June 1, 2006
Joint Center for Housing Studies, Harvard University
For decades, real estate and housing professionals have thought of the typical home buyer as a married couple, with or without children, either purchasing their first home or trading up as their families and needs grow. While married couples continue to make up a majority of home buyers today, a growing group of unmarried buyers has made the industry take notice. In particular, the rise in the fraction of unmarried female home buyers to one-fifth of the market has sparked interest in uncovering more about their characteristics, preferences and buying behavior, and how the industry can be responsive to this segment of the market. Yet, little is known about unmarried female homebuyers. Only a few surveys and studies have focused on the marital status and gender of home buyers, and even fewer have sought to identify theirs as a distinct market and consider the differences in their characteristics and motivations for buying homes. This paper seeks to take what information is available and describe unmarried female home buyers in more detail than has been previously done. This analysis will look at their characteristics relative to other buyers, their home purchasing behavior, their identified preferences, and finally, subsets of unmarried female buyers with distinct buying behaviors of their own.
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