Young, single and looking for a home

Young, single and looking for a home

Natalie Flynn checks out a York Mills condo unit she’s interested in buying. She’s committed to her goal of owning a home. Email story
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Single women account for 20 per cent of city’s real estate market

Apr 19, 2007 04:30 AM
Elvira Cordileone
Staff Reporter

Natalie Flynn is today’s quintessential first-time homebuyer: young, female and single.

At 26, Flynn has a good job C two jobs, in fact C and she yearns to own her own home.

Today, she’s among a slew of single women making a dent in the first-time-buyer segment of the market.

According to a Royal LePage survey released this week, almost 1 in 3 women who have never been married already own their own home. And among those who don’t, 31 per cent plan to buy within the next three years.

Dianne Usher, a Royal LePage vice-president and division manager, estimates single women represent about 20 per cent of Toronto’s market, up from zero a mere decade ago. In fact, twice as many single women as single men are buying homes these days.

“They’ve established themselves in a career and recognize it’s a good investment,” Usher says.

She notes low interest rates and lots of entry-level condos C with the security features women seek C have also made it easier for them to buy.

In new construction, the proportion of single women buying property is even higher, says Barbara Lawlor, president of Baker Real Estate, a brokerage firm that specializes in new housing.

“Forty per cent of our buyers are women, 24 to late 30s,” Lawlor says. “Single women buyers is a phenomenon we’ve noted in the past few years and it’s growing.”

A recent nationwide survey by Genworth Financial Canada, which provides mortgage default insurance, revealed one-third of the nation’s 4 million renter households C 1.3 million of them ― are considering buying a house. Nearly half are between 18 and 34. Among single people surveyed, 8 out of 10 said they won’t wait to get engaged or married before buying a home.

“Recent market surveys have specifically highlighted the extent to which single women have become a major factor in the real estate market in Canada as first-time homebuyers,” notes a Genworth news release.

The vivacious Flynn stayed in Burlington, where she grew up, after her parents moved to Toronto several years ago. But two years ago, she accepted their invitation to move back in with them so she could save money.

Today, Flynn, a sales manager for a webcasting start-up company during the week and a weekend slot attendant at Woodbine racetrack, has amassed enough for a down payment. She had hoped to find a nice apartment in the low $200,000 range.

“I really want a house, something that belongs to me, something that represents me as a person,” she says earnestly.

For two months now, she and her real estate agent have scoured the city. She has two important requirements: top-notch security and decent space C something that’s hard to come by in her price range, especially downtown.

Her search moved farther north, into North York, where she can get more space for her money. In fact, that location has gained ascendancy with the young crowd because it also has easy access to transit, and amenities such as shopping and entertainment.

Last month, Flynn looked at a $285,000 two-bedroom apartment in a new building in York Mills called Bellair Gardens.

She says the master bedroom had so little room she would have had to climb over the queen-sized bed it contained to get to the other side.

But another unit, a 950-square-foot two-bedroom penthouse suited her nicely C except for its $344,000 price tag, Flynn says with a sigh.

She revisited the suite a month later. With only a handful of unsold units remaining, Flynn learned that the builder, Castle Group, would drop the price by $20,000 if she could close the deal in 30 days. She drove straight to her bank and is hoping she can swing it.

“The gap between renting and owning is so small that owning is more affordable,” says Jasmine Cracknell, 28, a research assistant with N. Barry Lyon Associates, a Toronto firm that tracks the condo market.

And Cracknell notes many savvy young women are bypassing the rental stage altogether. They stay at home longer and save the money they would have paid in rent to put toward a house.

“Sales promotions are geared toward women,” she says. “It’s expected they’ll buy, and they’re as much of a market as a young couple.”

Lawlor’s firm represents a Daniels project called Arc, to be built at Bayview and Sheppard.

She says young single women have responded strongly to a Daniels program that helps first-time buyers get started for as little as $500 down, followed by monthly payments of $500 over the 18 months it will take to build the project.

“Single men are definitely not as tuned in,” she says. “I don’t know why they’re not getting on board.”

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