Canada's Condominium Magazine

Single women buying homes despite gender pay gap holding them back

There is more evidence that single women make up the largest home-buying group after married couples. A US mortgage company, MGIC, released new data showing that 18 per cent of home buyers are single women; 15 per cent are single men. Married couples form the largest group at 54 per cent. The MGIC research also shows that more women aged 18–24 go to college than men of the same age, and more millennial women have college degrees than men (38 per cent compared to 31 per cent). The National Association of Realtors says this shows that women are an economic force that “can’t be ignored.”

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Single millennial women make up the second largest group of home buyers in the United States. The numbers are similar in Canada. Source: MGIC

In Canada, the relative dominance of single women home buyers is even more pronounced. As of 2014, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation reported that 25 per cent of home buyers in Canada were single women, compared to 10 per cent single men.

While that seems a very positive sign, there is a very negative side to the story, a reality that is preventing women from fully realizing their potential, especially in Ontario. Home ownership, it turns out, is more profitable for single men than for single women. A different study by the US group RealtyTrac found that homes owned by single men were 10 per cent more valuable, on average, than homes owned by single women. Homes owned by single women appreciated in value by an average 16 per cent less than men’s homes, and women in the US tend to live in neighbourhoods with higher crime rates and more registered criminal offenders.

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Source: RealtyTrac

The reason for this unwelcome news is the dreaded, persistent gender pay gap, which shows up in the kinds of homes women buy, the locations they buy in, and the value of those homes. The reality is, women in the US earn 19 per cent less, on average, than men (2015), so their purchasing power is proportionally reduced.

In Ontario, the situation is even worse, according to the latest research from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Here the gender gap widens the higher up the pay ladder we climb. At the very lowest decile, men and women’s earnings are about the same, which is next to nothing. By the next step up, where the amount earned is well below $20,000, the gap is already 15 per cent in favour of men. At the highest level of income, the gap extends to 37 per cent, meaning that the best-paid women in Ontario earn $64,000 a year less than men in the same category. Overall, the gender pay gap in Ontario is close to 30 per cent.

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Differences in men’s and women’s earnings in Ontario by amount earned. Source: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

Ironically, the biggest earning gap by industry is in real estate. Men earn about twice as much as women in the real estate industry. The only sector in which men and women earn close to the same pay is retail.

Incredibly, it doesn’t matter how much education women have. Across the board, from basic high school diploma to graduate degree, men earn significantly more. Nor does age matter. In every age group, men earn more.

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Average earnings by occupation in Ontario (2013). Men earn more in every occupation. Only in retail is the gap nearly eliminated. Source: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

The Ontario study does not link the gender pay gap to women’s real estate buying practices, but it can be inferred that a single woman earning 25 per cent less money than a man would be able to afford less in a home, one reason that so many single women choose condominiums. Not only do they tend to be more affordable, but they offer a lower-maintenance lifestyle as well.

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