Gender, marital status and mortgages don’t get a lot of research attention in real estate, but two new reports examine the exceptional role of single women in the home purchase marketplace and the challenges they face in getting a loan.
- Single women are statistically better at paying their mortgages than men — they default less — yet they get charged more for their loans and are denied credit more often. Though they have lower incomes on average than single men, they tend to make larger down payments, according to researchers at the Housing Finance Policy Center of the Urban Institute.
- Single women are now the second largest group of buyers in the marketplace, accounting for anywhere from 15 percent to more than 20 percent of all home purchases in recent years. Single men, by contrast, have accounted for about 9 percent of purchases since 2012. Married buyers once represented more than four-fifths of the market, but that has declined over the past several decades. In 1985 married couples made 81 percent of all purchases; last year it was 67 percent. You might assume that unmarried couples have taken up the slack, but that’s not the case. Last year, according to a new research note titled “All the Single Ladies” by Jessica Lautz, managing director of survey research at the National Association of Realtors, unmarried partners accounted for just 7 percent of total sales.
The Urban Institute study, conducted by Laurie Goodman, co-director of the Housing Finance Policy Center, and Jun Zhu, a senior research associate, looked at a national database of mortgage transactions compiled by the federal government, along with proprietary information on borrower credit characteristics and properties from CoreLogic, an analytics firm.
The study is blunt about its core conclusions: Single women pay slightly more for their mortgages, despite their superior repayment performance. They tend to present somewhat “weaker credit characteristics” at the application stage and as a result are more likely to end up with subprime or higher-cost financing.
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