Single Women Plunge Into Real Estate

In a trend that is changing the landscape of the real estate market, single women are becoming homeowners at a rate never seen before.

It's a trend that is reversing the traditional pattern, in which women wait to get married before taking the plunge into the housing market.

Mariela Azcuy is 29 years old and single. Three months ago, she gave up her rented apartment in New York City and bought her very own one bedroom. She needed a five-year adjustable rate and 30-year fixed rate mortgage to afford it. But the financial burden doesn't scare her. She sees it as an accomplishment.

"It makes me think I made a smart financial decision and I'm on my way to making other smart financial decisions in my future," Azcuy said. "It's one of the most satisfying things I've ever done."

And Azcuy is in good company. Judith Lief is a realtor in New York City and says about 30 percent of her clients are single women, while few are single men.

"It's a ratio of about five to one, single women to single men looking (for homes)," she says.

The Early Show investigated the trend Monday morning, with the help of Vera Gibbons, special correspondent for Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine.

She said that last year, 1.5 million homes were sold to single women.

"Nearly twice as many homes as were sold to single men," she told co-anchor Rene Syler. And there's "no sign of this trend slowing down," she says. "Fannie Mae is estimating by 2010 as many as 31 million single women will be homeowners. That accounts for 28 percent of all U.S. households."

As to why this has become a growing trend, Gibbons says there are a few factors at work. For one, single women appear to be more inclined to "nest" than single men. Another factor is the social change that comes from women gaining financial clout in the workforce.

"Women are much more independent today," Gibbons told Syler. "We are marrying later, that is, if we choose to marry at all. We are much less reliant on the man to be the provider because we have our own money, more money than ever because we are college educated. We are in the work force."

In addition to the financial benefits of owning a home, Gibbons also speaks of the personal satisfaction.

"For a single woman, in particular, it provides us with this huge sense of accomplishment, personal security, financial security, it's a big thing. But it's a good thing," she said.

Before taking the plunge, however, Gibbons says women should figure out if it makes financial sense.

"It's not right for everyone," she pointed out, particularly if you are only planning to be in the new home for a couple of years. "By the time you add up the closing costs, 3 to 6 percent of the purchase price, decorating costs, moving costs, it's going to take you a minimum of three years to recoup these costs.

"If you are thinking of long-term, you're going to stay in the place three, five, 10 years, if not longer, and you can make it all work, it may make perfect financial sense."

Also adding to the allure is that real estate developers, catching on to the trend of single women joining the market, are now building homes with this particular buyer in mind.

"Many single women find the transition from apartment to townhouse or condo ideal because you don't have to shovel the snow or mow the lawn," she said. "You've got the amenities single women like, like the gym, the pool, the game room. In fact, a lot of builders are building with the single woman in mind, adding on the extra security, the energy efficient appliances, the pretty courtyards."