Erin Woodlief Ellis would consider herself a natural saver, but it didn’t really cross her mind to save up for real estate till she watched her friend going through the homebuying process.

“I had been single and working for a few years and lived in apartments for a while, but then I had a friend who bought a house, so I was her roommate for a while,” Ellis told the Deseret News. “Seeing her go through the process of buying her own house made me realize it wasn’t so out of reach for me and that I could totally do this.”

Ellis moved into her place at the beginning of 2022, emphasizing that she felt lucky to have bought her home when interest rates were lower. After the COVID-19 pandemic, many Americans did not feel they had the savings to make such a purchase. According to CNN, “The percentage of Americans who said it was a bad time to buy a house climbed from just 36% in April 2019 to 69% by April 2022.”

As a single buyer, the homebuying process can be daunting, and the choice to buy or to stay renting is largely a financial one. Alex McEwen, founder of McEwen Realtors and a third-generation real estate agent in Salt Lake City, compares it to planting trees:

“They are both investments that have big payoffs over the long run, and the best time to do it is 10 years ago. The second best time to do it is now. An important caveat is that this advice only applies if you are not planning to sell for at least five years,” McEwen told the Deseret News.

“If you think you are highly likely to make a major life change soon such as getting married, and 1) there is a high chance that you will want to move once you get married, 2) the potential rental income on the house would not cover your mortgage payments, then it might be better to wait to buy a home. But in most cases, buying real estate as soon as it is feasible and holding on to it for as long as possible is one of the best moves you can make for your long-term financial health,” McEwen added.

The single homeowner gap

Right now, women make up the majority of single homeowners — by millions.

“Single women own 10.95 million homes, while single men own 8.24 million,” per LendingTree. That’s a 2.71 million difference. “Put another way, single women own an average of 12.93% of the owner-occupied homes across the 50 states, versus 10.22% among single men.”

LendingTree’s analysis of the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data found that single women own more homes than men in every state except Alaska, North Dakota and South Dakota. The analysis noted that although women generally earn less than men, they tend to be more willing to sacrifice their income for homeownership.

“For me, it was just about being creative and finding ways to make it affordable for myself,” Ellis said. “I’d been single long enough that it didn’t even matter whether I was a woman doing this on my own or not. The thought didn’t even occur to me that I couldn’t do something because I’m a woman.”

Another reason women outrank men in homeownership could be that they tend to outlive the opposite sex in nearly every society across the world.

In more developed countries, women have an average life expectancy of 79 years, while men have an average of 72 years, according to the Population Reference Bureau. In less developed countries, women can expect to live an average of 66 years compared to 63 years for men.


“The homeownership edge that single women have held over single men is due more to their numbers than their economic power. This is especially true among older Americans, who are more likely than younger people to own a home,” per Pew Research Center. “About 70% of single household heads ages 65 and older own their home, compared with 44% of single household heads ages 35 to 44.”

Utah home prices see slower growth amid national affordability crisis

Tips for single buyers

The current state of the housing market is daunting for anyone, let alone someone purchasing with a single income.

“Twenty percent of aspiring homeowners think they will never be able to save enough to purchase a home,” according to Bankrate. “The annual salary needed to purchase a median-priced home has increased over 50% in 22 states since January 2020 — with Montana, Utah, Tennessee, South Carolina and Arizona experiencing the biggest jumps.”

McEwen shared the following steps to take for single buyers looking to purchase a home:

  1. Consult with a reliable and experienced loan officer early on to obtain a good faith loan estimate. This will give you a clear idea of the approximate closing costs and your potential monthly payment.
  2. Establish a budget.
  3. Create a list of the top 10 features you want in a home and its location, ranked by priority. Consider if you could live without the bottom two or three features to stay within your budget. This exercise helps buyers focus on what’s truly important without overspending.
  4. Have a real estate professional explain all the steps in the process, including important contract dates and deadlines.
  5. When house hunting, limit your viewings to two or three homes per day to avoid fatigue and overwhelm.
  6. Only consider homes that meet at least six of your top 10 criteria and fall within 5%-7% of your established budget.
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