OPINION: More single women are homeowners, but obstacles still exist

Credit: Courtesy of Juanita Ramos

Credit: Courtesy of Juanita Ramos

In Georgia, single women own 12.8% of homes while men own 9.10%

Among Juanita “Juju” Ramos’ circle of women friends, homeownership is the rule rather than the exception.

Ramos, 37, recently purchased a new home in Douglasville. The house, situated on a lake with a porch and deck, cost $500,000. And, though she has owned three homes in the past, this is the first time she’s taken out a mortgage, she said.

She is single. A mother of two. And she decided a long time ago that living in an apartment would not be an option for her and her children.

“I grew up in foster care in New York City,” said Ramos, vice president of human resources for a tech firm. “I never had a family, let alone a house or assets. So it was a thing for me to provide my children with so much more than I had.”

Ramos is part of the ongoing trend in which women homeowners are outpacing their male counterparts nationally but also across Georgia.

There are 338,265 single women homeowners in Georgia compared to 240,369 single men, according to a Lending Tree analysis of 2021 Census Data. Single women own 12.8% of owner-occupied homes in Georgia, while men own 9.10%.

Real estate agents in Atlanta began noticing more single women applying for mortgages than single men almost 50 years ago, when the Equal Credit Opportunity Act outlawed sex discrimination in lending and home buying.

But, while the lending practices that required single women to jump through extraordinary hoops to qualify for a mortgage have declined, we shouldn’t delude ourselves into thinking obstacles no longer exist.

“To qualify for financing, there are certain requirements you have to meet, and employment and salary are a big chunk of that,” said Crystal Denson, a real estate agent with Village Premier Collection.

Salary is one area in which women still lag behind men.

In Georgia, a woman makes 81 cents for every dollar a man makes. And, in Atlanta, it’s only slightly better — women make 83 cents for every dollar men make, according to data from the Atlanta Regional Commission spanning 2015 to 2019.

The wage gap exists across every occupational category except farming, fishing and forestry — fields that don’t employ many women and represent few jobs in metro Atlanta.

The wage gap is still real, and that often results in higher loan amounts, longer loan tenures and higher interest rates.

Overcoming the obstacles that single women face on the road to homeownership requires creativity and sometimes sheer grit.

For the past two years, Denson said her single women clients have something else in common – many of them are divorced women without immediate access to cash, she said, often leaving them stuck in a holding pattern until their divorces provide them with the funds to purchase a home.

One of Denson’s clients, a single mother of three who was relocating to Atlanta, wanted to purchase a home but did not have cash for a down payment. She couldn’t get financing because she hadn’t spent enough time on her job.

Denson suggested a lease-purchase agreement, which allowed her to save money then purchase the home at a previously agreed upon price. The price she agreed to was $280,000. By the time the purchase happened, the home was valued at $400,000. “She has more than $100,000 equity in her home,” Denson said. “That is savings for her and her kids. She can refinance if she needs to in the future.”

Single women, said experts, are often more willing than single men to make the sacrifices that are needed to become homeowners.

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

For Ramos, a mortgage felt like a major undertaking.

“I had to pay bills for real. I had to learn how to budget. I had to get an accountant and listen to their advice so I can be successful,” she said.

Twice in her adult life, she has experienced unemployment, and she can’t rule out the prospect of it happening again.

“I am the sole provider for two kids. Buying this house meant I had to be conscientious about saving and investing and about work,” Ramos said.

Single women have made great strides in homeownership in the last 50 years, and that is something to celebrate. But that progress has occurred despite the challenges, not because obstacles for women no longer exist.

Read more on the Real Life blog (www.ajc.com/opinion/real-life-blog/) and find Nedra on Facebook (www.facebook.com/AJCRealLifeColumn) and Twitter (@nrhoneajc) or email her at nedra.rhone@ajc.com.