Where are "All the Single Ladies"? Fair Housing Edition

As featured in Realtor Magazine.  

Image by Victoria_Regen from Pixabay 

Can a classic Beyoncé Song help end the stigma of single homeownership? I think so and here's how.

"I didn't know I could buy a house without a man."

"I want to wait until I get married to buy a home."

"I'm afraid to intimidate any potential suitors."

"If she buys a house before she gets married, she will likely die alone; surrounded by cats."

"I want to be like my parents: as a couple, they bought their dream home that had a red door and white picket fence. I can't afford my dream home alone."

Those are all direct quotes from community members shared since 2020 (although they seem like they could be from the 1970s).

There are a myriad of reasons why surveys (see below) have found that women buy fewer and smaller homes than men (including the gender pay gap or women having their expertise undermined); but, I will focus on a deleterious sentiment that likely undergirds the above quotes. This stance is fifty years past its prime and has yet to die: "It is not proper for women to buy homes alone".

Survey Says: “All the single ladies, (it’s okay to) put your hands up” 
Dr. Lee was interviewed by GoBankingRates and featured in Yahoo! Finance.

 A GOBankingRates 2023 survey found:

  • Women are less likely to own a home than men 

    • One third (33%) of women don't own a house 

    • Versus one fifth (21%) of men

  • Women are also slightly more likely to never own a home 

    • 7%of women because they can't afford one and 10% because they don't want one 

    • Versus 6% of men who can't afford one and 8% who don't want one

  • Of those who do own a home, women are more likely to own a less expensive home  

    • 47% of women spent $200K or less on their homes 

    • Versus 30% of men

  •  To add insult to injury, of those who do own a home, women are more likely to buy it for more (2%) but sell it for less (2%) than men 

These results are important not because women are competing with men. Rather, women make up the majority in many communities (single or not) and should be able to exercise their fair housing (and fair lending) rights –  rights that determine their access and opportunity to medical, educational, food and other resources as well as wealth and generational legacy.

The U.S. Census found:

  • In 1970, 28% of the U.S. population was single (aged 18 or older; divorced, widowed and never married).

  • In 2021, 48% (basically half) of the U.S. population was single (with 63% never having been married).

Why does this matter? Almost half of the adult U.S. population is now single; however, single women still feel the heat and are stigmatized for homeownership, which may minimize our financial freedom.

How Have Laws Changed: “I need no permission”... “I’m doing my own thing”

  • 1974 was the first year women could get a regular line of credit without a husband or father co-signer (The Equal Credit Opportunity Act).

  • 1988 was the first year women could get a business loan without a husband or father co-signer (Women's Business Ownership Act).

Yes, in the last fifty years, laws have changed. But the stigma and corresponding troupes and myths are slow to die. 

This is especially the case for those of us that defer to traditionalist communities (yes, I am looking at some churches/religious organizations that conflate outdated laws with proper order and femininity). 

It is also all to easy to stumble across such enduring notions on social media.  As a REALTOR® and fair housing advocacy educator, I have quite a bit of experiential data like the quotes above beyond the condemning manosphere (I do not have to name names) that has become popular on social media.

Wealth Building Practice: “Don't be mad once you see that he wants it”

To make it plain: Being a renter is not a pillar of feminine piety. It should be a financial strategy -- renting makes sense at times and so does owning. Real estate can be an investment vehicle. We have to live somewhere as single women and if you already live alone, why not get some form of return on your housing expenses? 

You are likely paying someone's mortgage – it might as well be your own!

I'm thankful that I come from a real estate investor family so I was encouraged to buy young. I bought my first real estate property after graduating from college. I was able to use the equity from that property to buy my first, income-producing apartment building. 

Despite my promptings and real-life example, I remember some of my single women friends saying that they wanted to wait until they got married to buy homes although it was a buyer's market at the time (had it been a seller's market, I would not have been so adamant). I emphasize my women friends because my guy friends were with it – some even felt they would be more attractive to a potential mate by owning a home. 

In other words, homeownership distinguished the guys but some (not all) of the women felt they would exude "masculine energy" and diminish "feminine energy".

I repeat: Real estate is an investment vehicle not a pillar of gender identity or expression.

As we have gotten older, those of that friend group that invested in real estate young (starting with our first homes), were able to cash out on the appreciation and/or income (some of my girl pals bought duplexes in order to live on one side and rent out the other). While those that did not, sadly struggled as income (raises, bonuses, etc.) has not kept up with inflation or has been interrupted (layoffs, hefty expenses like childcare or ailing partners or parents, etc.). 

Specifically, I have had various (some rare and befuddling) health challenges (despite being a “gym rat” and a healthy eater) that have required me to see numerous, expensive specialists. Even with insurance, I have spent a fortune liquidating my real estate assets to ensure I had the best possible care. I'm grateful that simply taking the first step to buy my first home after college may have been the thing that saved my life by giving me the financial boost and cushion to pay over a decade's worth of expensive, sporadic (based on the whims of my body) doctor bills. 

N.A.R. data supports my experiential findings. Wealth Building Data from N.A.R.:

  • Low-income homeowners built $98,900 in wealth and upper-income households built $150,800 in wealth from home appreciation since 2012.⁣ ⁣ 

  • Black homeowners experienced the smallest wealth gains among all racial/ethnic groups (appraisal bias is one restricting hurdle) but were able to accumulate more than $115,000 on average in wealth in the last decade.⁣ ⁣ 

  • Homeowners who benefited from home price appreciation in the last decade were able to drop their debt by 21%.⁣ ⁣

Here are my takeaways from N.A.R.’s data:

1) Homeownership can make the difference for many of us between having financial breathing room or losing our “shirts” as life happens.

2) With returns like these (despite inequities and unfair housing), homeownership is still one of the best ways for most people to reduce (or stay out of in my case) debt and build wealth.

3) Appraisal bias, redlining, and other forms of unfair housing can impact a homeowner’s ROI so there is a need for more real estate pros to proactively advocate for fair housing and fair lending (see the tips below).⁣

Proactivity Matters: “If you liked it then you should have…”

As “Fair Housing DECODERS©” (what I like to call real estate, mortgage, and appraisal pros that are committed to advocating for access and opportunity in housing for all) let’s dead the stigma of homeownership for single ladies. 


  • We are never excluding anyone but we can absolutely hold, for example, our homeownership seminars at and for local women's clubs (in addition to our standard places). 

  • We can partner with local fair housing centers (committed to fair housing for all) by providing donations, fundraising, and volunteering as testers. 

  • We can partner with or even offer pro bono housing services to women’s centers (including domestic violence centers, etc.). 

  • We can sponsor and provide homeownership workshops for single adult meetups, book clubs and other groups in our areas.

  • We can partner with women's colleges (like Spelman, Agnes Scott, and others) and local chapters of Girls, Inc., Girl Scouts, and other young-women-focused community organizations (along with their male counterparts – remember this is not about exclusion but about offering proactive opportunity) to:

    • teach about homeownership, 

    • Offer real estate internships/fellowships and 

    • whatever else you can dream up that provides housing access and opportunity (within the confines of laws).

Sound off -
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