Single Woman's Feathered Nest

Single women are buying homes in record numbers.

Sharon Millett, president of the National Association of Realtors, explains the nuts and bolts of this trend on CBS News The Early Show.

Single women all across the country have been quietly changing the landscape of the real estate market by purchasing homes of their own – even without men.

It's a trend that has been evolving for about 10 years and within the last two to three years, it has really taken off.

The following are the numbers according to the National Association of Realtors:

198710 percent of the home-buying market
1997 18 percent of the home-buying market
199720 percent of first-time buyers
Source: National Association of Realtors

Although married couples still make up the majority of the home-buying market, their share has been on a steady decline, from 79 percent in 1987 to 64 percent in 1997.

According the Census Bureau, the number of female homeowners, 25 to 29 years old, rose from 14 percent in 1993 to 18 percent in 1998.

In addition, the number of single women younger than 25 who owned homes jumped from 8 percent in 1993 to 13 percent in 1998.

A combination of factors are fueling single women's foray into home buying ranks, everything from their making it into higher income brackets to choosing college and career before marriage.

"Single women's expectations are different," Millett says. "They expect to buy a home. And I think they're better educated, therefore they have better jobs, more income. They're looking toward the future. They're looking for an investment. They're trying to provide for themselves."

Women whether divorced, separated, widowed or never before married are financially more grounded than they ever have been. And like their male counterparts, they recognize the financial and personal benefits of owning rather than renting.

The types of hmes that women are buying is diverse, Millett says. "It's across the board," she says, noting single women are buying very heavily in the upscale market, too.

Some of the contributing factors, according to Millett are:

  • Interest rates: They have been at a 30-year low.
  • A change in lenders' attitudes: With the ever-changing roles of families, lenders have learned that there is no difference whether you're giving money to a single woman or married couple. It's purely based on income and financial ability, Millett notes.
  • Government agency rule changes: Federal Housing Administration rules have changed to allow child support payments to be considered to be part of a single woman's income.

    Child-care costs are no longer counted as an expense. This makes a difference for single mothers, Millett notes.

    FHA and Fannie Mae now have a 3 percent down loan, says Millett. And private lenders are offering new products, including low down payments.