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VOL. 125 | NO. 210 | Thursday, October 28, 2010

XX Factor

Single women buying homes at increasing rate

By Sarah Baker

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Realtor Judy McLellan. right, of Crye-Leike shows a home near White Station Elementary School to prospective buyer Sarah Morris. (Photo: Lance Murphey)

While the real estate market has yet to see an uptick in recent times, one demographic is steadily moving its way up the sales ladder.

More and more single females are making the decision to purchase a home.

In 2009, first-time homebuyers were composed of 25 percent single females – second only to married couples, which made up 49 percent – according to a National Association of Realtors (NAR) report. Single males accounted for a mere 12 percent.

Even in repeat buyers, the numbers were not quite as high for women – 21 percent – but still twice as high as single men, which totaled 10 percent.

In the same report, NAR established three main reasons why single women purchase a home: 47 percent desired to own a home, 13 percent endured a change in family situation and 8 percent sought the affordability of homes.

Several factors prove a sign of the times for single female homebuyers.

Judy McLellan, a broker at Crye-Leike Realtors Inc.’s Quail Hollow office, said the inventory levels are higher now more than ever, hence there is more from which to pick and choose.

“A lot of women are buying homes that are closer to their jobs, and they’ll buy in the city over suburb areas,” McLellan said.

In McLellan’s experience, women don’t typically like to go out into the county. Over the past 18 months, she has sold six homes to single women, none of which were outside of East Memphis, Germantown and Collierville. And during that same time frame, she has sold no homes to single men.

“A lot of single women are more motivated to their careers. They’re not getting married as early as they used … and they are going ahead and taking that step forward into home ownership.”

– Carmen Prince, vice president, Memphis Women Council of Realtors

While some women are partial to Downtown condos, many have a pet, so a yard becomes important.

McLellan said a home inspection is especially important for single women, and that problems get taken care of before closing.

“Single women don’t have time to deal with repairs if they’re working 40 to 50 hours a week,” McLellan said. “They need to make sure it’s in good shape on the front end if it’s at all possible.”

In addition to hiring an independent contractor, Carmen Prince, vice president of the Memphis Women Council of Realtors, advocates women homebuyers trying to obtain seller concessions such as home warranties or upgrades to the house.

Nine times out of 10 the seller will pay for a home warranty for the buyer, said Prince, who is also an affiliate broker with RE/MAX Right Way.

Over the past 12 months, approximately a third of Prince’s business was with single females.

“A lot of single women are more motivated to their careers,” Prince said. “They’re not getting married as early as they used to 10 to 12 years ago, and they are going ahead and taking that step forward into home ownership.”

Overall, women are concerned with the house’s amenities, such as proximity to work, school and church.

“It goes back to the old saying that ‘if Mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy,’ because the woman is the homemaker,” Prince said.

Even with married couples, women make the bulk of the housing choices. Women influence a whopping 91 percent of all home purchases, McLellan said.

“Women really rely on their emotions or what I call their sixth sense,” McLellan said. “Women can walk in and size it up pretty quickly and say it’s got the right feel, whereas men tend to look at statistical facts and figures.”

But entirely relying on that gut decision can be a mistake, said Mindy Creech, immediate past president of the Memphis Women Council of Realtors and agent with RE/MAX on Track.

“I always tell them to do their research and get an agent and a loan officer that they are comfortable and confident with,” Creech said.

Many women can qualify for more than they are comfortable paying in a monthly loan. While Creech advices to shop around for rates, she strongly suggests to not complete the entire pre-approval process.

“The more you get your credit score pulled, the more it actually brings down your credit score,” Creech said.

Right now, the requirement for most lenders is a minimum 620 score, said Regina Hubbard, president-elect of the Memphis Women Council of Realtors and a broker with Lester Hubbard Realtors.

It’s all about preparation. And to make that step, Hubbard recommends first-time homebuyer classes for her clients, offered through various local nonprofit organizations.

“Women see the value more in purchasing a home as opposed to renting,” Hubbard said. “Now is the perfect time for any buyer.”

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