For over 35 years, single women have consistently purchased more homes than their single male counterparts. Despite this trend, Redfin recently found that single women homeowners earn less home equity from their homes than single men, particularly in Seattle[1].

Redfin’s study reviewed home purchases in 2012 from 18 of the largest metro areas in the United States, analyzing the amount of equity single men and women earned in the last five years. Overall, single women gained less equity than single men in the same time period.

Compared to other cities in the study, the gap was largest in Seattle. Seattleite single women earned 6.3% less home equity in the five-year period than their male counterparts. That is the equivalent of $20,983 in a five-year period. At a time when home price growth in Seattle is nearly double that of any other city in the United States, this disparity is significant.

Why is the gap so large?

Single women spend less money when purchasing a home, in both the overall price of a home and the down payment. They also have weaker credit scores and are more likely to be denied for a mortgage than men. Men in Seattle, for example, spent $35,350 more on their houses than women. For women to make less equity, presumably the homes purchased by men are also appreciating faster. Both genders dedicate a median of 20% towards their down payment; however, the Redfin study found that women are more likely to put down under 5%, as opposed to their male counterparts.

In considering why this gap exists, the gender wage gap likely plays a role. Seattle’s wage gap is one of the worst in the country. In a 2017 study conducted by LeanIn and the National Partnership for Women and Families, Seattle tied for third place in a listing of U.S. cities and counties with the widest wage gaps. A 2015 LiveStories report found that women in Seattle make 78 cents for every dollar given to men, based on median incomes.

The wage gap is slowly decreasing. However, studies found that changes in the gender pay gap are attributed, at least partially, to declining wages for men and an increase in overall inequity, rather than women’s gains in the workplace.

What can we do about it?

This is not a women’s issue or a zero-sum game. Everyone would benefit if women reach parity. In fact, gender equality in the workplace could boost the U.S. economy by $4.3 trillion in a decade.

We need to recognize that there is a problem. Currently, over half of adults in the United States believe that men and women are on equal playing ground in today’s market, despite consistent findings to the contrary. Once we recognize the problem, we must actively overcome the inequities. Real estate professionals, lenders, managers, and the general public have the power to help remedy this problem. Some examples of ways to help include:  

  • Lenders can consider programs to assist single women homebuyers. Despite low up-front payments, single women have notably been better than men at paying their mortgages
  • Brokers can educate single women homebuyers regarding best practices in getting the most equity from their homes.
  • Management in all sectors can and should conduct regular compensation evaluations to ensure that pay inequities do not exist between women and men.
  • Companies should ensure that women have opportunities for promotion.
  • Human resources specialists should actively recruit women for available positions and ensure that women receive the same compensation offer as a man in a similar position.
  • Anyone can dedicate time and energy to mentoring women for leadership positions.
  • Individuals should speak up for others in their business. If a woman says something at her company, ensure that she is heard and given credit for her ideas. Often men will speak over women. This should change.
  • Anyone can consider what they can do to bolster and support women in their community.

Supporting gender diversity will result in higher returns for businesses, add talent to professional teams, and provide insight into the real estate market, driven by women. Someday, women will reach parity. In the meantime, we should all trust the statistics, strive to support women, and seek a level playing ground.

[1] The Redfin study did not consider impacts of diversity or non-binary individuals, so unfortunately this article is unable to consider statistics reflecting home-buying habits of other minority groups.

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