree compared to men at 36.6 percent); delayed marriage (28.6 years old compared to 20.2 years old in 1960); and fewer children (1.3 compared to 3.5 in 1960) have bolstered women’s economic standing.
Yet younger women’s purchasing power has yet to peak. A 2019 study by Morgan Stanley shows the full impact of the Sheconomy will not be felt until 2030, the year that could see the generational swell of prime working-age women (defined as ages 25-45) in the labor market.
The forecast is that 45 percent of those women will be single and childless. Millennial and Gen-Z women need a home and can purchase that home independently of traditional family planning.
In general, these women are tech-savvy and confident, do their homework and ask a lot of questions. They also expect to be treated with the respect and sophistication they have earned.
The Great Wealth Transfer
On the mature end of the age scale, women are also experiencing significant lifestyle shifts as The Great Wealth Transfer is underway. Approximately $30 trillion in U.S. assets that baby boomers currently possess is currently transitioning to the next generations, with women poised to inherit a significant portion through inheritance, widowhood and divorce.
These women are forging new lives, buying their first homes and investing in real estate in their 50s, 60s and 70s. McKinsey estimates that women will hold more than two-thirds (67 percent) of wealth by 2030.
Today, roughly 70 percent of US affluent-household investable assets are controlled by baby boomers … As men pass, many will cede control of these assets to their female spouses, who tend to be both younger and longer lived. In the United States, women outlive men by an average of 5 years, and heterosexual women marry partners roughly 2 years older than they. By 2030, American women are expected to control much of the $30 trillion in financial assets that baby boomers will possess.
As for homebuyers, older women generally demonstrate financial acumen but may feel less assured in financial matters. Most likely, their first house was purchased with a spouse, and this is their first purchase alone. However, they are unlikely to tolerate any patronizing education from men or women.
The combination of the Sheconomy and the Great Wealth Transfer is transforming women into an intergenerational economic powerhouse. As the real estate industry adapts to these shifts, understanding the motivations and preferences of women homebuyers becomes critical for future success.
Bobbie Wasserman is the founder and CEO of Single Lady Estates, a company that empowers women through the entire homeownership journey – buying, selling and life in between.