The wage gap between men and women is starting to have a real effect on their homebuying habits, especially in Texas' biggest markets. A new joint study by RentCafe and PropertyShark looked at home prices and rents across the 50 largest cities in the U.S. and compared them to the average incomes of both genders in each city, and the news in Houston is especially bleak.
Why? Because single women already can no longer afford to buy a home here, using the industry’s rule of thumb that no more than 30 percent of monthly income should go to either mortgage payments or rent. Houston men, however, are still able to make the monthly payments.
The study did narrow the definition of "home" to include only starter units, meaning studios and one-bedroom rentals, condos, or houses, because they explain that "larger homes are beyond the budget of all singles almost everywhere we looked."
It also points out that H-Town is already struggling with rising unemployment and a possible recession, so the rising home prices that are leaving women behind put a real drag on the city’s future growth. Fort Worth is in a similar position.
Single men and women hoping to become homebuyers should head for San Antonio and Dallas, the study says, but they should hurry. Dallas is quickly edging toward unaffordability for women thanks to rising home prices; currently, all the single ladies there pay an average of 29 percent of their monthly income toward a starter home.
Austin is by far the most expensive Texas city in the study, as neither men nor women can afford to buy a home there. It's also one of the most unaffordable cities in the entire South, no matter your gender. And in one final bout of irony, the only cities where rents are cheaper than mortgage payments — Austin, New Orleans, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Manhattan — are also too expensive for singles to buy or rent in anyway.
If you're looking for a solution, consider this: A recent Zillow analysis says that almost 15 percent of all young (age 24-35) homebuyers right now are unmarried couples, up from nearly 11 percent before the recession.
"Many singles looking to purchase a home on their own may not make enough money to afford or qualify for a mortgage on their dream home," says Zillow chief economist Dr. Svenja Gudell. "That makes buying a home with a significant other even more appealing, even if marriage isn't quite part of the picture. Simply put, buying a home is much easier with two incomes."
Houston's already onto that idea, as our percentage of unmarried homebuyers now (11.8 percent) has gone up a bit since 2005 (10.8 percent).
And if you're single but craving equity — and, sure, companionship and love — you're in luck. WalletHub has just declared Texas the sixth best state for singles, with an especially high ranking for "dating opportunities." That means the amount of single adults, the gender balance between them, and the opportunity for online dating is extra high. So get out there, and don't forget to invite us to the housewarming.