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Female Investors on the Rise

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RISMEDIA, July 3, 2007—(MCT)—The days are long gone when women waited for marriage to settle down and start nesting. 

Armed with ample cash and investment savvy, women are declaring their independence and buying condominiums, co-ops, townhouses and single-family homes in record numbers.

The percentage of women home buyers held steady at 15% to 17% since 1993, but in 2003, it jumped to 22%.

Cathy Whatley, immediate past president of the National Association of Realtors, [said] this jump makes single women the second largest category of home buyers behind married couples at 59%, and ahead of single men, at 19%.

In other words, single women are buying homes at twice the rate of single men.
“Women have more disposable income,” said Stephanie Foster, broker-owner of Stephanie Foster Real Estate in Brunswick, Georgia. “They’re seeing real estate as an investment.”

Sharon Rankin, to whom Foster recently sold a listing in the Watercrest subdivision on Blythe Island, is excited to have purchased her own home.

Rankin has a number of reasons why she chose the 2,510-square-foot, three bedroom, two and one-half bathroom traditional home in Watercrest.

“It’s a great area, across the highway from Blythe Island Regional Park, but close to town,” Rankin said. “It’s about eight miles from my office … no more Savannah traffic.”
Rankin is the new deputy-in-charge of U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Georgia.

She lived in Savannah for 27 years and worked for the bankruptcy court there for 24 of those.

“My daughter is in college,” she said. “With no family in Savannah, when (bankruptcy court) opened a satellite office in Brunswick, I volunteered to move.”

Rankin says women who purchase homes are doing so because economically, they are able.

“Now women are more educated and we’re getting jobs that permit us to purchase our own homes,” Rankin said.

Rankin said she had no desire for a condominium.

“A condo is just a glorified apartment,” Rankin said. “I don’t want to share wall space with anyone. I wanted my own space.”

Rankin also likes the safety of a house.

“I like the security of pulling into the garage and locking the door,” she said.

Foster, the real estate broker, says that sometimes agents are hesitant to show single women neighborhoods and perhaps erroneously steer them toward other choices.

But even if they are making high incomes and buying second homes or investment properties, single women in the upper price ranges still endure more scrutiny for their lifestyle choices than single men, analysts say.

“Most neighborhoods are built and designed to attract families,” Foster said. “As real estate agents, we need to realize that houses appeal to all types of people, including senior citizens, singles and couples with and without kids.”

Real estate analysts cite delayed marriages, greater financial freedom and a better home-buying market as contributing significantly to increased numbers of women buying houses, but add that high divorce rates also add to the demographic.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median marrying age in 2000 was 25.1, a considerable increase when compared with 20.8 in 1970.

And it cites other reasons as well for the increase in home purchases by women.

These days, 51% of all women in the United States live without a spouse and they account for 57% of all college graduates.

And, women live longer than men. Women between the ages of 50 and 70 are inheriting their parents’ wealth and many of them have, or have had, careers where they have accumulated their own money. If they were married at some point, many of them may also inherit, or obtain through a divorce settlement, a part of what their husbands have accumulated also.

While women continue to be under-represented as CEOs in Fortune 500 companies, an increasing number of small businesses are now owned and operated by women. A substantial number of these women work from home.

And, the National Association of Realtors reports that the prime years for first-time home buyers are between the ages of 30 and 35, the years when women are beginning to have the ability to buy a home.

Copyright © 2007, The Brunswick News, Ga.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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