If you haven’t worked with a single female buyer recently, you’re missing out on the second largest share of homebuyers.
While married couples dominate the buyer pool at 65 percent, 18 percent of homebuyers are single females. That’s more than double single men, who have a market share of 7 percent according to the National Association of Realtors. Recent research by Veritas Urbis Economics found that the percentage of single women age 55 and up doubled between 1997 and 2017 to 8.2 percent of all homebuyers.
For real estate agents, this is good news. Women buyers have a greater sense of urgency than single men to buy before home prices go up, according to research by John Burns Real Estate Consulting.
“In our survey last year, we found that mature women (over age 45) were almost twice as likely as men to move and to downsize,” says John Burns, CEO of John Burns Real Estate Consulting. “In addition, single women buyers were 11 percent more likely to want to work with a full-service real estate agent than single men.”
Single women typically have high expectations and have done more research than other buyers about the market and the features they want in a new home, says Lisa McClelland, vice president of design studios for Toll Brothers.
“Most of the single female buyers we see are confident, independent women who understand the investment they’re making in a home and the value they want to get out of it,” says McClelland.
The motivations to move depend on individual buyers, but in general, says Amy Rino, division president of Taylor Morrison Houston and Darling Homes Houston, women looking at 55-plus communities want resort-style amenities and plenty of social events.
“These women are moving for their lifestyle more than a home,” she says. “Often, they’re motivated to move to be closer to family members, regardless of their age. Single mothers are usually motivated to move into a specific school district or for greater security. They also want to be near family and in a convenient location.”
Single women who are looking at both new construction and resale homes may be motivated to buy a newly built home because they require fewer time-consuming home improvement and maintenance tasks. In addition, while the upfront cost may be a little higher, the long-term cost is likely to be lower because of their energy-efficiency and quality construction that meets today’s housing standards and style preferences.
Priorities and preferences among single women buyers
A relatively recent change among many buyers, but especially among single women, is the prioritizing of finding the right community over finding the right house, says Rino.
Since single women buyers include those who have children and those who don’t; working and retired women; divorced women, widows and those who are single by choice, there are plenty of variables when it comes to their preferences. Still, there are a few generally important features that you can find and emphasize when working with single women.
• Security. Single women want to feel safe in their community, particularly if they have children, says Tim Gehman, vice president of creative services for Toll Brothers. He says they’re interested in keyless entry systems and front door cameras, so they can check on their kids. One reason master-planned communities appeal to single women buyers is that often have a gated entrance or other security features.
• Social life. Single females are looking for a community with organized activities that are tailored to the interests of residents, says Rino.
“Having an array of options for recreation and socializing is extremely important,” she says. “Women want all the traditional elements of a master-planned community like a pool, fitness center and walking trails, but they also want yoga classes and spa options at the fitness center and things like wine tastings and organized events.”
• Affordability. The top three priorities for single women, says Mikaela Sharp, a consultant with John Burns Real Estate Consulting, are price and affordability; a large kitchen and extra storage. Single men, she says, prioritize the design of the home, curb appeal and a bigger garage.
“Women are more focused on sticking on sticking to their price range than men,” says Burns. They’re not only practical, but often have lower incomes and less net worth than men.
At the same time, single women don’t want to sacrifice value and will choose a smaller house and a smaller yard in favor of quality finishes and the features they want.
• Low maintenance. Female buyers are more likely than males to buy attached homes such as townhouses, villas and condos, says Burns. Not only do these housing types add a measure of security since they’re in close proximity to neighbors, but they offer the advantage of less maintenance. Females are more likely to buy in an active adult community than males, in part because lawn care and snow removal are typically included in the homeowner association dues.
• Convenience. Single women, especially if they have children, are looking for ways to have a “frictionless” life, says Gehman. The ability to socialize within the community, participate in activities for themselves and their kids, have quick access to grocery stores and other necessities as well as an easy commute are important to most buyers but are even more important to single females who take care of everything on their own, he says.
• Pet-centric. Rino says single women prioritize their pets and will look for a community with pet-friendly policies and features such as dog parks. Burns’ research found 61 percent of single females are likely to have a pet and 57 percent of women admitted to “treating their pet like royalty.”
Multigenerational living appeal to single females
Multigenerational households hold greater attraction for single women than single men, regardless of their age.
While 36 percent of younger women plan to bring an older family member to live with them, just 27 percent of single men plan to do so, according to Burns’ research. Twenty-three percent of single women over age 45 intend to have an adult child live with them, compared to only 14 percent of men.
If you’re working with a single woman, it might be valuable to show her some of the many options built today for multigenerational families. Buyers in their early 50s are particularly interested in these types of homes, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Design features that appeal to single women
Like most buyers, single females prefer an open floor plan and a large kitchen where they can entertain. In addition, says Sharp, single women want an organized home with a large laundry room, a “Costco” closet to store bulk items and a walk-in pantry.
Single mothers have fewer opportunities to go out, so they’re more likely to treat themselves to an indulgence in their new home such as a spa-like bathroom with a freestanding tub or oversized shower, says McClelland. They also want space to entertain friends and family at home.
Flexible floor plans, such as one with a first-floor space that can be converted from a home office to a guest bedroom or a formal dining room, are popular with single women looking for a long-term home that will work for them in different life phases, says Rino.
Outdoor living space is important to most buyers today and single women are no exception.
“Our single women buyers tend to want fashionable or trendy features, so they’ll look for ways to have a seamless transition from their indoor space to their outdoor space,” says McClelland. “At the same time, they’re less interested in maintaining a yard or doing a lot of landscaping, so their outdoor space skews a little smaller.”
When you work with a single women buyer, just as with other demographic groups, it’s important to get to the heart of what matters to them. For many, this means community and lifestyle takes precedence over home features.
Michele Lerner is an award-winning freelance writer, editor and author who has been writing about real estate, personal finance and business topics for more than two decades.
She writes for regional, national and international publications in print and online for a variety of audiences including consumers, real estate investors, business owners and real estate professionals.
Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Urban Land magazine, NAREIT’s REIT magazine, National Real Estate Investor Magazine and online at Bankrate.com, HSH.com, The Motley Fool, DailyFinance.com, Insurance.com, Fox Business, MSN, Yahoo, Investopedia.com, MoneyCrashers.com, GetRichSlowly.com and in numerous state and local realtor association publications.