When it comes to home buying, women make as much as 91% of home buying decisions. So builders and their sales staffs need to understand who these women are and what they need and want.
Who They Are
Demographic insights about women who buy homes can be gleaned from the National Association of Realtors’ 2009 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers.
Couples — married and unmarried — make up the majority of home buyers, demographically speaking and because they are treated as a unit for the study’s purposes, the research doesn’t provide much insight into the female partner’s demographic characteristics.
Fortunately, however, the study does offer a wealth of demographic details about single women who bought homes in 2008. For instance:
- Single women bought 21% of the homes sold in 2008, more than twice as many as single men — who bought only 10% of homes overall.
- Single women were 25% of first-time home buyers in 2008 and 17% of repeat buyers — again, twice as many as single men in each category.
- The median age of single women home buyers was 41, according to the study, and their median income was $50,500, significantly lower than the $73,100 overall median income of home buyers, including couples.
- Drilling the data down, single women first-time buyers’ median age is 32 and their median income is $47,900; single women repeat buyers had a median age of 42 and a median income of $55,100.
What Women Want
The psychographics of woman home buyers will also help builders meet their needs with thoughtful, nuanced solutions to the problems and challenges they face in their everyday lives.
One relatively easy way to learn more about those problems, challenges and needs is to track hotly discussed trending topics through Twitter, which uses a shared shorthand that makes it easier for people to participate in and track conversations on particular topics. With Twitter, trending topics are preceded by a hash tag #.
- Research. According to Ketchum Marketing, 72% of all women research a major purchase prior to making it. This research can be especially intense with multi-tasking alpha moms or business women, who tend to apply their due diligence skills and habits to making their households’ biggest purchase — their home.Women are no longer satisfied with whatever information builders want to give them.If they can’t get quick and easy answers to their questions directly from the builder, they will use their social networks online to get them, on sites such as Trulia.com, where they can interface directly with other home buyers, home owners and local real estate salespeople.Builders should have a blog that allows and responds to questions and comments and should have one or more staff members dedicated to cultivating Facebook and Twitter followings and to ensuring that prospective buyers’ questions and concerns are addressed there in a timely, responsive and thorough manner.
- Credible Opinions. When it comes to making large purchases and financial decisions, women seek credible opinions about their options from trusted friends, family members, social networks and experts.This search has manifested itself in a marketing phenomenon called CR OPing — CRedible OPinions. According a recently released joint study by the women’s blog network, BlogHer, and iVillage and Compass Partners, 42 million American women participate in social media on a weekly basis.Women now make up the majority of users on Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. Interestingly, though, when study participants were asked which sources they relied upon for information on the topics that they were interested in, blogs outpaced social networks for both business and home and garden information.Whether for answers or opinions, blogs and social networks are the go-to sources for women who want to be home owners. To reach them, builders and their sales staffs must be active and present there, too.
- Family-Friendly Homes and Communities. A recent study by Coldwell Banker found that 55% of women buying homes would rather live closer to their extended family than to their job — versus 37% for men. So it’s no surprise that family-friendly home and community features hit a home run with women.However, don’t be too literal in thinking that “family” equals “kids.” Based on the 2006 Census, which reported that 45.1% of women under age 44 did not have children, there is ever-increasing recognition of the psychographic subgroup of women known as PANKS, or Professional Aunties Without Kids.When asked what defines success, 81% of women pointed to having healthy children and 79% of women’s answers included having well-adjusted children (77% mentioned freedom from debt).Some moms expressly declare their desire to have a home to hand down to their children. And the average mother believes that kids who grow up in homes their parents own do better educationally and socially than children who grow up in rental units.
However, given the recent foreclosure crisis, even the most alpha of moms is wary of overextending her family’s finances in order to buy. Mom home buyers want the stability of homeownership for their children, without the burden or dangers to their family of a super-sized mortgage.
- Walkability. Homes that are in highly walkable neighborhoods simply sell for more than — as much as $30,000 more than — their un-walkable counterparts. This is a feature of rapidly increasing interest to women buying homes.As women’s concern for their own health, their children’s health, the health of their budgets and the health of the planet have evolved, homes that are within walking distance to schools, parks and other amenities have grown in desirability.Walkability involves more than simple geographic proximity to these items, though. Factors such as the average distance between stores and the street and the accessibility of streets and sidewalks to all users — cyclists, wheelchairs, pedestrians and bus passengers — all factor into how walkable a neighborhood actually is.Builders wanting to lure women home buyers into their community should consider the walkability factors used by Walkscore.com to assign a walkability quotient to each address. Many of your women home buyers are checking the site before they come to your model homes.
Opportunities to Connect. Women have exceptionally well-developed deep limbic systems compared to men. This causes them to seek out deeper emotional connections.Single women have mastered the skill of fashioning a family of like-minded women. They tend to frequent seminars, workshops and ongoing group activities that they enjoy, especially when they know the event will offer an opportunity to connect with people like them.
For these reasons, event marketing can be a big draw for women and subdivisions with clubhouses or event spaces and organized activities should promote them to draw the female home buyer demographic.
- Safety. In the Coldwell Banker survey, 64% of women said security issues would be a deal-breaker for them — versus 51% of men.In another marketing study, 77% of the women who were asked about security issues replied that happiness included “living in a nice, safe community.”While every home owner appreciates safety, builders and sales staff working in communities and neighborhoods with stellar safety rankings or safety-promoting community features should emphasize these elements in their marketing to women buyers. (#Safety)
Tara-Nicholle Nelson is a real estate broker, attorney and founder of REThink Real Estate. She is also the author of “Trillion Dollar Women,” available at NAHB BuilderBooks. For more information, e-mail Nelson, or visit her web site at www.rethinkrealestate.com.
— from NAHB