CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Jan. 11, 2010 – For a number of reasons, both financial and personal, a growing number of men are shunning the revered institution of homeownership. The figures behind this phenomenon only hint at possible reasons.
A comprehensive nationwide study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Center for Community Capital found that men and women under age 40 report fairly comparable levels of contentment with homeownership. Yet the attitudes of bachelors and bachelorettes hint at underlying gender attitudes toward homeownership. Married couples comprise the majority of new homebuyers.
According to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), the next-largest buying group is single women, who in the past year accounted for more than one in five home sales; single men represented just 10 percent.
The gap has widened since the turn of the century, confirms Paul Bishop, NAR’s vice president for research. Bishop’s survey leaves unanswered questions about the roots of the gender divide. Whatever the reasons, a number of men seem to grasp all too well what economists see as an enigma of homeownership: it has an asset, or investment, value, as well as a consumption value.
“Once upon a time, people bought houses to live in,” says UCLA geography professor William Clark, who writes frequently on homeownership. Today, “with the sudden run-up in foreclosures, you’re starting to see people ask: ‘Is housing a good investment?’” he explains.