More Single Women Are Becoming First-Time Home Buyers

Consider the pros and cons before you jump in

Woman holding sold sign in front of her home.
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 Terry Vine/ Getty Images

Record numbers of single women are becoming first-time homebuyers in recent years. Statistics from the Joint Center for Housing Studies indicate that more than one-in-five homebuyers are single women. Twice as many unmarried women are buying homes as single men, and the National Association of Realtors indicates that the ratio tilts even more heavily toward single women among older populations.

Here are a few more recent trends in the housing market, along with tips for any potential first-time homebuyers.

Trends for First-Time Single Women Home Buyers

Most single women spent less than $200,000 on a home in 2017, though they spent an average of $10,000 more than single men. They prefer two bedrooms or more, and they're less likely to choose new construction.

Women are more likely to compromise size and cost to get other amenities, but they're less likely to compromise on the location or quality of the neighborhood. They like to engage in social interaction with neighbors. They buy in cities more often than in suburban areas.

Women prefer condominiums with well-run homeowner associations over single-family homes. They desire security and/or gated access. Smaller spaces are acceptable.

The Financial Pros and Cons

On the plus side, buying a home is more of an investment than renting. Monthly rent payments are essentially getting flushed away—you'll have nothing to show for it but a roof over your head for another month. Paying off a mortgage, on the other hand, provides you with an asset that adds to your net worth. What's not to like about that?

However, buying requires a much larger injection of cash upfront compared to signing a lease. Once the home is yours, you'll be solely responsible for fixing things when they go wrong (and things will inevitably go wrong). Repairs and maintenance can be costly, and single women have only one income to meet these expenses as they crop up.

Take Advantage of Educational Resources

First-time homebuyers of all kinds have a steep learning curve ahead of them. It's hard to fully anticipate the responsibilities, potential pitfalls, and complications associated with homeownership. However, you can take a homeownership class to get a better idea of what to expect when you purchase your home. HomeFree USA offers one, or check with state services. Some offer free classes.

Prepare for Maintenance Issues

Old stereotypes can be thrown out the window these days. Many women feel just as comfortable swinging a hammer or wielding an electric drill as the average man. But if this isn't you—or if you would simply prefer to spend your weekends doing something other than manual labor—you might want to look into buying a home warranty.

It can be a bit of an expense, but such a warranty can be great insurance against costly repairs or replacements. The warranty will usually foot the bill for smaller problems, as well, so you don't have to heft that hammer if you don't want to.

It's not just a matter of repairs, either. Certain maintenance issues are ongoing, such as mowing the lawn or weeding the garden. You can make time to do these chores yourself, or pay someone to do it. Either way, you should have a plan in place for how you'll tackle these tasks before you buy a home.

Keep Monthly Payments in Mind

You might be preapproved for a mortgage, but think carefully before you spend every last dime the lender has offered to let you borrow. With only one income to meet expenses, you might want to consider leaving a little extra wiggle room in your budget for emergencies like illness or unexpected job loss. If your monthly payments are too steep, you risk becoming a slave to your mortgage and having to cut out your favorite pasttimes and expenses in order to avoid a debt spiral. If you'd rather give yourself more cushion for luxury and recreational expenses, you might want to look at more modest properties.