All the Single-Ladies...Are Home Buyers?

NEW YORK (MainStreet)—Rupert Murdoch's latest ex-wife Wendi Deng won't have to worry about buying a home now that she's single, because her billionaire ex-husband reportedly owns a ranch in Carmel, California, a Beverly Hills estate, a penthouse on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and homes in London and Beijing. For women who've never married or whose divorce settlement doesn't include a home, buying one alone can be a daunting process.

While more than 90% of Americans marry by age fifty, up to 50% of married couples divorce, and single women that are either divorced, never married or widowed make one in five home purchases annually, according to the National Association of Realtors.

"Couples continue to be the largest percentage of home buyers," said Francesca Gianaris, author of the blog Bounty and Bliss: A Woman's Guide to Buying a Home of Her Own. "However, as women delay marriage in pursuit of a career or get divorced, more are realizing the value of owning a home."

As a result of the increasing number of single women buying homes, the real estate industry is changing the way it markets to women. For example, new home builders are designing homes with single women in mind. "Single women prefer smaller spaces with less upkeep and low maintenance," Gianaris said. "Gated communities appeal to single women as do buildings with a concierge and security, which add to her sense of safety and comfort while living alone."

Gianaris herself divorced in 1995 and was forced to re-construct her life as a single mother of two young sons. Today, she owns a home and a thriving real estate business in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

"Fear can be a baseline emotion operating under the surface for a single woman buying a home solo," she said. "If she's recently divorced or widowed, she may be going through an emotional upheaval which could filter into her home buying decisions."

Whether single or married, the process of buying a home can feel like a rollercoaster ride filled with emotional ups and downs but even more so for women. "If a woman falls in love with a house, it's heartbreaking when the deal falls through," said Gianaris. "Jumping through hoops to complete financing, inspections and final negotiations are huge pressures. Managing them solo is challenging and often there are tears to relieve stress."

Below are five considerations for women buying a home for the first time:

  • 1. Select a realtor that's emotionally available. "Women like to process," said Gianaris. "We are wired to be in a community, and this spills over into the need for support, advice and validation when buying a home.If the Realtor has an attitude of helping clients with the long term perspective of what's best for the client, women will find building a relationship with these advisors quite supportive."
  • 2. Safety first. Gianaris advises talking to neighbors, avoiding ground floor units, checking crime statistics from the local police department and making note of lighting on the street before making an offer on a home.
  • 3. Due diligence. Instead of visiting twenty homes, ask for help. "A Realtor can cut down on the actual showing of homes by discussing the pros and cons of the neighborhoods, commute time to work, the amenities and shopping that's available in the area," said Gianaris.
  • 4. Establish loan approval in advance. "Know in your heart, head and gut that the lender is an ally," Gianaris said. "These are people who should already be in your trusted circle of advisors so you can feel safe making perhaps the biggest investment of your life."
  • 5. Prepare two buckets of cash for the down payment and closing costs. "Most women approach home buying with a high level of seriousness and tend to have their finances in order," said Gianaris. "They know what they want to pay and are unlikely to overspend even if qualified to do so."

--Written by Juliette Fairley for MainStreet

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