Independent Female Buyers Increase in Chicago Market
The news that more single women are buying homes comes as no surprise to Chicago real estate broker Julie Harron.
Over the course of her 27-year career, the Jameson Sotheby’s International Realty vice president of sales found that even when working with couples, women are often the driving force and decision-makers.
“I have worked with women who have lost spouses or are divorced,” Harron said. “And I think younger women who know where they are in their careers and are financially stable are making concrete property decisions.”
A new study from real estate agency Compass and mortgage lender Better.com named Chicago one of the top cities for single women to buy property, due to the high percentage of women applying for loans through Better.com.
Chicago ranked No. 3 on the list, with Atlanta and Los Angeles nabbing the top two spots. Seattle, Denver, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., San Diego, Houston and Oakland, California, rounded out the top 10.
Across the U.S., 1 in 5 homebuyers are single women, according to the study, which surveyed Compass agents and analyzed Better.com mortgage data. Even women who aren’t single — a cohort increasingly out-earning their partners — are securing loans without their spouses or listing themselves as the primary source of income.
Nationally, 58% of real estate agents surveyed said the majority of their clients were women. More than 80% said they have seen this number increase within the last five years.
Among the most dramatic shifts, single women of color are taking out mortgages far more frequently than a year ago, Better.com reported. Three-quarters of surveyed real estate agents said they are seeing single women entering the housing market earlier than their male counterparts as well.
Data from the National Association of Realtors suggests the same. In 2019, 17% of homebuyers were single women, while 9% were single men. A LendingTree.com study found that single women in Chicago own 312,997 homes, while single men are behind by about 100,000.
Kate Waddell, lead agent of the Compass-affiliated Kate Waddell Group, said about 10% of her clients are single women. She said while she doesn’t have concrete numbers, she thinks there has been an uptick specifically because of the city’s great job market.
“I think we are in a time where you don’t need a partner to buy property,” Waddell said. “A lot of women who have successful careers can do better for themselves with owning and not renting. I think today, women are a lot more bold, so they’re willing do things that, 10 years ago, women weren’t doing. I think it’s awesome.”
Victoria Kent, 37, recently bought a house in Avondale. Her sister — who also handles the publicist’s accounting — suggested buying property as a good investment. So Kent started looking in the late summer and ended up signing much sooner than she anticipated.
“I saw on this house on Zillow and after that, things snowballed from there,” Kent said.
She saw the house online on a Friday in August. The next day, she saw the house in person with her mother and a real estate agent, who also owned the condo where Kent was living at the time.
Within hours of seeing the house, Kent was pre-approved for a loan online through Guaranteed Rate — a recommendation of her real estate agent. By that Sunday, she put in an offer and signed the contracts. One month later, she moved into her home.
“I saw the house and it was what I was looking for — a single-family home with a yard,” Kent said. “I was looking online on what a house could be. This house was in my price range and was move-in ready. I realized that houses like this aren’t coming up often, and I knew I had to move fast on it.”
Kent describes her house hunting as smooth and virtually problem-free. She said she learned about the process by picking the brains of her parents and friends with home-buying experience. Her real estate agent also shared a handy graphic outlining the home-buying process.
“I am proud of being a homeowner — I never thought I would do it,” Kent said. “I wish I would have known the process wasn’t as scary as I thought, because I would’ve started sooner.”
As part of the study, Compass and Better.com offered tips for women who are entering the housing market for the first time. Look for agents who have recently closed on properties similar to what you’re looking for and lenders who can provide a pre-approval letter to strengthen your offer. Keep closing costs in mind when setting a budget, and factor in mortgage-related tax deductions before making an offer.
Kent says having the means to buy a home and a good credit score can move the process along. She said finding a real estate agent you trust is also key, because they can provide recommendations for getting the best rate possible.
Having gone through the experience, Kent is able to keep tabs on the market to further improve her situation as a homeowner.
“People should look now, because interest rates are dropping,” she said. “I am currently refinancing to get a lower loan rate.”