Homeownership gap called matter of gender: "Nesting" instinct cited as single women become force in the real estate market
(Times Union (Albany, NY) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) May 22--Three years ago, Cherie Clark bought a home overlooking Troy's Washington Park.
The building was a mess, she says, and the responsibility of owning alone can be daunting. But she doesn't regret the decision. "I like the idea of owning this house and being able to do what I want."
Many single women agree. So much so that they now account for 27 percent of the nation's first-time home buyers, according to the National Association of Realtors, and 21 percent of home buyers overall -- more than double the rate of 20 years ago.
Single men, meanwhile, account for just 9 percent of home buyers, the same percentage as 20 years ago.
Rising homeownership rates among single women reflect much-discussed societal changes: Americans are more likely to marry later and often divorce when they do. And women are earning more than ever before.
The Greater Capital Association of Realtors Inc., an Albany-based trade group that keeps data on home sales and prices, doesn't track local home-buyer patterns. But its executive director, James Ader, points out that as recently as the 1970s, single women had trouble obtaining a home loan.
"As that's become more fair and equal, women have bought more," he said.
Men on average still earn more than women, but single women seem willing to buy with less, according to the National Association of Realtors: In 2005, the median income of a single female home buyer was $48,100; for a single man, it was $66,100.
So why are women more willing to buy than men?
As with many discussions of differences between the sexes, answers tend to sound like stereotypes: Men fear commitment. Women nest.
But stereotypes sometimes reflect truth, said Stephanie Rauterkus, an assistant professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Lally School of Management and Technology in Troy. And Rauterkus, who bought a home when she was single, said women seem more domestic.
"Maybe that's something inherent in women," she said. "Maybe even though we've made strides, there's something that makes us want to create that (home) environment."
Peter Francese puts it more bluntly: "Women take care of the cave."
Francese, a New Hampshire resident and the founder of American Demographics magazine, owned and published by Advertising Age, said he bases his assertion on thousands of interviews conducted with both men and women.
He said it would be "astounding" if women didn't buy homes at higher rates than men, because it's basic biology.
"Guys are not nesters," Francese said. "We have millions of years of evolution behind us, and we come from hunters and gatherers."
Adam Traver didn't mention hunting or gathering when explaining why he doesn't own a home. But the 28-year-old Schenectady resident did call a house a big responsibility, a headache waiting to happen.
"I just don't want to be tied down," Traver said. "Renting is just too easy right now."
And home buying, to his way of thinking, is something couples do: When Traver meets the right woman, they'll buy a house. Together.
That thinking is typical, said Walter Molony, spokesman for the National Association of Realtors.
"Most guys don't get serious about real estate until they meet the right woman," he said. "Women seem better at building a nest egg over time, whereas single guys seem more interested in consumption."
Indeed, RPI's Rauterkus said data show that women tend to have better credit histories than men. They may find it easier to qualify for a mortgage.
Latham Realtor Anthony Gucciardo said he is often surprised at how little most men have available for a deposit, though they often have fancy cars and a grand apartment.
"They don't save as well," he said.
But Molony and Francese suggest any man wanting to feel like a homeowner had better purchase while single. Because few married men, they say, can honestly claim ownership.
"Ask any married man; you know whose house it is," Francese said. "It's her house." Chris Churchill can be reached at 454-5442 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright (c) 2007, Albany Times Union, N.Y.
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