For the past 40 years, single women have been second only to married couples in the homebuying market. While low inventory and high prices present challenges to all buyers, for women, these problems can be compounded. According to National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) data, women typically have less buying power than both married couples and single men. They’re also more likely to have children under the age of 18 living in the home with them. Because of these factors, women must often make substantial financial sacrifices when purchasing a home. Since women tend to purchase homes at a lower price point than other buyers, in this climate of low inventory and high prices, women’s ability to achieve the dream of homeownership can seem out of reach.
Women have made great strides in the real estate industry, from banding together at the REALTOR® convention in 1938 to form a Women’s Division now known as Women’s Council of REALTORS® to today comprising 67% of all REALTORS®. Brenda, a REALTOR® for over 19 years working in Maryland, is one of them. I recently sat down with her and her client, Sheila, to talk about how women can succeed in this market. Recalling that Sheila submitted over 13 offers before one was accepted, Brenda says having patience is critical. She also emphasizes being flexible. Sheila had her heart set on buying a home in Howard County, Maryland, to be close to work, family and friends. The lack of inventory and available housing within her budget forced her to broaden her search significantly.
NAR data supports their real-life account. Buyers continue to report that the most difficult task for them in the home-buying process is finding the right home at the right price. A January 2021 study commissioned by NAR underscores this fact, noting that “the extreme shortage of for-sale inventory is contributing to an unsustainable situation in which robust demand is competing for a limited supply, driving housing prices higher, reducing affordability and making homeownership less accessible.”
To address the country’s housing shortage, policymakers at all levels of government should consider options like zoning reform to increase developable residential space; investment in new construction; and expansion of financing and tax incentives to spur investment in housing and convert unused commercial space to residential. State and local jurisdictions can explore grant programs that increase opportunities for buyers.
To help make housing more accessible for women and other buyers who face affordability challenges, policymakers should consider policies to promote an equitable and accessible housing-finance system such as using alternative credit scoring models, providing down payment assistance, and expanding outreach and counseling initiatives for renters and mortgage-ready buyers.
Sheila wasn’t deterred by all the rejection. In fact, she’s settling into her new home and working to bring her vision for it to life. She says she’s grateful for her REALTOR®’s expertise in getting her to the finish line.