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More single women are buying houses on their own

When it comes to making the most significant purchase of your life many women are going solo and not waiting for their Prince Charming to help them secure the castle of their dreams.

There are simply too many social and economic factors at play that allow women the option to live comfortably and well, alone, says Alim Charania, a mortgage broker with Dominion Lending Centres Regional Mortgage Group in Calgary.

“In previous times, women waited to buy with a guy or get married first,” says Charania, who blogged about the issue in 2013. “The stereotypical trend was you graduate from school, you rent for a while, you find someone, get involved in a long-term relationship and then marry. But women are thinking let’s skip the rent part and start building my life earlier when I’m single. “

Women seem to be particularly well suited for sole home ownership. They are keen nest builders yet practical about it, say real estate insiders. Females also tend to really do their homework before purchasing a home.

“Women do a lot more research than guys do,” says Charania. “They do more research in general on everything from what’s around them to how far they are from work. I think it’s a good thing that they’re coming in so well informed.”

Female buyers on the rise

In Canada, no professional association or government agency keeps track of who buys what, real estate-wise. But estimates on the number of single women buying homes run as high as 25 per cent, according to Toronto realtor Sandra Rinomato, who compares that number to the ten per cent of purchasers who are single men.

Interestingly, in the U.S. the National Association of Realtors keeps extensive data on gender-based buying habits. In 2014, the association noted that American females accounted for nearly twice as large a share of home buyers as single men with 16 and eight per cent respectively for repeat buyers and 23 and 15 per cent for first-time buyers.

The phenomenon of more women buying real estate on their own has been on the books for several years. Royal LePage reported in 2007 that women were driving housing demand with 30 per cent of single women owning their own home compared to 45 per cent of divorced and separated women and 64 per cent of widowed women who were homeowners.

A shift in priorities

The report noted how women’s values are changing by citing a survey question that asked if they would be willing to forgo a wedding reception in favour of putting a higher down payment on a home. Of those women planning to buy in the next three years, 34 per cent said yes to skipping the party.

Royal LePage pointed out that women were playing a significant role in housing activity in all major cities across the country, including pricier markets such as Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary. The trend, it appears, is here to stay.

“It’s growing exponentially,” Dianne Usher, senior vice-president at Royal LePage Real Estate Services Ltd., Johnston & Daniel Division, recently told The Globe & Mail, citing better paying jobs and lower mortgage rates as reasons.

Popular media has already responded to the trend. In 2012 HGTV aired one season of Rinomato’s show “Buy Herself,” a series that highlights women going it alone with the tagline, ‘No Man. No Dual Income. No Problem.’ Books, magazine articles and websites have documented an uptick in the phenomenon as well.

There are a number of obvious reasons that explain the trend. Women are better educated and earning higher wages. Marriage and children are not their sole focus. But perhaps less overt is the fact that more Canadians are cozying to the notion of living alone as a growing number head up one-person households, according to the 2011 Census.

Top issues are safety, minimal renovations

Charles Zimmerman, a broker with Royal LePage’s central Toronto branch, says he’s noticed some common differences in what his female clients are looking for compared to single male clients.

“More women are buying homes now than ever,” says Zimmerman. “And many are concerned around issues of security. For example, I wouldn’t be inclined to put a woman on a ravine lot. No neighbours will see someone entering or leaving your house through the ravine.”

Older windows and doors especially on a basement level are easier to break into so consider replacing them. And if security is a big worry, women would be wise to buy condos that are not on the ground floor.

Generally speaking, women seek low-maintenance homes because, as Zimmerman puts it, not everybody wants to prune a tree. “At end of day we live in a world where women don’t want [to] knock out limbs and build decks in backyards,” he says.

According to Rinomato, women are far more budget conscious than men. It’s because of that they don’t want to get stuck with fixer uppers and high maintenance homes. And typically, they don’t want to sacrifice their existing lifestyle to own a home so they tend to be far more cautious and prepared before signing on the dotted line.

“They’re cleaning up budget issues and they don’t want to be strapped,” she told Canada AM.

“Women won’t buy a home that needs work. They want homes that are aesthetically perfect.”