Working Toward Closing the Real Estate Gender Gap

two women sitting on bed with dog

One of the most obvious disparities in American life is the gender gap in the rewards women and men receive in their day-to-day working lives. The pay gap may be partially explained by career interruptions due to childbearing — but many analyses, while finding the inequality has been reduced, still acknowledge it remains a frustrating reality for the majority of women.

Is There REALLY a Gap?

When it comes to the financial advantage inherent in owning real estate, you might not think a similar gender gap could exist. After all, when you own your own home, the rate at which your real estate holdings appreciate is a function of the health of the local marketplace, exclusive of the sex of the owner. Right?

Not necessarily, according to an in-depth study of the economic results accruing to single men and women homeowners. The Yale Insights study of housing returns analyzed the 9 million housing transactions from 1991 to 2017 in which it was possible to identify the sex of the participants. The results were sobering — “a major issue that hasn’t been noticed before.”

It’s Real!

A real estate gender gap is real. Among the key findings, they discovered that when single women buy a house, they spend 2% more than do single men. When they sell, the percentage variance is the same—on average, single women receive 2% less. Considering the size of the typical home purchase, even a single percentage point is a meaningful sum. And you factor in the leverage created by a typical bank-financed mortgage, “the gap is amplified” to more than 7%—working out to a difference of $1,600 per year.

Interestingly, couples fall in between the median results for single men and single women. The authors admit that the end result of the gap is less significant than those raw facts imply. A “buy and hold” strategy in real estate is more often adopted by women—meaningfully shrinking the difference in the end results. For those who hold onto a home for ten years, for instance, “you’re taking the gap and dividing by 10”—meaning “your annual return difference is going to be very small.”

The Yale Insights article is worth reading—both for its surprise findings and takeaways. One of the authors, Dana Shure, is a woman who was surprised at the results—and who plans “to be more careful in future when buying a house!” That’s not just a sound attitude for a single woman—but for single men and for couples of all stripes. It may be a bit self-serving, but an action item for “being careful” when buying a house is to partner with a no-nonsense Realtor®.