An increasing number of women are buying homes without the help of a man thanks to an increased focus from lenders and record-low mortgage rates. Kristy Nied, 26, bought a condominium in Scottsdale in January. After some coaxing from her parents, she decided the low mortgage rates made it a great time to buy.
She had planned to save more money before she purchased her first home.
"They pushed me a little bit, but I met with a Realtor and her mortgage contact and they outlined how easy it was," Nied said. She said some of her friends still rent, but she was ready for something new and different in her life. "You don't have to follow the exact order of get married, buy a house and have a baby," she said. "Sometimes life just happens."
Her best advice: "Find someone whose been through the process who can coach you so there aren't any surprises."
More women are entering the work force and the income disparity has diminished, which help women-headed households buy homes, said Gopal Ahluwalia, analyst with the National Association of Home Builders. In 2001, about 68 percent of households owned a home and about 59 percent of women-headed households owned a home, according to association data.
"Women by far are very unrepresented in homeownership," said Judy Majors, senior business manager with Fannie Mae's community partners
division. "They're some figures we're very concerned about."
Fannie Mae, the No. 1 backer of mortgages, has launched several initiatives to increase homeownership among women. Because of Fair Housing laws, there are no programs that are only available to women because that would be gender discrimination. Rather, nonprofit organizations, lenders and Fannie Mae have been working to increase awareness of mortgage products that might be helpful to women and create frequently-asked question sheets. Between 2000 and 2010, Fannie Mae has a $2 trillion commitment to increase homeownership with under-served groups such as women-headed households and minorities.
During this decade, Fannie Mae is trying to increase homeownership awareness to 1 million women-headed households. Since the commitment was announced two years ago, $68 billion in loans was financed to women-headed households to buy homes.
"There's a lot of barriers to homeownership in general," Majors said. "Women face unique and challenging barriers and experiences."
Some examples include lack of credit, less education, divorce, less income and financial assets than men. Women often rely on other income sources than the traditional 40-hour per week paycheck, too, she said. Fannie Mae works with its lenders to make sure they are aware of nontraditional income sources such as part-time job income, alimony, child support, foster care money and Social Security benefits.
Luisa Reyes, 28, purchased her a condominium in Phoenix a few weeks ago. She said she'd been saving up and was waiting to finish her master's degree. "If you're ready to stay in the same place for a couple of years and financially if you have a stable job, go ahead and get it," Reyes said.