Single Female Seeking Home Ownership, Part 1

Of course, for many women, it is a wise financial move to buy rather than rent. But if marriage is your goal, it isn’t your only investment option.

This just in, more single women are buying their own
homes
, blared the TV during a recent segment of Fox News’
“Your World with Neil Cavuto.” Cavuto was looking for a debate:
“More single women are buying homes, but some family groups
say that’s not all good,” he teased. “Stay tuned for more.” To face
off were New York Real Estate broker Barbara Corcoran
and Professor/Author Dr. Charmaine
Yoest.

Corcoran’s point of triumph was that the numbers had
flipped. There were now more single women than single men
buying homes, and wasn’t that great news! she openly
gloated. It was evidence of girl power; a sign of their financial
success, she said. As this was a financial show, I could
understand reporting this uptick in female buying power. What
seemed out of place was the feminist undercurrent.

At first I thought, sure, for many women, it is a
wise financial move to buy rather than rent.
But I seriously
doubted Corcoran’s belief that they’re doing it as a statement of
feminist superiority. It’s not in our nature as women. Maybe a
hardened few do, but I suspect most single women who buy
their own homes do it out of an inborn desire for security and
sense of place; a need to have a base from which they can move
out into the world and retreat back to again.

Corcoran said the happiest women she sees across the
closing table are single moms. Her interpretation? The single
woman is proud of her achievement and happy to be doing this
on her own. Given that statistically, single moms comprise the
poorest among us, couldn’t one also deduce that a single mom
buying her own home is beaming, not because her husband or
boyfriend abandoned his responsibility to her and their children,
not because she’s a model of feminist independence and power,
not because it feels good to finally be doing what used to be
something only men did, but because she has managed to climb
out of or avoid the poverty that plagues so many in her
condition? This is not a sign of reaching the pinnacle —
her life’s goal — but of avoiding her worst
nightmare.

And what of Yoest’s rebuttal? It was her concern
not that single women are buying homes, but that
women are staying single longer. Good point. Until recently,
women didn’t stay single long enough to be in a financial
position to by their own home. They married earlier than they do
now; before reaching their full earning potential or even
independence.In the 1960s a college-educated woman in her late 20s or early 30s and still single would have represented a minuscule 1.6 percent of all women ages 25 to 34. In the entire country that amounted to 185,000 women. Today college-educated singles make up 28 percent of all women ages 25 to 34, and their population is 2.3 million. Debbie Maken, Getting Serious About Getting Married: Rethinking the Gift of Singleness. Copyright 2006, Crossway Books, Wheaton, IL. P. 57. Most
lived with their parents till they married. If the singles I know are
representative, it’s safe to say that women who find themselves
still single by the time they’re able to afford their own home are
not triumphant, but frustrated. Though they derive pleasure
from the achievement of home ownership, it’s no consolation for
the fact that they did it alone.

Yoest said that attributing a woman’s happiness to
solo home ownership, not home ownership itself, is to
misunderstand most women. She said it’s better when women
buy homes with husbands because both benefit from the
partnership of marriage. Though she’s right that marriage
partnerships make for better economics — it’s long been
shown that married men with children earn more on average
than other demographic groups — I thought her lack of
enthusiasm for single women buying their own homes sounded
outdated. These women are not giving up their dreams of
marriage just because they’re buying homes, I reasoned
— houses and husbands are not mutually exclusive.

Or are they? A new book by Debbie Maken has me
rethinking my assumptions. In Getting Serious About Getting
Married
, Maken explains that yes, single women used to
live with their parents until they married. But it wasn’t just
because it was economically practical — parents also
wanted to protect and motivate. They understood that their
daughters needed protection from men who would certainly take
liberties if given the opportunity that living alone provides. They
also knew men were motivated to marry when access to the
object of their affection was strictly limited.

In most cases it wasn’t just family rules that kept women at
home. Community-wide standards, expectations and sometimes
even statutes required it. These were marriage-minded people
and they knew that living apart from family was
counter-productive; it not only lessened a woman’s prospect of
marrying well, it provided “the anonymity needed for the
continuation of secret sin.”

When you don’t have parents or parental figures limiting the
time you spend with your sweetheart (as well as supervising how
you spend that time), you’re likely to spend too much time with
too little (commitment) in return. As Maken writes, “just as
familiarity breeds contempt, access breeds complacency. Our
solo living arrangements send a signal to men that they can
have access into our lives and apartments at any time.” In the
past, “men married because they realized that their access to
women was going to be constantly monitored by their
parents.”

It sounds positively arcane to our modern ears! But when
I’m honest, I have to admit that when I lived with three single
roommates, secret sin was a lot easier to enjoy and sustain than
when I lived with my parents. Even though we were all believers,
and even though we had house rules, without the possibility that
my Dad might enter the room at any moment, temptation was
hard to resist.

If you live on your own, your modesty and sense of
propriety may protect you. But in the face of temptation, that’s
all you have. And having been tempted, I know such personal
piety only goes so far. How much more firmly a woman’s purity
is guarded when she lives under the protection of a family
— a family with her best interests in mind. Not only does
she have her modesty but also the rules of their home, their
accountability and their physical presence.

I realize living at home, with relatives or with another family,
after college sounds distasteful, even offensive, and more so the
longer you go without marrying. In a culture that prides itself on
independence and defines success by financial wealth, it’s
downright sacrilege. But when did what our culture say is most
important become the standard? I get uncomfortable and
defensive when I read Acts. All that business about selling
everything and sharing the proceeds in common, what kind of
retirement plan is that? But my discomfort is not justification for
throwing out the biblical principles I don’t like. Jesus warned us
that following Him wouldn’t be easy; that it would make us stand
out — “aliens; strangers in a strange land.” Doing what’s
right is often hard.

Before you dismiss this idea of family living as financially
foolish, socially limiting and embarrassingly outmoded,
remember why women did it. Their goal was marriage. They
wanted a husband and children. And living at home seemed to
expedite the process. Recognizing that today the age of
first-time marriage is as old as it’s ever been in history (27 for
women, 29 for men), I think it’s safe to say our forward-thinking
approach isn’t working.

Not only does a family home provide protection from
unscrupulous, unmotivated men, but also creates opportunities
for service and responsibility that foster mature character. It’s
nearly impossible to create such conditions when you live by
yourself or even with likeminded roommates.

I lived with a family during my time on Capitol Hill. They had two
adopted children who were 4 and 2 when I arrived. The
4-year-old communicated through signs and walked with great
effort due to a rare form of Cerebral Palsy. Being a part of this
household required a bit more of me. I had routine cleaning
chores, babysat weekly and after a long day at the office,
typically changed quickly and came out to play with the kids. It
was good to be needed, even when I didn’t want to be. And
immersion in the challenges and rewards of family life made me
that much more desirous of my own husband and children.

If marriage is your goal, limited access with accountability
— not home ownership — will help you achieve it.
Yes, homeownership can be a great investment. But it’s not your
only investment option. And wealth at the expense of your
desire for a husband is rarely a gain.

Part 2: Single Female Seeking Home Ownership »

Copyright 2006 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Candice Watters

Candice Watters is a wife, mom, and Bible teacher. She is the author of Get Married: What Women Can Do to Help it Happen, co-founder with her husband, Steve, of Boundless.org and co-author of Start Your Family: Inspiration for Having Babies. They have four children and blog at FamilyMaking.com.