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Women Taking (Home) Ownership

100 years of progress in homes and mortgages.

American women may have won the right to vote in 1920 with the ratification of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but it took another 54 years before they could claim independent access to credit, including home loans. When you consider the changing financial influence of women, particularly married women, during those 54 years, it’s hard to believe it took so long.

The good news is things have changed for the better. Single women have outpaced single men as homeowners, although there’s a financial disparity in average purchase and sale prices (more on this later). Women’s incomes are no longer discounted or disregarded simply because of marital status. And women have shown they’re better at paying their mortgages than men!

Sorry, ladies. You’ll need a man for that loan.

In 1930, about 50% of single women and about 12% of married women worked outside the home. By 1970, the percentage of single women was about the same, but the percentage of married women had jumped to 40%. Women who had traditionally only worked before marriage were now continuing to work, or returning to work after marriage. Unfortunately, this participation in the workforce didn’t influence lenders. Married women were generally not able obtain credit, including mortgages, except under their husbands’ names or with their husbands as a co-signers. Married women and their families suffered economically from another discriminatory practice. Lenders discounted their income in earnings calculations, reducing the loan amount and limiting their home choices. Finally, while unmarried women could obtain credit, banks often required a male co-signer.

Let’s hear it for ECOA!

A woman standing in her new home

The Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) was a gamechanger. Enacted in 1974, ECOA prohibited lenders from discriminating against borrowers based on sex, marital status, race, color, religion, national origin, or age. At last women could obtain credit cards, loans, and mortgages in their own names. Lenders couldn’t charge women a higher interest rate or demand a larger down payment. Women didn’t need co-signers as a matter of course. And lenders could not discount or refuse to include a woman’s earnings because of her gender or marital status. It didn’t solve everything, of course. The wage gap between men and women meant the average loan amounts women could qualify for were lower, and this is still the case today. In 2019, women working full-time, year-round, made 82.3 cents for every dollar a man made.

Women and credit today.

On average, women and men have almost identical credit scores, according to a 2020 Experian study. Men carry more debt overall, with the greatest disparities showing up in auto loans, personal loans, HELOCs (home equity lines of credit), and mortgages. Interestingly, student loans are the one type of debt where women owe more than men. These differences may be related to another finding mentioned in the study: women are more likely to take on debt when experiencing financial hardship, while men will take on debt for luxury purchases.

Women and homeownership.

In 2019, more than twice as many single women as single men bought homes (19% vs. 9%). In the 50 largest metropolitan areas of the country, single women own more homes than single men, with an average difference of 3.7%. That’s exciting news. However, there’s a marked disparity in the amount women pay for their homes (2% more on average) and in the amount women receive when they sell their homes (1.5% less on average). This gap may not sound like much, but when you consider the importance of homeownership in creating wealth, any loss can have a significant impact over time. Working with a real estate agent who knows the market and has studied comparable sales can help both buyers and sellers.

Women of CrossCountry Mortgage.

Founded in 2003, CrossCountry Mortgage entered the world of home lending long after ECOA became law. We treat every client with courtesy, respect, and fairness while providing a superior mortgage experience. We are proud of the women in our company. They work across all departments and fill a wide range of roles, including top leadership positions. In what is admittedly still a male-dominated profession, our female loan originators continue to break records and include some of the top producing loan officers in the country. And that’s a win for everyone!