Jenn Pfeiffer
Subscribe to my Mailing List
Enter your email address below to stay in the loop with the latest Marin County real estate news, direct to your email inbox.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Buying Houses Before Finding Spouses - The Jenn Pfeiffer Team
post-template-default,single,single-post,postid-21492,single-format-standard,eltd-core-1.3,averly child-child-ver-1.0.1,averly-ver-1.9,,eltd-smooth-page-transitions,eltd-mimic-ajax,eltd-grid-1200,eltd-blog-installed,eltd-main-style1,eltd-disable-fullscreen-menu-opener,eltd-header-standard,eltd-sticky-header-on-scroll-down-up,eltd-default-mobile-header,eltd-sticky-up-mobile-header,eltd-dropdown-default,eltd-,eltd-enable-sidemenu-area-opener,eltd-side-menu-slide-with-content,eltd-width-370,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-6.9.0,vc_responsive

Buying Houses Before Finding Spouses

Buying Houses Before Finding Spouses

By Debra Kim| The New York Times

Single men traditionally get a head start in homeownership and reap the benefits faster, but single women are thinking creatively to close the gap.

Rachel Rodman always dreamed of owning her own home, but life kept getting in the way.

She became a mother at 19, then went through a complicated divorce that left her financially depleted. For many years, she felt resigned to renting with her son, James, now 14.

Ms. Rodman, 33, earns a steady income as an events producer for SXSW, the annual festival of creative arts and technology held in her hometown, Austin, Texas. Still, she never felt she had the financial resources to buy a house on her own. Then she began following two Austin real estate agents on social media, drawn to their woman-focused message: You can own a house before you find a spouse.

Those agents, Kristina Modares and Stephanie Douglass, point to their own path in real estate investing as proof.

At 24, Ms. Modares was single and living paycheck to paycheck, crammed into a rental house in Austin with multiple roommates and scraping by on $27,000 a year. Now, at 34, she owns five houses of her own.

At 25, Ms. Douglass was also single and strapped, working 11-hour days teaching elementary school math with bills piling up. When her landlord told her he was raising her rent, she was panicked that she wouldn’t be able to afford her home. Now, at 35, she also owns 19 houses of her own.

Those homes, they both say, have unlocked new revenue streams and offered them a path toward financial independence, one they hope to guide their clients down as well.

And that’s important, they say, because even though women have outpaced men in the U.S. housing market since the late 1990s, they aren’t profiting from it in proportion.

Headlines proclaiming that single women own 2.71 million more homes than single men tend to paint a picture of female empowerment. But women often falter at the negotiation table, researchers at Yale have found, and as a result continue to pay more for those houses, and to take home less when they sell them. The homeownership numbers can be attributed to societal factors, as well, like the fact that 80 percent of single-family households in the United States are headed by women, and that American women live an average of six years longer than their male counterparts — meaning many single women may own their homes only because their partners died.

Ms. Modares and Ms. Douglass say they want to help single women use homeownership to grow wealth. Both women had purchased their first homes and gotten their real estate licenses before they met on social media in 2016 and decided to join forces. In 2019, they founded a brokerage geared toward first-time female buyers, Open House Austin, and began building a devoted following on TikTok and Instagram. Their message: The path to homeownership isn’t a straight line, and women don’t need to wait to have a partner before becoming a homeowner.

Women who buy their first home without a partner do so later in life than their male counterparts, missing out on years of potential equity growth. “Historically, it’s men who have the conversations about money,” Ms. Douglass said. “It’s way less taboo in circles of men to talk about investing. So they get started earlier than women.”

Her group aims to close that gap with millennial and Gen Z women. “We’re really trying to push women to think creatively about what it means to buy a house,” Ms. Douglass said. “It doesn’t have to mean you’re settling down. It can be a key piece in freedom and wealth building.”

That creative thinking can extend to ways to cover the monthly mortgage payment — while being careful not to run afoul of local zoning regulations. On TikTok, Ms. Modares and Ms. Douglass share strategies for “house hacking,” or unlocking an extra stream of income from a home by renting out a portion of it. That can mean getting the permits and materials to erect a tiny house in the backyard, or building a “sneaky duplex” by adding an exterior door to a bedroom to give tenants a private entrance.

Ms. Modares and Ms. Douglass estimate that 80 percent of Open House Austin’s clients are women, and 50 percent of those women are unmarried. They often coach potential buyers, especially single women, to think outside traditional paradigms of homeownership. Buying a home with a friend can be a smart investment, they say, allowing pairs of single women to claim the same income advantages offered to couples. Ms. Modares herself has purchased eight homes with friends (and since sold three of them).

Some women aren’t interested in buying with friends, however. Ms. Rodman was one of them.

In May 2023, Ms. Modares and Ms. Douglass helped guide her through the home-buying process, connecting her with a female loan officer who suggested she employ a buydown — a mortgage financing technique where the buyer starts out with a lower interest rate, sometimes after paying a fee and sometimes as a concession from the seller. It’s a strategy that can help buyers save cash at the outset to get into a home, although they need to be prepared for costs to jump when the initial rate expires.

Ms. Rodman found a three-bedroom, two-bath bungalow with a sunroom in Austin for $498,000 and closed just before Memorial Day. She is now in the permitting process to transform the garage into an accessory dwelling unit she can repurpose — or “hack” — into a rental for extra income.

She has space for her violin and piano in the third bedroom, and her son, who is learning the guitar, enjoys practicing music there.

“I want to create my own income,” Ms. Rodman said. “I want to be financially independent. There’s definitely days when a pipe breaks or something and I wonder why I’m doing this on my own. But I’ve learned so much about myself and gained so much confidence. Because yeah, I could buy a house on my own. I did.”

No Comments

Leave a Comment