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Female homebuyers are different, maybe smarter

A wise female financial advisor once explained to me the difference between how her male and female clients view money. “For most men, money is a river: as long as it keeps flowing, everything is fine. For most women, money is a lake and they get nervous if it ever starts to go down,” she said.

I was thinking about that recently when I was working with a young, single woman who was looking to buy her first home, a Mount Pleasant condominium.

Though it would stretch her budget she insisted on a two-bedroom unit. She explained that she would need the extra space for any family visitors and ”if things ever get tight, I can Airbnb the extra room,” she said, adding she was confident the eventual resale value on a two-bedroom would be higher than from a smaller suite.

It was the kind of pragmatic thinking I have seen during an increasing number of transactions involving single women buyers. These ladies are not all young or buying their first home. Some are seasoned investors looking for a second or even third property. Some are mid-age divorcees moving up. Others are older and moving on after the death of spouse.

But they share certain characteristics: they think long term, they think of others; they are earning or have access to sufficient funds; most are willing to buy a home that needs some renovation; and they are not afraid to mix-it-up in multiple-offer, multi-bid situations.

There are few hard statistics on how many homeowners are single woman. U.S. studies say it is around 18% and most Canadian estimates are in the 20% range. In Metro Vancouver, I think it is closer to 30% for single women who have never married, 50% for divorced or separated women and even higher for widows.

I believe the number of single-female buyers is increasing, and this is backed up by a recent mortgage survey by a major Canadian bank. It found that 49% of single women plan to buy a home, compared to 35% of single men. As the study found, women are more cautious than men when shopping for a home, continually weighing costs, affordability and potential appreciation into their decision.

So what do Vancouver women really, really want in a home?

Well, most are buying condominiums, though a number of our older female clients are moving up or laterally into a townhouse or detached house. But there are some desires that all women seem to share: they want a safe yet lively neighbourhood with shopping, dining, entertainment and transit close at hand, and, in strata buildings, they want well-lit and accessible parking.

And, I have found, they like to feel they can take care of themselves, both physically and financially. If they view money as a lake, I believe today’s women see their own home as a ship they can steer to financial security.

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