Once the hottest trend in real estate, single homebuyers find themselves trapped between soaring rents and stiff underwriting standards that make it tough for a single income-earner to qualify for mortgages that buy homes that will cost more tomorrow than they do today.
In 2001, 27 percent of all homes were purchased by single homebuyers the real estate industry, from builders to brokers, catered to the new market with security features, gourmet kitchens and yards with little or no maintenance required, and sales promotions targeted at single buyers.
However, the salad days of single buyers apparently are over. For 2012, the National Association of Realtors reported the highest share of married couples and the lowest share of single buyers since 2001. Sixty-five percent of recent home buyers were married couples-the highest share since 2001. Sixteen percent of recent home buyers were single females-the lowest share since 2001.
Women always have dominated the single buyers’ market and they may be suffering most from a combinations and economic and political forces that have trapped singles into rental units at a time when rents are rising rapidly as vacancy rates reach history lows or 4.5 percent or lower. Today’s potential single buyer faces serious hurdles.
1. A sputtering economic recovery has made it difficult for first-time buyers to afford homeownership. The 2011 American median household income was 1.13 percent lower than what it was 12 years ago. Single buyers are actually slightly older than married buyers (46 for men, 48 for women compared to 42 for married couples) but have only a single income to pay the costs of homeownership. Some 47.5 percent of couples have dual incomes.
2. Tougher mortgage underwriting standards result in only about 60 percent of all purchase applications being approved. FICO scores, income to debt ratios and documentation requirements are tougher than six years ago. Single buyers, generally have greater difficulties meeting these requirements without the help of a co-signer.