For generations, women have struggled for the right to own their homes but this is rapidly changing as they become more financially independent.
For the past few years, single women have been rivalling single men in homeownership. It’s the gender gap you don’t hear much about, yet the trend seems to be accelerating.
Women are also emerging as the primary home loan applicant in many instances because they often are the higher earner in the household. Statistics show the number of women purchasing homes in their own right is increasing at a faster rate than men, so now more single women own properties than single men.
Lightstone Property figures show 27% of property owners in 2019 were single women compared to 26% that were single men. In 2014, these figures were 18% and 20%, respectively.
It seems women are buying homes to provide security, to help build generational wealth and as a productive use of their financial resources. For many generations, women have struggled for the right to own property and it has been especially tough for black women married under customary law.
It was only in 2018 that the Constitutional Court recognised the rights of all women to own land and ruled that a section of the Upgrading of Land Tenure Rights Act – the apartheid-era law that only recognised men as the heads of family and legal land owners – was unconstitutional.
It is not clear when the first South African women were able to apply for home loans in their own right but Steven Barker, head of lending products at the Standard Bank, says the Standard Building Society granted a number of loans to women in the 1970s.
“The percentage of single female applicants has grown over time and is now quite similar to the percentage of single male applicants. Both were at an average level of 30% for the past six months.”
He says more than 40% of home loans granted are to women as the single or primary applicant (in joint applications). Erwin Rode of Rode & Associates says the increasing number of female homeowners could be attributed to the psychology of women having a higher need for security and stability, particularly single mothers.
FNB Home Finance data shows women are “catching up to men in all aspects of homeownership, including investment”, says head of growth, Buyisile Maseko.
“From 2016 to 2018, single female buyers showed significant growth, surging from 22% to 28%, while single male buyers recorded a 2% increase from 27% to 29%. Neelan Naidoo, acting head of credit at Ithala Bank in KZN, says 52.7% of its home loan customers are single men and 47% single women.
Interestingly, he notes, women are considered to be a slightly lower risk than men when it comes to making their bond repayments. “Women have a 4.1% default rate and men have a 6.56% default rate on home loans.” Even though women are considered lower risk, Ithala does not give preference to home loan applicants based on gender.
FNB, Absa and Standard Bank confirm that their algorithms are based on applicants’ affordability and credit history, and not age, race, or gender. Men are now also more likely to co-sign home loan applications with women as many earn salaries equal to men, Naidoo says.
Co-signing a home loan with a partner means more income is considered in the affordability assessment calculation, which in turn means a higher loan facility can be granted.
“Women today also have better payment profiles than they did in the past because they are now more financially active and financially literate than they used to be,” Naidoo says.
Barker adds that the primary home loan applicant is often a woman and this is because many earn more than their male partners. Citing economic date from TheGlobalEconomy. com, Leadhome chief executive Marcél du Toit says female labour force participation has risen from 41.41% in 1990 to 49.61% in 2019.
“Today, there are more women in the workplace than ever before, and they’re buying homes, no matter the size of their salaries… “Even when they buy jointly with their partners, the data suggests that women increasingly have influence and decision-making power, in addition to buying power.”
Statistics on who owns what
In 2020, so far, a total of 25 815 properties have been bought by women, either on their own or with a partner, Lightstone data reveals. Most of these properties (14 725) were for under R1 million while 9 396 were priced from R1m to R2.5m.
Almost 1 700 properties bought by women this year were priced above R2.5m. Of the total number of properties that have been purchased by women in 2020, single women own 11 433.
Brandmapp statistics for 2020 show that, in the higher household income brackets – R10 000-plus a month – 51.12% of home owners are women, compared to 48.88% of men.
Among this category of property owners, the data shows women account for:
- 38.54% of commercial property owners.
- 34.23% of farm or smallholding owners.
- 43.05% of free-standing home owners.
- 48.69% of apartment owners.
- 49.03% of holiday home owners.
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