Women's home ownership on the rise?

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House and money on the scale with happy young woman

Women owning property as part of financial awareness

By: Yip Wai Fong

There are more women owning homes than men, despite them earning less than men. In 2023, a study by licensed mortgage broker LendingTree revealed that more homes were owned by single women compared to men. Using data from the 2022 United States’ (US) Census, the study found that across the US, single women own a total of 10.95 million homes while single men own 8.24 million units. 

Moreover, there was an uptrend observed, where the gap in home ownership between single women and men has increased by 70,000 units since 2021. However, the study also noted that as the median income of US women is only 83% of men’s, the findings do not mean that the women home owners were financially better off than male home owners. 

More Malaysian women own properties

Across the oceans in Malaysia, where national home ownership is widely reported to be at 76.9% in 2019, there is a glaring lack of granular data on home ownership across genders. The national discourse on home ownership is that it is largely a national agenda that cuts across genders; promoting home ownership among women is neither recognised as a measure to level out the economic disparity between genders nor as a tool of women empowerment. 

But despite the lack of data, women may account for a larger share of home owners in Malaysia despite earning less than men, as women earn on average only 66% to those of men, according to the Statistics Department. But with more women gaining access to higher education and subsequently entering the workforce, they also have been able to afford a home of their own. Property lawyer Fifi Natasya, a partner at Tan Norizan and Associates who has specialised in loan service for 19 years, observed that women home ownership has increased remarkably over the years, be it as joint owner or sole owner. 

“Women do not shy away from property ownership. Many of them are rightful owners of properties including as sole owners. Some of them are beneficiaries of a transfer by their spouse or family members,” she said. “As many of them are earning their own income, they also become the owners of houses too.” 

Women also become the joint owners of properties with their spouses without necessarily being encumbered by a mortgage, a strategy that allows the female to use the extra leverage to finance more properties, observed Diligent Planners sales director Vince Chia, a mortgage specialist. 

“Ladies are smart nowadays. If the (banks deem) that the husband’s income is sufficient to afford the loan, the wife will not be a party to the loan. With such an arrangement, the ladies can maximise the number of properties owned, since the third housing loan is capped at a 70% financing margin,” said Chia.  

Although the young and singles are more likely to be affected by the slow wage growth in Malaysia, single women still tend to put home ownership as a priority compared to single men, said Natasya. 

“The way I observe it, there are more single women buying homes than single men. For single men, they seem to be more interested in car purchases. But for single women, a home purchase is a means for wealth generation, as the value of homes tends to increase,” she said. 

Chia said that home ownership is the goal for both genders. 

“For singles coming from a middle-income family background, they would already have a car during college that was financed by their parents. So owning a house (naturally) becomes their first commitment financially speaking,” Chia said. “Bear in mind too, that having privacy is important for the younger generation, so once they are more financially capable, they prefer moving out of their parents’ home.” 

Chia added that men also preferred buying a home as an investment compared to women.

“From my observation, men are more aggressive in property investment than women. Women are less keen to deal with issues arising from rental properties, so they rather invest in equity, funds or fixed deposits,” he said.   

Dearth of data

The opaque picture of women home ownership in Malaysia, owing to the lack of data, renders a disservice to women home buyers and the housing industry. 

On the one hand, although women are not discriminated against from accessing various government incentives and home ownership programmes such as stamp duty exemption, rent-to-own schemes and various developers’ packages, many of the women who do not earn a high salary compared to men might be at a disadvantage in the property options available to them and might choose to make sacrifices on their lifestyle to afford the home payment. In fact, the US study by LendingTree posited that women are more willing to make sacrifices than men to become home owners, hence the higher rate of women ownership. 

On another hand, if most of the high-income women tend to purchase a home, the lack of data prevents housing developers and financiers from tailoring their products accordingly, resulting in missed opportunities and status-quo.  

As such, it is high time for the property landscape to incorporate data on gender and make data-driven decisions accordingly, to give meaningful support to women.

Home ownerships among women have  increased remarkably over the years  as more women have an established  career, observed Natasya.

Home ownerships among women have
increased remarkably over the years
as more women have an established
career, observed Natasya.

Chia said each loan application merits a different perspective and banks shouldn’t apply a one-size-fit-all assessment method.

Nowadays ladies are smart and know how to maximise the number of properties owned without burdening themselves, opined Chia.


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