Single women in the Denver area are taking the plunge into the city’s notorious housing market, despite rising prices and tight supply.
Anna Fine, a 31-year-old design director, closed an Arvada home in March 2021, bidding approximately $80,000 over the asking price because of a cash offer from another party on the table. However, the process took almost four months as she was looking for a home to accommodate her and her dog rather than potential family.
“It just needs to become more normal,” she said in a phone interview. “I moved into my neighborhood and the first question my neighbors asked me was, ‘Who’s your boyfriend? Who is your husband?’ ”
Nationwide, single women make up 20% of first-time home buyers, compared to 11% of single men, the National Association of Realtors reported last year. In Denver specifically, even the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t stopped single women from backing up their house keys, with 15.6% of them buying homes in 2020, according to an analysis by RedFin.
Two years later, the housing market in the metropolitan region is red hot. The average closing price for a home in March was $602,750 — the highest on record, according to the Denver Metro Association of Realtors. In addition, prospective homeowners must also expect rising mortgage rates, which currently range between 4% and 5%, according to Mortgage News Daily’s rate index.
Still, the city’s single women do business without the financial backing of a romantic partner and resist the antiquated notion that buying a home requires a spouse.
However, Fine noted that she had lost other potential homes to DINK couples — slang for “double income, no kids.”
“I’ve always been at a disadvantage despite being as concerned or as prepared to advocate for these homes,” she said.
Fine set out to buy a home in the Denver area in November 2020. Though she moved frequently as a child, she spent about nine years in Boulder. Her parents returned to the city in 2013, and when the coronavirus pandemic hit, Fine moved in with them after spending 12 years in New York City.
Her initial plan for finding her next home in California changed when she considered Denver’s advantages: its affordability compared to the Golden State, the wealth of activities available to Coloradans, and the possibility of a garden to find for your pet.
After making her decision, Fine began touring eight to 10 houses every weekend, exploring different neighborhoods and areas around Denver. The trial was met with disappointments, including canceled contracts for two different homes after inspections predicted costly renovations.
“At that point I thought, ‘Maybe I’m not meant to have a house,'” she said.
Fine also encountered issues specific to her relationship status. As a freelance contractor, she had to have a co-signer confirm that she could pay for her house for almost two years. However, Fine said she was earning more than her co-signer, which actually limited her options.
As a result, she eventually committed to a full-time job, but described the entire experience as “extremely frustrating.”
Through it all, her house “was the right choice in the end,” she said. Fine encouraged other women to follow her example because “it’s the surest way for them to make money and build their personal wealth” without having to rely on anyone else.
“It’s just not something that people are used to, and it should be,” she said.
Craig Ferraro, associate professor of real estate at the University of Colorado, said the current housing market often requires dual income.
“From a societal perspective, that’s probably a good thing that[single women]can afford,” he said.
He estimates that the pandemic has prompted people to seek more security in their living conditions, in addition to making single women more comfortable in their jobs. He pointed to potential buyers – men and women, singles and couples alike – who are rushing to find homes before the market becomes unaffordable.
“We’re getting closer,” Ferraro said in a phone interview. “When interest rates go up, people say, ‘I have to do it now because it’s only going to get worse.’ ”
Bank of America’s 2021 Homebuyer Insights Report finds that 65% of single female homebuyers would rather not wait until marriage to buy a home, with 30% of female homeowners confirming that they bought their home single. The vast majority of single women surveyed – at 87% – think the idea that you have to be married to buy a home is an outdated idea.
“It’s exciting to see so many single women challenging the status quo — taking control of their financial future and proving that marriage is not a requirement for home ownership,” said Kathy Cummings, senior vice president at Bank of America, in a statement. “I often hear from this group that they want to invest in themselves and their future, be it solo or for their children.”
However, the biggest hurdle for these women is savings. According to the report, about three-quarters of single women have decided to stop shopping because they want to feel financially stable first. The survey, which surveyed 2,000 adults who either own or plan to own a home, was conducted between February 18 and March 1, 2021.
Gianna Carriaga, a 24-year-old labor and labor relations representative, stumbled across an affordable housing program for Denver online in late 2019. Her friend’s mother, who works as a realtor, guided her through the process, and Carriaga closed her City Park condo on September 3, 2021.
“Sometimes it doesn’t feel real,” she said in a phone interview. “I’m so used to renting and now I own it.”
Carriaga grew up in Thornton. She considered leaving the country but decided against it for financial reasons.
Her condo is part of a newly built complex and was particularly desirable for her to use to commute to work due to its proximity to a light rail station.
Making that decision with a partner would have given her more housing options, but “I probably wouldn’t have qualified for that particular complex because there’s such a thing as income restrictions,” she said. Carriaga said she hasn’t received any negative reactions to her purchase as a single woman, and most people are impressed that she’s doing it so young.
“It’s a bit scary and lonely, but in the end, owning your own home and building equity is really empowering,” said Yashila Permeswaran, a 27-year-old senior software engineer.
The purchase of her Edgewater townhouse, which she described as “a little bit fixer-upper,” was a whirlwind affair that lasted about a month. In mid-December, she contacted her broker, Chelsea Steen, and immediately began looking for options.
“I see younger women buying their first homes on their own, and I see older women starting to buy more investment properties,” Steen said, estimating that at least 60% of her clients are female. “This is being driven by a stronger younger generation, confident in themselves and pursuing what they want in life.”
Permeswaran visited their soon-to-be home on December 27th – right in the middle of the holiday season. It hit the market at 8am and she arrived at 8:30am. Permeswaran signed on December 30th and closed on January 14th.
Not only was the price right, but it met several of her criteria: a good location, a walkable neighborhood, and a garage that would make parking safer at night as a single woman. Still, she remarks, “Oh my god, this is a seller’s market.”
A friend plans to move in with her and pay rent, which will help with the mortgage.
Originally from a small town in Northwest Iowa, Permeswaran graduated with a master’s degree from the University of Iowa just before COVID-19. Though she secured a job in the Denver area, Permeswaran initially worked remotely.
When she settled into a Lakewood apartment in January 2021, “she realized I was tired of throwing money away on rent.” Permeswaran said she’s “fell in love with Denver and doesn’t really want to leave” — not just because her close family lives in the area, but also because of the vibe and culture.
“In most places you go, people will ask, ‘What are you doing?’ when they first meet you,” she said in a phone interview. “Here people ask, ‘What do you like to do?’ So it’s more about who you are and who you want to be.”