It is a hackneyed, dated stereotype in residential real estate, but like many passé thoughts, might still have a little truth to it, at least on occasion. And that is when married couples house hunt, the wife has more clout in deciding what they buy.
Two leading REALTORS®, Dawn McKenna, of the Dawn McKenna Group with Coldwell Banker Realty, Chicago & Naples, Florida, and Ann Meadows, broker associate/co-owner of RE/MAX of Cherry Creek Inc., Denver, Colorado, agreed that things have changed from the prior generation, but that nothing is set in stone. While the wife may not have as much decision-making power as in the past, they also agree that working with housebuying parents who have small children requires extra effort, which may be especially targeted to stay-at-home moms.
“The wives used to make the decision on what home to buy more often, but the world is evolving,” says McKenna. “There is usually one partner that takes the lead, but it isn’t necessarily the wife anymore. And gone are the days where real estate agents only deal with the wife, as the men have their opinions, too. When I first interact with clients, I ask them a lot of questions to see how they reply, what they value and who is taking more of the charge, and then I tailor the showing to highlight certain aspects that they value most.”
Meadows concurs. “I find that most of my clients have equal input,” she says. “Also, working from home is more popular, so the decision really seems to be more equal. I also think wives making the decision of which home to purchase is generational.”
Men and women have been shown to play differing roles when it comes to purchasing a home together. In a Consumer Outlook Survey conducted by Prudential Real Estate, 2,641 Americans who actively participated in the market to buy or sell a home were interviewed. Respondents were between the ages of 25 and 64 and had a household income of at least $50,000.
Survey results indicate that women often would take the lead as researcher, more involved with neighborhood analysis and other details. Men were shown to be more responsible for the financial aspects of the potential transaction.
Women were also shown to enjoy the process of buying a home more than men, suggesting that the feelings of homeownership were more pronounced in women than in men.
The agents acknowledge that they do tailor certain aspects of a house to a man or woman.
“Women care a lot about natural light and want to make sure the home is aesthetically pleasing,” McKenna points out. “Husbands typically don’t notice if the master bedroom is on the first floor, whereas women do. Women focus very much on what their life would look like in the home, and husbands are usually more into square footage, price per square foot and the lot size, as they see it as more of an asset.”
Interior details matter more to women, Meadows has found, so she makes sure to be super-detailed on that aspect of each house she shows.
“Closet space seems important to women, especially in the primary bedroom,” she notes. “Double sinks in the primary bath is desirable so everyone has their own space. Floor plans that have the living and dining attached seem popular as well. Also, since the pandemic, I find that families want a good balance of shared space and private space for home offices.”
When small children are part of the picture, there are very specific things that the agents take heed to point out.
“For younger families, I concentrate on the neighborhoods,” says McKenna, who has lived in 19 houses. “I also focus on how quickly the wife and husband can get home from the train, along with health and wellness and the environment.
“When there is a young family, sleep is key, so I look to see if they will need blackout shades, how much light comes into the house, and more. I make sure that the home is set up for a family. Does it have lots of stairs and walk-downs? I try to be the eyes and ears for them, especially because I’ve been that young family with four kids, so I know what parents are looking and not looking for.”
Before Meadows gets into specifics when showing a house, she encourages clients to do a walkthrough solo.
“I want them to get a feel for it first,” she says. “Too much talking can be a turnoff for some clients, so I try to be sensitive on how to communicate with them.”
After that she will get into the basics when they have kids, maybe interacting more with the mother if she will be home more than the father.
“When children are involved, I ask clients to start their search in the school and school districts they want their children to attend,” she stresses. “We also talk about the home’s location on the street. We want to make sure that if their children will be riding bikes or playing in the front yard the street is not busy.
“When we tour the inside, I point out if the backyard can be seen from the kitchen and is easily accessible from it. Looking closely at floor plans is also important because if it is too open, then it is noisy and can wake up sleeping children or disturb a working parent.”