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Exploring the Surprising Gender Gap in Homeownership

Think that single men are more likely to own their own home than single women? Think again. In the most current figures, a surprisingly higher percentage of single women owned their homes than single men did. The data is based on the 2017 U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. It looked at single owner homes occupied by their owners, divided by gender. In metropolitan areas, on average, women own 22% of homes, compared to 13% of men.

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Women Buy More Houses Than Men

The data is particularly surprising considering that homes are a big-ticket purchase, and women on average earn only 80% of what men earn.

In areas of particularly high urban density, women homeowners outpace men even more strongly. In the New York City metropolitan area, for example, women own 820,000 homes while men own 435,000. In the Los Angeles metropolitan area, women own 460,000 homes while men own 260,000. In other words, women own nearly half of all homes owned by single people.

While gender disparity in homeownership is nothing new, the rate at which women now surpass men is as surprising as the fact that women surpass men is. In 2014, 49% of homes owned by a single homeowner were owned by women, while 47.7% were owned by men. That’s more women, but the discrepancy is just over 1%.

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Why the Differences?

Given the income disparity, why do more single women buy homes than men?

The compilers of the data give no specific reasons. But other observers believe that the increasing female independence of the past several decades – and the focus on the good that can come of women’s financial independence – has led more women than men to take the plunge. Homeownership, of course, provides tangible economic benefits, such as the eventual full ownership of a home, tax advantages, and the chance to realize appreciation.

In addition, the age at which people marry has been dropping steadily for both genders, and women may feel more desire to own their home if there are no immediate prospects for marriage.

The Take-Away

These facts may cause both homebuyers and lenders to sit up and take notice. Women may feel encouraged that buying a home is increasingly a new normal for single women. Single men, on the other hand, may want to consider home buying as women do: a valuable investment in oneself, even if there is a desire to get married eventually.

For lenders, the picture is a bit different. Many lenders are careful to present both men and women in their advertising and social media campaigns. But individual lenders may still be thinking of the average homeowner as a man. They may need to adjust their thinking to reflect present realities.

The demographics might be used, in fact, to reach out even more strongly to single women, emphasizing the broad trend of homeownership and the benefits.

In addition, of course, the fact that single men lag in homeownership is a market opportunity for lenders. If the percentage of single men that own homes can be increased, it may mark a significant rise in mortgage originations and a relatively undertapped market.