The pandemic has made homeownership difficult for everyone. But single women are suffering the most
Buying a home has always been one of Christine Hill’s dreams. Coming from a middle-class family, she knew that home ownership would give her financial stability and the ability to build wealth. She’s also a Nestor by nature, and had long wanted a space to remake in her own image, she says.
Hill, 33, decided to get serious about the procedure in 2021. Despite the crazy market, she knew it was now or never: She was making the most money she’d ever made, she was comfortable financially, and she was paying the rent. When she and her partner of four years split, she also decided she wouldn’t wait until she was in a relationship again to do so—she could do it on her own.
It was not an easy process. Inventory was limited, especially for first-time buyers without a ton of capital looking for a home in Burlington, VT. She made offers, got rejected. In the end, a less-than-ideal home came on the market: It was small, according to Hill, and needed a lot of work. It was also filled with the previous owner’s belongings, making it difficult for other interested buyers to envision their own futures. But it did have a separate garage, which Hill, an artist, characterized as his home studio. It was sold.
“I was not a competitive buyer,” says Hill. “And honestly with the house I ended up with, I got very lucky and threaded a needle. A lot of people told me to wait for the market to cool down. But if I hadn’t I would never be able to buy a house.” Trying would not have been able.”
Hill bought the home in early 2022 for $374,000. The seller took a discount of about $5,000 when he asked about problems that arose during the inspection. Hill put down about $22,000, most of his life’s savings.
Despite the stressful search process, Hill is one of the lucky ones. In any given year, single women are typically the second largest group of home buyers after married couples. But 2022 was the culmination of some particularly difficult years for women. The home ownership rate for single women under the age of 35 has declined for the first time in six years, according to a new report from Zillow.
It has long been more difficult for single women to buy a home than for single men. They earn less on average, which makes it difficult for them to save for a down payment. And home prices have skyrocketed in the past two years. As Zillow reports, this hurts young single women. And it didn’t help that at the start of the pandemic, many women retreated from their jobs to care for children and other family members.
Put them all together, and the homeownership rate for single women drops to 24.5% in 2022, down from 28.6% by 2021. Meanwhile, the homeownership rate for single men is projected to rise 2.7 percentage points to 33.1% in 2022.
Challenges faced by single women homebuyers
Society isn’t exactly kind to single women of a certain age. Hill initially began the process of buying a home with a partner; When they broke up, she decided to keep her dream alive. But it hasn’t been easy.
The house he bought needed a lot of work to date, he has invested $30,000 in remodeling it over the past year. More immediately, when she and her former partner split up, she kept much of their kitchen equipment and furniture; When she went inside, she didn’t even have the plates with her.
“The decisions and managing the finances alone completely exhausted me,” says Hill. “I’ve struggled a lot over the past year to feel comfortable admitting that I’m burned out from building, from managing my life, and from what it looks like to be a homeowner alone.”
Although Hill doesn’t feel like she faced discrimination during the home-buying process, it’s not unheard of: Lenders are less likely to approve loans for single women and, of course, they’re more likely than men and couples. I earn less money. Women carry more student loans on average than men.
And then there is the matter of faith. Buying a home often means advocating for yourself—in the loan underwriting process, with realtors, and with sellers.
“Women of all colors, especially marginalized minority groups, have to work harder to cross the homeownership finish line,” says Wendy Ross, broker and owner of Varcity Real Estate Co. Have the courage to ask their HR departments to write letters to the lender assuring them that their employment is expected to continue and is highly valued.”
Still, single women have long favored home buying because of the stability it provides, says Dr. Jessica Lutz, deputy chief economist for the National Association of Realtors (NAR). And they’re willing to make sacrifices: The NAR research found that women are more likely than men to cut back on spending in almost every category, as well as take second jobs or spend money on family expenses to save money. move forward together until they can no longer bear their expenses. own place.
“I think women will continue to be this powerhouse in the market,” Lutz says. “It gives them financial independence.”
Zillow chief economist Skylar Olsen says although COVID-19 made it harder for single women to buy a home, it also underscored how important stability can be.
“It provides access to wealth building and financial stability during a crisis, and then personally, I’m looking at my home and my yard and control of it,” says Olsen. “It’s my space, I get to say what happens here, and I think that’s not always true for a lot of women.”
it is working
Hill’s grit is representative of how many single female homebuyers make it work. He has also had some help from a community he has built on TikTok. When she moved in, she posted a video expressing her frustration at what she saw as double standards in society.
If she were getting married, she would be able to put together a registry and benefit from the generosity of family and friends. But, she argues, she might not need financial help if she had a partner. He needs it now.
“I’m going to go from $800 to $2,350 for my mortgage, and there’s zero social justification for me asking anyone for help,” she says. After she posted the video, some commenters encouraged her to create a registry; He did so and received two packages. She initially saved them for a rainy day when she needed a pick-me-up.
Reeling from this. Thank you so so much to Kirsten and @V for your generosity. You’ve turned my day right around. Grateful for this little community.
♬ original sound – Christine
That day came sooner than he had imagined. In her first week in her new home, she learned she needed to spend $4,000 on electrical work. She posted a video of her opening the gifts; It took off, and soon strangers from across the country were sending things to help her prepare her new home.
“I received about $4,000 worth of stuff sent to me by strangers on TikTok,” she says. “The key demographic was women in their 40s to 60s who had worked hard and wished they had the ability to call people for help. It really came from a place, we have to support each other. “
Tapping into the community is one reason single women buy homes, says Lutz. They value the connections and support that community can bring.
“It blows my mind,” says Hill. “It made a huge difference.”
This story originally appeared on Fortune.com
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