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Single female buyers rise in a challenging Boston market

by Barbra Murray

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From the 1700s-era Georgian and Federal Style homes to the sleek architecture sometimes found in today’s condominiums, there’s a veritable cornucopia of styles available to homebuyers in the Boston area, an increasing number of which are single females. According to the National Association of Realtors’ 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, there was a 2 percent year-over-year increase in the percentage of women who acquired residences; however, for this growing demographic, buying doesn’t come without its challenges.

Per the report, “The quickening pace of home sales over the past year included a small rebound from two key segments of buyers who have been missing in action in recent years: first-time buyers and single women.”

 

Single female buyers in Boston

In New England, single females accounted for 17 percent to total home purchases, and the figure is the same nationally. The share of single female homebuyers was more than double that of single males, who accounted for just 7 percent of the homebuying market. However, judging by the various statistics presented in the report, that’s where the single woman’s dominance ends in the homebuying arena.

Single middle-aged women paid an average of $173,000 for a home; though that’s less than the single middle-aged man’s average of $196,600, according to a Sept. 2016 PropertyShark report, the average monthly mortgage payment in Beantown would take more than 90 percent of a single female’s income. (The median income for single females was $55,300 in 2016.)

It’s not news, but women continue to earn less than men for the same jobs. And unless the discrepancy between salaries among men and women suddenly changes, there’s no indication that the single female will have it any easier when searching for a home that fits her budget. In fact, it’s only grown more difficult. In January, the median selling price of single-family homes in Metropolitan Boston increased 6.1 percent year over year, according to Greater Boston Association of Realtors statistics, and price growth was even more startling in the condominium market, where the median selling price jumped 12.8 percent from January 2016 to January 2017.

 

Inventory, prices present challenges

The challenges for the single female buyer don’t end with dollar signs. Housing inventory is restrained, to say the least, making the hunt for a home that much more complicated. Metro Boston’s stock of for-sale homes plummeted in 2016, with single-family inventory dropping 35 percent, year over year in December, according to GBAR. The climate wasn’t much better in the condo sector, where inventory declined 28.6 percent. The one-two punch of retreating inventory and rising prices puts the single female at a disadvantage.

Prices are high, supply is low, and the salary issue remains. Yet, single women remain highly visible participants in the homebuying market. As Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, notes in the annual report, “Single women for years have indicated a strong desire to own a home of their own, as well as an inclination to live closer to friends and family. With job growth holding steady and credit conditions becoming somewhat less stringent than in past years, the willingness and opportunity to buy is becoming more feasible for many single women.”

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