Single Women: Buying Homes at Record Rates

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It might be hard for some women to believe, but until 1974 it was almost impossible for a single woman to get a mortgage or even a credit card without a male co-signer, regardless of her income.

That year, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act became law, banning discrimination against women in obtaining loans, including mortgages.

Women might never have gotten financial equality if it hadn’t been for Louisiana Congresswoman Lindy Boggs. The ECOA didn’t include women; it did include race, age and veteran status, so Boggs hand wrote the words “sex or marital status” on the bill, handing out photocopies to fellow members of the House banking committee. “Knowing the members composing the committee as well as I do,” she recalled telling them in her memoir, “I’m sure it was just an oversight. I trust it meets with the committee’s approval.” It did.

Fast forward 40+ years. Today, single women are buying homes at double the rate of single men, with women making up more than 17 percent of homebuyers and men only 7 percent, according to the National Association of Realtors. In some areas, one in five homebuyers are single women; the numbers are still growing.

Women buyers are different than men. They tend to involve family more in making their decisions, debate more about committing large amounts of money into one investment and worry more about safety than other buyers. They often look for homes close to friends and family. They’re more interested in nesting than using a home as an investment.

Women buyers are more likely to spend less than $200,000, although this threshold varies depending on locale. They’re currently motivated by high rent prices, low interest rates, rising incomes and the desire to have a place of their own.

While the average age of single women buyers is 45, some younger women continue to live with their parents as they save for a standard 20 percent down payment. Older divorced or widowed Baby Boomers are downsizing from larger homes in the suburbs, hoping to enjoy the cultural advantages of the urban life and conveniences of a condominium.

A recent survey by notes the best places for single women to buy homes are cities where they can make higher incomes but where home prices are lower. Topping that list is Cincinnati, where more than 15 percent of single women are homeowners and the average home price is $158,000. High-end housing markets such as New York City, Scottsdale, Phoenix and Miami Beach are seeing single women buyers in increasing numbers. In San Francisco, where the average home price is $660,000, 14 percent own their homes.

Some in real estate are starting to pay attention. Texas real estate agent Jeanie Douthitt founded Smart Women Buy Homes to help single female homebuyers navigate the often-complicated rules and regulations of real estate. When she was hoping to buy a home, she found herself facing skepticism and condescension from loan officers and selling agents who implied that she wouldn’t be able to afford a home or keep up with the payments without a male partner. She now gives seminars around the country, training real estate agents about what makes female buyers different and how to help them. “Women like information and don’t want to feel out of control,” she said in an interview with Business Insider.

There are also reports that in some areas, single woman buyers are more likely to be denied mortgage loans compared to a single man with the same income and the same credit rating, and they are more likely to be charged higher interest rates. This occurs despite the statistics showing that woman are less likely to default on their loans.
“I really don’t see much of that,” Douthitt said. “But it depends on the mortgage person you work with.” She recommends people partner with an agent and a mortgage professional they trust. She suggests women make a list of what they want in a home and be realistic about what they can afford. She also advises single women to find a support group of friends and family. Women, said Douthitt, simply need a little guidance in finding a piece of the American dream.

Jessica Edwards-Smith, a real estate agent in Minneapolis, has advice for women who are thinking about buying a home of their own. “Don’t let stereotypes about women get in the way of making a home purchase,” she said. “Don’t get intimidated by the process. Find a loan officer you trust and a real estate agent who understands women buyers.”

“Of all my clients, the happiest are the single women. They have made a decision on what they need and want. They buy a house and are now ready to make every day count.” ■

Sources:,,, and