“Certainly in my fifteen years personal experience, there’s a lot more females coming into the marketplace than ever before,” says Craig Stephens, director of sales at Jas H Stephens real estate in Yarraville. “More than a quarter of sales we recorded in December were to single women”
This is a far cry from ten years ago, when the vast majority of ‘singles’ buying property, were males.
“Single men have had the confidence to buy real estate for a lot longer,” said Mr Stephens. “Today however, it’s very much the women doing the chasing – and in quite big numbers.”
There are several major factors contributing to this change.
The first is higher female wages, which is as much a function of equality in pay levels in the workplace, as it is women climbing the corporate ladder.
Being in full-time, professional employment made women attractive to banks, which were reluctant to loan women, particularly single women, money to buy a home, right through until the 1980s.
Experts say that the difficulty women found getting finance impacted the real estate market, as they were forced to stay in rented accommodation.
“Today however,” said Mr Stephens, “It is socially more acceptable to be a single woman buying property and the banks have come on board.”
By and large, Australian women are also getting married later, and delaying the decision to have children until their 30s – be it with or without a partner or husband
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the average woman has her first child at 31 years of age. This compares to the early 1980s when the average age women were having their first child, was 26.
Similarly, the number of children most women have according to the ABS has reduced, from 2.9 babies in the early 1980s, to 1.7 babies today.
This trend, along with an increase in child care centres, and support from major employers including the major banks and Telstra, means women are able to re-enter the workforce sooner after they have children – and stay in employment longer.
Agents say the most common female investor is the single first home buyer. She is typically aged between 25 and 35 and is upgrading from a rented house or apartment.
Budgets vary however, like professional single men, most women are prepared to pay between $200,000 and $400,000, for homes which can be lived in now and used as an investment later.
“Most women prefer new apartments as they represent better value, low maintenance and added security,” said Mr Stephens. “They are mostly working professionals in industries such as banking or law, and those working in Information Technology and the Arts.”
Agents say women better understand the mediums to finding property, and are more intuitive, especially when it comes to deciding how a property’s location will affect its future value, and ability to be rented.
They also know how to work the ‘open day circuit’ better than men, are very well organized and are IT savvy, according to Mr Stephens.
Web manager Grace Zielinski purchased her first home late last year, and picks up the keys next month. She waited until she was 34 before buying her first property, a fully renovated period home in the western suburb of Maidstone.
Grace said that after she made the commitment to buying a home two years ago, the biggest challenge was saving a deposit.
“Everytime I saved a bit more, the prices in the suburbs I wanted (Ascot Vale and Moonee Ponds) kept going up,” said Ms Zielinski. “I really didn’t see myself living in an apartment long term, so looked at the outskirts of the areas I wanted until I could find a house.”
“I did a bit of research on the demographic of Maidstone before committing to it, and found that about half the residents were in my age bracket,” said Ms Zielinski. “I figured if it was attracting a younger age group, it meant people were moving there so I was confident in the purchase.”
“It’s hard to save a deposit once you’ve lived a certain lifestyle for so long,” said Ms Zielinski. “You get used to things like the fancy pants dinners, and it becomes difficult to scale down in order to save a deposit.”
In the end, Grace moved in with her parents, with the money she had paid in rent going into her bank account for a deposit.
Agents say finding a deposit can be a lot harder for women, as it is for men – as many women believe their first home will be purchased with the help of a partner or husband, and spend up during their single days.
“From a financial point of view, women have seen the benefits and ease of getting into the property market, particularly in the west where you get the best value for your money,” said Mr Stephens. “With banks prepared to lend 100% finance for a house, women are finding that if they have a good income, there’s really no reason they shouldn’t get into the market.”
Case Study: Melissa Tumino
Melissa is an example of what a go-getting Generation Y real estate investor looks like.
At just 25, and after only 2 years in the professional workforce as a Business Analyst, Melissa bought her first investment property – a two bedroom apartment in Hawthorn.
“I saw a mortgage broker when I was 22 who told me I couldn’t borrow enough to buy into the areas I wanted, so I kept saving,” said Ms Tumino. “For a period there, I worked three jobs.”
Melissa says she wasn’t prepared to wait until a man came into her life, to get into the real estate industry.
“I always thought I’d buy my first property on my own,” said Ms Tumino. “And even though I met someone before buying the property, I proceeded with the purchase as it was something I really wanted to do on my own.”
“He was very supportive during the process and now it’s something we can both enjoy,” said Ms Tumino. “It will give us the leverage we need to buy a family home together in the next 18 months.”
Melissa researched the market and talked to specialists and other successful real estate investors, before narrowing her suburb list to Hawthorn, Kew, Fitzroy North and Parkville. She said she found the house hunting process long, confusing at times, but rewarding at the end.
“Once I had a good idea of what I was looking for, and spoke to enough people that I trusted, I found that I didn’t need to liaise with real estate agents too much,” said Ms Tumino.
She said it paid off to treat the process clinically, and not spend more than you are prepared even at auction.
Case Study: Rachael Buckland
A new unit in Albion, in Melbourne’s north-west, was how Rachael Buckland rewarded herself for her 30th birthday.
Originally from North Queensland, Rachael runs her own business – one which has seen her live in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne over the last six years.
Rachael says the mobility of her career stopped her from getting into the real estate market earlier, but that she wasn’t prepared to wait any longer to start building a property portfolio.
“The plus of waiting was that it gave me time to save for a house in Melbourne,” said Rachael. “Up until then I thought I might only have been able to afford Brisbane.”
Rachael said she looked for a place which she could use as an investment, as it’s a possibility she will be moving interstate in the next two years.
“The fact I wanted to keep the property as an investment affected the type of property I looked for,” said Rachael. “The unit I bought had the potential to be easily updated and this will increase its value, and the amount of rent I can get for it, when the time comes.”
Low maintenance, new homes are attracting young single women in Melbourne’s south-east too.
“There’s been a recent market trend towards young single women looking for quality homes,” said Greg Collins chief executive officer of Mirvac Victoria, which is marketing the latest stage of the Waverley Park project in Mulgrave.
“These young women have come from surrounding suburbs, wanting to buy a brand new home in their area so they could stay close to their family and friends,” said Mr Collins.
Though at the top end of the budget, a number of single women can afford up to spend $400,000 on a home, said Mr Collins. He added that buying a home off-the-plan is sweetened by stamp duty savings, which coupled with a first home buyer grant could save more than $25,000.