Co-Founder of Right Key Mortgage, LLC. Oversees the company’s sales team in six states. Investor and founder of KK Real Estate Investments.
When I think of these uncertain times we live in, and this new age of social awakening, I think about being a successful woman in the real estate industry.
I have accomplished so much in my career so far. At 12, I immigrated to the U.S. At 16, I became a mother and had to drop out of school. Undeterred, I got my GED and then worked my way through college. I earned my bachelor’s degree and found my way into real estate. Through many years of hard work, I founded Right Key Mortgage, which today conducts business in six states and employs over 30 people.
Despite all my accomplishments, I sometimes feel that my story is more the exception than the norm. Women have made huge advances in higher education and in the workforce. There are some very positive numbers to back this up. Unfortunately, within the mortgage industry, this progress is less apparent.
Mortgage originator jobs are dominated by men. In 2018, 40.2% of mortgage originators were women, up slightly from 39% the year before. As a matter of fact, I was the only woman in Massachusetts on the Scotsman Guide’s 2019 list of top mortgage originators.
This is relevant because as an industry, we need to represent the demographics of our customers. And those customers are increasingly women. I love this; however, the devil is in the details. There are still many challenges that women homebuyers face. I’d like to discuss some of the positive real estate trends I’m seeing for women, but also the gap that still needs to be closed.
The Positive Trends
First, the positive trends: According to the National Association of Realtors, single women are the second-largest group of homebuyers, surpassed only by married couples. Single women were responsible for nearly 20% of home purchases in 2019, while single men accounted for 9%.
A joint report by real estate technology companies Better.com and Compass provides some interesting statistics as well:
• In the last year, Better.com’s mortgage arm saw a 4.5-times increase in single women borrowers between 30 and 40 years old who make between $10,000 and $20,000 monthly, and a five-times increase in single minority women borrowers.
• Even more interesting is women’s financial position within relationships and marriages: Of the Compass agents surveyed, 80% said they’d seen an increase in women as the primary source of income when couples bought homes. Over the last year, about 33% of married women who received loans from Better.com didn’t include their spouses on the applications. And among married women co-borrowers, the majority made more money than their co-borrowing husbands — the women earned an average of $5,666 monthly, while the men earned $3,035.
What’s driving these trends? Digital lending tools appear to be one thing. Pro Builder reports that “women and minorities are turning toward virtual lenders for their mortgages, and for good reason: Digital, algorithm-based mortgage lenders discriminate about 40 percent less than traditional mortgage companies.”
As encouraging as this data is, it appears that a gender gap persists when it comes to home value. According to Women in the Housing & Real Estate Ecosystem (NAWRB), single men’s homes are worth 10% more than single women’s, and single men’s homes appreciate 16% faster.
Why is this? I think it’s due to persistent systemic discrimination against women that we are slowly shedding as we move away from the inequality of the past.
Embracing Change And Closing The Gap
As real estate professionals, I think we must provide the necessary support and educate our female buyers on the homebuying process so we can empower them and help fill this gap. Anyone that has the right information can make smart financial decisions; therefore, making this information more accessible will provide the support needed to help more female buyers feel confident to buy homes alone. First-time homebuyer courses or a good starter investment book can provide some of the basic information needed to understand the process and avoid financial mistakes.
A lot of local lending companies are now offering free financial webinars to help potential buyers learn about the mortgage process and how it can affect your financial future. Knowledge is power, and I think the real estate industry should be giving women the necessary tools to achieve their homeownership goals on the same level as men.
Understanding our customers is as important as representing them. I see my role in this industry as doing both. I believe that forward-facing professionals in our industry should be focusing on women homeowners — specifically single women and female heads of households. There is an opportunity for growth, and we need to embrace the many positive trends for women while closing the gaps created by social inequality.
It is time that we as professionals stop focusing so much on the numbers and start caring about people and their needs. It is time for us to focus on communities that need our support so we can help lift them up. We all play a role in this, and I look forward to undertaking this challenge and making a positive change. I hope you will do the same.