The industry talks a lot about the growing importance of millennials and members of Generation Z to homebuying activity, but another demographic group — single women — is becoming an increasingly powerful force in the mortgage market as well.
Representing the second-largest buying group (married couples hold the top spot), single women accounted for 18 percent of homebuyers in 2018, while single men accounted for half that, 9 percent, according to the 2018 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers released by the National Association of Realtors (NAR). In fact, single women have held this second-place position since 1981, says NAR, and theirs is the only group to show an increase from 1981 to 2018: Married couples accounted for 73 percent of homebuyers in 1981 but 63 percent in 2018 (down 10 percent), and single men accounted for 10 percent in 1981 versus 9 percent in 2018 (down 1 percent). Meanwhile, the single–women market segment grew from 11 percent to 18 percent (up 7 percent).
For lenders and servicers, this is a promising trend, as single women become increasingly interested in securing mortgages. The time is right to learn more about this important market segment, whose momentum is likely to drive home sales for decades to come.
Why Are So Many Single Women Buying?
In part, single women’s growing interest in owning real estate is attributable to evolving attitudes about marriage: Historically, the assumption was made that women were predestined to get married and have children. Not so today. As marriage rates continue trending downward, women’s commitment to achieving financial security independently is higher than ever before.
Women have independence in their life and career choices; that includes choosing to own a home. A variety of motivating factors fuel their buying decisions: the desire to build wealth through real estate, to reach their goal of becoming a homeowner, to create a living space they can call their own, or to relocate following divorce or the death of their spouse.
Morgan Fields, vice president at LoanCare, says she purchases investment homes in the Virginia Beach area because real estate offers a “tried and true” wealth-building strategy. “We’re seeing more and more women buying property because they recognize the opportunity and are in a financial position to make this level of investment.”
Single women are also buying homes as residences for themselves. “Becoming a homeowner has long been a goal of mine,” says Sarah Kapis, marketing communications writer at ServiceLink. “Today, as many women choose to build their careers before starting a family, we may find ourselves with the means to buy a home in our 20s or 30s. There’s no reason to put that decision off because of our relationship status. If a single woman can achieve this goal without needing a partner’s second income, she should.”
It’s not only younger women buying, either. NAR research places the median age of single female homebuyers at 54. Many of these women have experienced a status change, from married to single, which may provide them with additional funds to use toward a down payment — proceeds from selling their marital home in a divorce, for example. These women may be buying a new residence or investing in real estate to help bolster their retirement funding.
How to Meet the Needs of This Growing Market Segment
What do single women want and expect from their mortgage experience? The same as any buyer: convenience, efficiency and transparency. And remember when working with any single buyer that every burden on the customer side falls on that person alone since they don’t have a spouse to share in the logistical details of pulling paperwork together, submitting the application, scheduling and attending the closing, etc.
“When I bought my home, I wanted the support of a lender who could help set me up for success,” says Kapis. “That’s why lenders who have incorporated EXOS technology into their processes are successfully appealing to single buyers. EXOS offers a streamlined process, transparency into that process, and self-service tools that help buyers feel comfortable, knowledgeable and secure.”
By way of example, Kapis points to EXOS consumer appraisal and signing scheduling, which empowers consumers to schedule appraisals and closings at their convenience. Designed to connect all parties throughout the mortgage process, the EXOS platform provides the consumer with a profile of the appraiser or signing agent they will be meeting. The profile includes their full name, make and model of their vehicle, photo and contact information. This level of information provides a sense of safety, particularly essential for single women who may be meeting an appraiser alone. EXOS also embeds educational experience into its applications.
“Anything a lender or servicer can do to shed light on the process and educate homebuyers is valuable, especially to those going through this process for the first time,” Kapis shares. “When your name — and only your name — is going on that mortgage application, you want the peace of mind of knowing everything is going just right.”