Women Home Buyers: Challenging The Homeownership Gender Gap

Author: Miranda Crace

Gone are the days of almost always needing a partner to buy a home. Single women now increasingly have the ability and the desire to buy homes on their own. These changes have largely been driven by an increase of women in the workforce along with new career opportunities and financial independence for women.

Single women are buying up more property than single men but tend to get the shorter end of the stick with the return on their investment. So, what gives? Let’s explore the various facets of the homeownership gender gap, why it may be occurring and the steps we can take to close it.

Single Women Own More Homes Than Single Men But Get Lower Returns

The 2023 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report from the National Association of REALTORS® says that single women make up 17% of home buyers, with single men accounting for only 9% of buyers. However, a Yale study released in 2020 found that single women paid around 2% more for homes and sold for 2% less.

While 2% may not seem like that much, it’s significant when you consider the cost of a mortgage. Single women were losing $1,600 per year on average compared to a single man in a comparable house. The researchers noted that the gap size depended on how long they lived in the home, with the gap decreasing the longer they stayed.

A caveat to the 2% trend was that the discrepancy shrank when single women bought from and sold to other women.

The Intersectionality Of Housing Discrimination

Although this article focuses primarily on women’s experiences in homeownership, it would be neglectful to ignore the intersectionality of housing discrimination throughout U.S. history. A variety of laws and practices have made it more difficult for people of color, people with disabilities, and the LGBTQ+ community to enter and profit from homeownership.

The history is deep and complex, and we’ll just barely scratch the surface, but we encourage you to learn more.

Female Homeownership Trends Throughout History

study from the Journal of Economic Perspectives showed that single women have exceeded single men in homeownership since at least as far back as 1985. Let’s take a closer look at how different factors affect the data around homeownership for both men and women.

Single Homeowners With No Children

In the mid-1980s, about 42% of single men with no children were homeowners, compared to 53.6% of women with no children. In 2015, approximately 52.6% of single women with no children owned a home, compared to 46.2% of comparable men. When adding children to the mix, these numbers start to shift in favor of single men.

Homeowners With Children

The 2015 data shows that married couples garner higher rates of homeownership, with or without kids. Couples with kids came in at 70.8%, and those without children were at 82.5%. For single women with children, homeownership in 2015 hovered near 32.8% versus 45.6% among single men with children. These numbers may show that single parents need more support to achieve their financial goals.

Families And Unmarried Couples

Looking at the numbers for families and unmarried couples, little has changed over the past several years. The previous trends report from the National Association of REALTORS® noted that 8% of home buyers in 2015 were unmarried couples, compared to 10% of buyers in 2023.

In 2015, 36% of all buyers had children under the age of 18 residing at home, while approximately 31% of all buyers in 2023 have children of the same age.

More open-minded views are leaving room for new types of family structures and partnerships that shift away from a traditional patriarchal family model. In many cases today, women are surpassing their male partner as the family’s primary breadwinner. But while there’s been a lot of progress overall, there’s still more to be made.

Why Single Female Home Buyers Pay More And Sell For Less

Multiple reasons may explain why a price gap exists between male and female homeowners. Standout factors include the negotiation process, market timing and potential attachments to a particular property.

Gap In Negotiation

study by the National Bureau of Economic Research has shown that women are less likely to negotiate the price of a home sale. However, a more recent study in the Journal of Economy and Society examining salary negotiations found that women “ask” as often as their male counterparts but don’t “receive” at the same rate. Some social perceptions and biases against women may factor into bargaining situations.

For women of color, these issues may play an even more significant role. Therefore, women may need to come equipped with additional information and negotiate better than men to achieve their desired outcome.

Market Timing

The previously referenced Yale study showed that, on average, single men timed the housing market better than single women, which played a large role in the return on investment (ROI). When looking at this factor, it’s important to consider that in 2022 there were nearly 8 million single-mother households, compared to only around 2.6 million single-father households, according to U.S. census data.

When adding children to the market timing mix, buyers may not have the same flexibility and bargaining power to hold out for a better deal.

Not Seeing True Value

The idea that women may be too particular about their potential home was mentioned in the study but not listed as a data-backed reason. The argument is that perhaps women are pickier about a property’s features or fall in love with the house they see as “the one.”

The exact reason women’s homes sell for less than men’s is a bit unclear. Perhaps women need to push harder than men to get the same results or do more research to appear just as informed – but it’s hard to say. Of course, situations change on a case-by-case basis, but regardless of gender, if buyers show up armed with knowledge and greater confidence, they’ll likely see better results.