Single Women’s Homeownership Rate Drops in Chicago After 6 Years of Growth

Single mom playing with her daughter

Purchasing a home has become increasingly challenging for many single women due to a variety of factors. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted plans and put searches on hold, while emergency expenses have drained savings. Moreover, the current state of the housing market has made it even more difficult for single women to purchase a home.

High housing prices in desirable neighborhoods

According to Zillow’s latest data, the national homeownership rate for single women between the ages of 25 and 35 has declined to 24.5% in 2022, down from 28.6% in 2021, while homeownership among single men in the same age range has increased by 2.7 percentage points to 33.1% in 2022. This disparity in homeownership rates can be attributed to lower salaries that women earn, making it challenging for them to afford the rising home prices.

Limited availability of affordable homes

The road to affordable homeownership has been an uphill battle for many single women, and it may take creative solutions or doubling up in a home to achieve that dream. As a result of their lower earnings, only 17.5% of homes listed for sale in the Chicago area in February were considered affordable to single women between the ages of 18 and 44. For single men, 23.4% of listed homes were affordable, as defined by Zillow as a mortgage payment that takes up no more than 30% of an individual’s income.

Financial responsibilities for single women with children

Real estate brokers like Jameelah Smith have observed that some of her clients, who are primarily single women, expect to be approved for mortgages that are larger than what they can realistically afford. Smith is currently working with five single women, all of whom have an adult child or parent co-signing with them so that they can afford more. On their own, they can only afford $200,000, but with an older child or parent, they can go up to $300,000.

Historically, women, especially women of color, have faced more challenges in achieving homeownership due to being denied financial services, decades of racist housing policies, the gender pay gap, and lower returns on their real estate investments. Although single women own more homes than single men nationally when taking out the age factor, the difficulties they face in achieving homeownership remain.

JaQara Booker, a 39-year-old mother of two, is one of the many single women facing these challenges. She currently owns a two-flat in Bridgeport and has been searching for a single-family home since the latter half of last year. She aims to move into a new house with her children and keep the two-flat as an investment property. However, she is struggling to find a house that meets all her requirements, including a safe neighborhood, good schools, modernization, space, and affordability.

Competition in the housing market

The housing market in Chicago has been a challenging space for many aspiring homeowners, particularly for single women with children. With the pandemic’s impact still lingering, the housing supply is low, and prices are soaring, making it harder for buyers to find affordable options. The marketing professional and entrepreneur mentioned in this report is looking for a three-bedroom home in the Bronzeville or Hyde Park neighborhoods, with a budget of $475,000 to $485,000. While new constructions are popping up in these areas, many homes exceed her budget, forcing her to make difficult choices.

Difficulties in saving for a down payment

According to Urban Institute data, the historically low mortgage rates in 2020 and 2021 saw more Black and Latino households, primarily led by women, pursue homeownership. However, with mortgage rates climbing back up in 2022, it has become even harder for women with children, who already face greater financial expenses, to save for a down payment. Rent prices have also gone up, making it challenging to save for a home.

Lynnette Cheatham, a 46-year-old accountant, is one of the few single women who have been successful in buying a home. She sold her Bronzeville condo in September 2021 for around $375,000 and began renting while she searched for a single-family home, primarily in the suburbs. After spending at least 10 weekends going to dozens of open houses, Cheatham lost out on four homes before finally buying a three-bedroom house in Oak Lawn for $324,000 in August 2022.

Importance of credit score and down payment assistance

Cheatham advises other single women looking to buy a home to establish a stable and high credit score, seek down payment assistance, build emergency savings, and walk away from deals that don’t feel right. She also stresses the importance of patience and trusting one’s instincts while house hunting.

With a budget of up to $350,000, she hopes to find a single-family home or townhouse in Hyde Park or Bronzeville, where many of her friends live. However, she acknowledges that prices in those areas are currently too high and that she also has to consider the needs of her elderly father and brother with special needs. Despite the challenges, Okakpu remains determined to find a home within a year.