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 Austin is especially bad.
Why? Because neither men nor women can afford to buy a home here. Things are generally looking grim for women all over, but Austin is the only Texas city where men were also shut out, based on the industry’s rule of thumb that no more than 30 percent of monthly income should go to either mortgage payments or rent.
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."
Even with that in mind, Austin is still one of the most unaffordable cities in the 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.
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.
But that's better than the situations in Houston and Fort Worth, where women have been left out of the homebuying market entirely but men can still make the average monthly payments. The study points out that Houston 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.
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."
Though there isn't data for 2005, Austin's percentage of unmarried homebuyers now is at a solid 11 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.