Single women lose out in the housing market, whether they buy or sell, according to a recent study by Kelly Shue and Paul Goldsmith-Pinkham of the Yale School of Management.
Analyzing data from over 50 million home sales between 1991 and 2017, researchers found that single women on average pay 2% more for the same home than a single man and sell 2% less.
“We find that women buy properties when they are listed at higher relative prices, and also choose to list at lower relative prices,” the researchers write. “Plus, women negotiate larger discounts off the sale price.”
The study controlled for age, listing agent, income, type of house, ethnicity, education, and many other factors, and consistently found that overall, women lost 1 $ 370 a year for their house, compared to men, Shue told NPR.
Over time, women potentially lose tens of thousands of dollars over the course of their lifetimes, not to mention what they would earn if they invested that money in the stock market.
This has serious implications for a woman’s finances as a whole: Real estate wealth makes up the majority of the wealth of most households in the United States, according to Shue and Goldsmith-Pinkham, with Americans investing more in the housing market. housing than in shares.
When women lose in the housing market, it affects their ability to save for retirement and meet other financial goals.
The gender gap in negotiation
The researchers note that there is ample evidence to suggest that women are generally less successful in negotiations than men. And that applies to negotiating the list price of their homes, according to the study.
“Women negotiate smaller discounts off the sale price when buying and offer larger discounts when selling,” the researchers write. In fact, house prices are highest when the seller is male and the buyer is female, and lowest when the buyer is male and the seller is female.
Researchers say this isn’t necessarily because women are less sophisticated negotiators, but rather because they are penalized for “bending over” and even negotiating.
“People are more offended by low-end offers from buyers,” Shue told NPR. Our culture “can expect women to be more willing to share the pie and share in the bargaining surplus.”
In fact, just knowing the gender of the other party to the negotiation can affect the sale price, according to the report.
How to close the gap
To close the gap, the study’s authors suggested on NPR that women view the home as a long-term investment. The longer the house is owned, the smaller the difference in annual return between men and women. In other words, women begin to get back some of the money they “lost” in the home transaction.
“The gender gap in housing returns is larger for homeowners with shorter tenancies on their properties because they ‘swap’ assets more often,” the researchers say, so that the price at which they buy or sell has a much larger effect on their long term return.
Another important strategy is to look for comparable listing prices and match them, as women tend to list their homes for less than men, on average.
Overall, however, the researchers note that much of the gap relates to the timing of the market, or when and where women and men choose to buy and sell.
“Women earn lower returns on housing in part because they tend to buy when overall house prices are high and sell when they are low,” they write.
The gap almost disappears when the housing market is tight, according to the study. Obviously, it’s nearly impossible to time a market, but researchers suggest it’s a good time for women to buy or sell when the economy is doing well, if they can wait until then.
Of course, that’s easier said than done. Just waiting for better market conditions isn’t something many single women can or will do, Skylar Olsen, director of economic research at Zillow, told CNBC Make It.
Single women are more likely to be parents than single men and, in general, women are more likely to consider other non-economic factors when buying or selling, such as the type of house, the number of rooms, proximity to good schools, etc. , she says.
“Women may be more likely to make family decisions that are not about a financial decision, but a life decision,” says Olsen.
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